SAN FRANCISCO — James Fang, a longtime member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit board and publisher of Asian Week and other newspapers, died on Aug. 14 at the age of 58.
His family attributed his death to natural causes.
First elected to the BART Board in 1990, Fang was re-elected six times before being ousted in 2014. He served as board president during his tenure and was the first Asian American to win a Bay Area-wide election. He was also San Francisco’s last elected Republican.
A BART spokesman said that the agency was “saddened” and “will always remember him for his fierce dedication to public service.”
Fang was publisher of Asian Week, which covered the Chinese American community and other Asian American communities of the Bay Area and beyond, for a decade until it closed in 2009. His family also owned The San Francisco Independent and The San Francisco Examiner.
Former California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, a friend of the family, said he was “stunned” by Fang’s death at such a young age and extended his condolences to brother Ted and mother Florrence.
Pius Lee, a Chinatown leader and former police commissioner, told KQED that Fang gave the community a voice in the larger society. “”For once, our message could be published in an English paper so all people could read that. It was so important. He’s prominent not only in the Chinese community, but outside.”
Former San Francisco Supervisor Michael Yaki, now a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, posted on Facebook, “One of the warmest greetings I had when I started working for Speaker Pelosi (then a mere one-termer) was meeting John Fang, his wife Florence, and their son James at their Chinatown restaurant, the Grand Palace.
“For years James and I remained friends and in the same political orbit — even though I always teased him about his ‘R’ status. When I left the board, our contact became less frequent, but always warm. Deep condolences to his wife, and to his mother Florence.”