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Henry Chang - Councilmember Henry Chang - At Large - Oakland

Of all the current Oakland Councilmembers, Henry Chang stands out not just as an elder statesman, but as an honest, principled elected official who I've long admired, regardless of his position. Here's more about him.

Henry was born in 1934, the second child of Frances and Henry Sr. He was separated from his parents two years later, when the Japanese attacked his hometown, Shantou. Henry fled to Hong Kong with his Aunt Barbara while his parents escaped to Northern China. Three years later, when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, Henry returned by freighter back to Japanese-occupied Shantou and was later reunited with his mother and father.

Henry's most vivid childhood memories are of the concentration camp his family called home during the occupation of China. There, they witnessed unspeakable torture and brutality. He escaped in 1941 with his brother Thomas by crawling over a wall at night and hiding in a farmhouse. Henry reconnected with his family a year later, when his mother, father and other siblings were released from the camp.

For the next four years, during the height of World War II, Henry and his family lived under constant air attacks from the Allied Forces. Whenever the moon was bright, bombers would come. Anytime sirens sounded, bombs would drop. Henry's family made a deal with their neighbors: if they were hit by a bomb, the neighbors would dig them out of the rubble. Henry's family would do the same if the neighbor's home were to be bombed. Everyday, friends and family members perished. At the end of World War II, China no longer had adequate schools and Henry moved again to Hong Kong to continue his education.

In Hong Kong, Henry took up flying and became the youngest pilot ever to obtain an international flying license. He also helped start Hong Kong's first air scout. In 1950, he went to Sydney, Australia to continue his high school education and receive flight training. In 1952, he came to Florida for advanced flight training. When his group landed in San Francisco on the way to report to Washington D.C., a friend took him to visit the University of California campus at Berkeley. Henry was so impressed that he walked into the admissions office and told a white-haired woman that he wanted to attend the school. Without a high school diploma, she said, he could not be admitted. Henry pleaded and said his plane would be leaving for the East Coast in one hour. The woman reconsidered and said yes. Henry was admitted to UC Berkeley and the course of his life changed again.

At Berkeley, Henry studied Art and Physics. In his spare time, he performed magic tricks for children at hospitals in Oakland. While he was still interested in art, it was clear that architecture and design were his strengths. Henry received his bachelor's degree in architecture from Cal in 1961. One of his first jobs was designing the Oak Center II affordable housing project in West Oakland for the Minority Specialties and Contractors Association. He also designed the first turnkey Department of Defense military housing at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital.

In 1960, Henry married his wife, Connie, who currently teaches at the University of California's child development program. They have four children: Maria, who graduated from the UC Architectural School; Evelyn, who is a manager of marketing and communication at a biotech company; Betsy, a choreographer/producer; and Harrison, a Baptist minister in San Jose. Henry's family moved from Berkeley to Oakland in 1962. A decade later Henry founded Henry Chang Jr., & Associates, the architectural firm which he still heads.

In 1974, he accepted his first community position to the Oakland Planning Commission, embarking on what has become 26 uninterrupted years of public service. Henry went on to serve on the Oakland Community Development Commission, the Oakland Port Commission, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, as an Oakland Chamber of Commerce board member, and as one of three state appointees to the Oakland State Building Authority.

In 1994, Henry was appointed to the Oakland City Council's at-large seat, filling a vacancy created by the death of Councilman Frank Ogawa. Voters returned him to the post in 1997 and again in 2001.

Henry chairs the City Council's Life Enrichment Committee, and serves as a member on the Public Works Committee, the Education Partnership Committee and the Community and Economic Development Committee.
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