The Early Years
Wing was the eldest of six children. In high school, Wing participated in a number of activities and was even then pursuing a political future. At Roosevelt High, he served as Boy's Club president, Student Body President, and as Seattle Inter-High Council President.
In 1944, Wing was selected as one of the nine most outstanding high school students in the U.S. by the Secretary of Labor and invited to Washington, D.C. as a high school consultant for a White House conference on juvenile problems.
Inducted into the Military
Only half way through his senior year, Wing was inducted into the Army. Initially in the Army Specialized Training Program, he then joined the infantry and field artillery and was acting first sergeant and regimental S-1 sergeant in the 40th division Field Artillery. He served in Guam, Korea, New Guinea, New Britain and the Philippines where he was awarded the Bronze Star.
The College Years
Following his service, Wing entered the University of Washington. As in high school, Wing was a prominent leader. He was President of his sophomore class, the U.W. YMCA, the Baptist-Disciples' Student Center, the U.W. Red Cross, U.W. Young Democrats, and the committee chairman of A.S.U.W. Publications. He graduated from the university with a B.A. in political science and public administration. He did graduate work in the same fields at the American University in Washington, D.C. returning to the U.W. he earned a L.L.B. in law.
Private Practice Led the Way to Public Office
Initially in private practice, he soon was appointed the Assistant Attorney General of the State of Washington, in the Civil Rights Division and served in that capacity from 1957-1962. In December, 1961 Wing took a leave of absence from his duties to file for position number 5 on the Seattle City Council. Running on the slogan "You are not electing a platform, but a Councilman," Wing maintained a pragmatic position on the issues. Defending criticism of "fence sitting" as well as racial slurs, Wing Luke won the council seat and was sworn in March 13, 1962 and became the first Asian American to hold elected office in the Pacific Northwest.
What He Stood For
Knowing first hand the effects of racial discrimination, Wing was instrumental in Seattle's passing of an Open Housing Ordinance in 1963 with punitive provisions against racial discrimination in the selling or renting of real estate. He fought for civil rights, urban renewal and historic preservation.
Wing Luke's plans for the future came to a tragic end in 1965. Returning from a fishing trip to Lake Wannacutt in Okanogan County, a light plane he was riding in crashed. The wreckage was not found for more than three years. Believing that the culture and traditions of Chinese and other Asian immigrants should be preserved and taught, Wing envisioned a place to present the history and important issues of Asian Americans. The Wing Luke Asian Museum was founded to fulfill that vision.
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (The Wing) is an Asian Pacific American (APA) community-based museum with a unique emphasis on the community development process. It is dedicated to connecting everyone to the rich history, dynamic cultures and art of APAs through vivid storytelling and inspiring experiences. It is a museum of regional and national significance, and is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate. The Museum is committed to contributing to the economic development of its neighborhood, Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. In 1996 the Museum began its expansion planning, and in 2003 purchased a historic building in the district that was built by Chinese American pioneers in the early 1900s. Over a span of five years, the Museum raised $23 million from more than 1,600 individual and institutional donors and executed a unique expansion project that combines historic preservation with creation of contemporary gathering spaces and galleries. In June 2008 the Museum opened its new doors to the public. An ever-changing living museum, The Wing’s current operating budget is $2 million, and projects 40,000-50,000 visitors annually. The Museum provides public access to its library, collections and archives comprising over 20,000 items related to theculture, art and history of Asian Pacific Americans.