Historical Highlight: Dr. Louie Hugh, class of 1908

Staff of the Kung Yee Hospital in 1921, pictured on the steps of the building

This post comes from Jeff Colby, Archives Assistant, Historical Collections & Archives with research findings from Donise Lei.

Louie Hugh, from his immigration file, 1908
Louie Hugh, from his immigration file, 1908

Part of my duties in Historical Collections is maintaining Biographical and Subject files. It was in this capacity that I first ran across a Chinese medical student named Hugh Louie who graduated from the University of Oregon Medical School (UOMS) with an M.D. in 1908 and became a medical missionary back home. There the trail petered out. However, we were recently given new information from his descendants’ family (Donise Lei), which they found from both American and Chinese sources.

His American friends knew him as Hugh Lung Louie or Hugh Louis. He himself however used the Chinese norm of surname first and given name after. This came out variously as Louie/Louis Hugh, Louie Heugh, and even Lei Heugh.

Louie was born in 1875 or 1876 at Taishan, near the city Americans know as Canton. As a boy in 1884, following his older brother, he came to Portland, Oregon to work. His older brother, known here as Jim Louie, would become locally famous as the cook and future owner of the popular restaurant spot known as Huber’s.

Louie Hugh, UOMS class of 1908

As a Christian, Louie became affiliated with the Portland Chinese Mission organized under the auspices of the First Christian Church in 1891 by fellow country-man Jeu Hawk. Jeu was a recent graduate of Drake University of Des Moines, Iowa, which specialized in training missionaries. Emulating Jeu, Louie also matriculated at Drake from 1896 to 1899, where he was acknowledged as a “well-known character” for his affability and good-natured determination to succeed in a totally foreign environment, despite being the butt of jokes and pranks due to his amusing linguistic and social gaffes.

Louie was mentioned in a Des Moines newspaper in 1896 as participating in a church social where everyone represented themselves as a book character. Louie came as Bret Harte’s “Heathen Chinee.” The next year he was mentioned in local press for a well-attended lecture he gave in a Corning, IA Church. He was complimented on being a good speaker and singer, who also played the Chinese harp.

Before graduating in 1899, Louie began corresponding with a girl named Grace (Woo Yow Ho),  the “Belle” of the Chinese Presbyterian Mission in San Francisco; he returned to Portland to marry her and to join Jeu Hawk in the ministry here. The 1900 census lists his occupation as Preacher. In 1901, Jeu himself returned to China for a mission in Hong Kong, and Louie and Grace took over the Mission in Portland.

He also enrolled in the University of Oregon Medical School, where he graduated in 1908 as Louis Hugh. Now prepared for a medical mission, he returned in 1909 to Canton, where the Imperial government was recruiting American-trained doctors. Louie met the Emperor after he passed the newly created Imperial test for medical doctors. Initially, he served as Court translator and teacher of English before being named Dean of the new Kung Yee (Gongyi) Medical school in 1910.

Louie Hugh at the ground breaking of the Kung Yee Hospital, 1910;
Louie Hugh (front row, fourth from the left) at the ground breaking of the Kung Yee Hospital, 1910

In 1911 came the great Revolution, which overthrew the Manchu dynasty and established the Republic of China under Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Drake University later wrote that Louie served as head of the Chinese Red Cross for the revolutionary army. In 1912, he was in a group picture with President Sun.

He was appointed Superintendent of the new Kung Yee Hospital in 1915, overseeing the building of a new hospital building. He also became the head of the Canton affiliate of the Chinese Medical Association in 1918 , serving in that role until 1924. Unfortunately, after this time, we have no further records or information, not even time or place of death. Perhaps future scholarship will continue to fill in the gaps. Nevertheless, we are grateful for the information on this fascinating gentleman and UOMS alum.

Staff of the Kung Yee Hospital in 1921, pictured on the steps of the building
Staff of the Kung Yee Hospital, 1921; Louie Hugh is seen in the middle of the crowd (from the American Journal of Public Health)



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