By Raymond Douglas Chong, AsAmNews Staff Writer
John Raymond Jung, a psychology professor who spent the last 20 years of his life writing six books on Chinese American history, died this week after a four year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I had the privilege of both knowing and collaborating with him for 14 years. This is his story.
Above a Chinese laundry in The Peach State, a Chinese American teenage pondered his identity in a divisive American society of only Whites and Blacks. He wondered his fate in pursuit of the American Dream.
Dr. John Raymond Jung was born on April 2, 1937, at Macon, “The Heart of Georgia.” His parents operated Sam Lee Laundry there. They were the only Chinese family in Macon. They experienced racial prejudice.
In the Deep South, he saw the Jim Crow laws in force. The White suppressed and segregated Blacks with systemic racism. He saw the dawn of Civil Rights Movement to end the discrimination in 1954.
In 1956, the Jung family moved to San Francisco. John got his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of California at Berkeley, in 1959. Then, he got his Doctoral in Psychology from Northwestern University in 1962.
From 1962, he taught Psychology and researched alcohol studies at California State University at Long Beach. In 2001, he wrote Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Behavior Psychological Research Perspectives. This publication provided a psychological perspective on the use and abuse of alcohol and other psychoactive drugs.
John married his beloved Phyllis. They raised their family at Cypress, California.
In 2002, after forty years, John retired.
Chinese American Historian
After his retirement, John became a historian devoted to the Chinese American experience. He wrote six books that included his memoirs.
- Southern Fried Rice: Life in A Chinese Laundry in the Deep South, 2005
This memoir conveys the experiences of my parents and their children, the only Chinese people living in Macon, Georgia between 1928 and 1956. It describes our family’s isolated existence running a laundry, enduring loneliness as well as racial prejudice for over 20 years -John Jung
- Chinese Laundries: Tickets to Survival on Gold Mountain, 2007
A social history of the role of the Chinese laundry on the economic survival of early Chinese immigrants in the U.S. during the Chinese Exclusion law period (1882-1943) and in Canada during the years of the Head Tax (1885-1923) and exclusion law (1923-1947).
- Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers, 2008
The story of how a few Chinese immigrants found their way to the Mississippi River Delta in the late 1870s and earned their living with small family operated grocery stores in neighborhoods where mostly black cotton plantation workers lived.
- Sweet and Sour: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants, 2010
“Sweet and Sour” examines the history of Chinese family restaurants in the U. S. and Canada.
- A Chinese American Odyssey: How a Retired Psychologist Makes a Hit as a Historian, 2018
This memoir describes the discoveries, many unexpected, when a Chinese American psychology professor retires and reinvents himself as a public historian of Chinese in America… a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the processes involved in researching, writing, publishing, and promoting books.
- Chinese Laundrymen: Macon, Georgia 1884-1956, 2019
A history of Chinese immigrants, all bachelors except one, who settled in Macon, Georgia, where they all ran laundries starting as early as 1884. All were gone by the late 1920s, except for the only one who had a wife and children, and by 1956, they had departed leaving Macon with no Chinese residents.
John enraptured audiences with his colorful stories during many book talks across America. In 2017, the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California presented him its “Golden Spike” award as a Storyteller.
I first met John during his book talk with the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association in Houston. We quickly bonded since our family roots were from Hoyping.
For his book in 2010, Sweet and Sour: Life in Chinese Family Restaurants, I contributed to Chapter 5. Some Early Chinese Restauranteurs. I shared stories about Moi Chung, my grandfather, and Gim Suey Chong, my father, who were involved in several Chop Suey restaurants.
In 2017, John and me, with other friends, feasted Chop Suey dishes at Paul’s Kitchen at Downtown in Los Angeles.
In 2018, I was co-editor of Chop Suey and Sushi from Sea to Shining Sea: Chinese and Japanese Restaurants in the United States. John contributed his essay The Sour Side of Chinese Restaurant. In 2019, he joined Bruce Arnold, co-editor and me, for our book launch party, at the Far Bar, aka old Far East Café, in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.
Later, John joined me at a program in Cerritos, California, with the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. He shared his views on Chop Suey when I presented MY ODYSSEY- Between Two Worlds documentary and “The Old Far East Café of Little Tokyo” PowerPoint.
After a four-year bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, John passed to heaven on July 26, 2021, at Los Alamitos, California.
The Jung family wrote on Facebook:
On the morning of July 26, my father John Jung’s 84 years of learning, caring teaching, providing, and giving came to an end, leaving the world with an unimpeachable model for kindness and a life well-lived, and finding his well-deserved peace.
His life’s path took him from Macon, Georgia to San Francisco and Berkeley, and from Chicago to Toronto and True Love, and thence to Orange County where he dug in and stayed to the end, living his last moments just footsteps from the home that he was so fiercely determined to remain in. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his University and to the cause of education. He raised two children, found a new career in his 70’s through his dedication to learning more about his mother and ancestry, and inspired countless people to realize that a life post-retirement can be productive and intellectually and socially fulfilling, showing people how to tell their own stories, and demonstrating just how much can be survived.
A memorial will be held at the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California on Sunday, August 1, 2021, in Cerritos, California.
We shall always remember Dr. John Raymond Jung as an awesome titan and storyteller of the Chinese American experience.
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