Harold T. Yee, a San Francisco civic leader who founded more than 100 nonprofit corporations to deal with social, political and economic issues facing Asian Americans, died February 5 following heart surgery. He was 71.
Mr. Yee was born in China in 1932 and raised in East Los Angeles. He received a bachelor's degree in pomology from UC Davis in 1956 and a master's degree in economics from UC Berkeley in 1961 He worked primarily as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture until 1971 when he founded Asian Inc., one of the nation's first agencies working with Chinese Americans to offer small business planning and loans, entrepreneurship classes and technical help.
Mayor Gavin Newsom recalled Mr. Yee as "an utterly decent and honorable person who contributed a great amount, not only to the Chinese community but to all of San Francisco. He was one of a kind. His work on civil rights and small business development will have a lasting impact on our great city."
Mr. Yee believed that political strength required community participation. So he founded the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, which focuses on voter education, registration and tracking data on Chinese voter participation.
Mr. Yee is survived by his wife, Wilma; a son, Robert; and a daughter, Cathy. (Source: Nanette Asimov, SFGate.com, Feb. 11, 2004).