John L. Fugh, the Committee’s fourth Chairman (2006-2009), died of a heart attack on May 11. The first Chinese American general officer in the U.S. Army and the first minority person to hold the Army’s top uniformed legal post of Judge Advocate General, Major General Fugh was buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery on August 24. Fugh’s early and later years uniquely bridged China and the U.S. at the highest diplomatic levels, and his legacy at the Committee of 100 was to strengthen the organization’s contributions to bettering U.S.-China relations. Former C100 Chairman John Chen said, “I have deep respect for him.”
Fugh joined the Committee of 100 in 1993, the year he rejoined civilian life after 33 years of active military service. Among his many contributions as C100 Chairman was strengthening the Committee’s role as a bridge between the U.S. and China. In the United States, this included a Washington engagement initiative that organized U.S.-China seminars and meetings with Chinese delegations to educate media, government, business and academia figures on the most critical issues facing our relationship with China. He established an Advisory Council of former ambassadors and prominent business and political leaders who are committed to the C100 mission and able to offer highly informed perspectives on Committee actions. In Greater China, under Fugh’s leadership, the Committee began to organize regular conferences, C100 delegations, a philanthropic campaign to help victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and a scholarship program for gifted Chinese graduate students. An unprecedented parallel opinion survey, Hope and Fear: American and Chinese Attitudes toward Each Other, was carried out by the Committee in the U.S. and China in 2007.
It was Fugh’s military career that C100 Governor Henry Tang said was Fugh’s “pioneering legacy and biggest contribution to the Asian American community.” Tang said that when Fugh became a Brigadier General in 1984, “it was virtually impossible to imagine an Asian American in such a role.” Rather than enter private practice as an attorney, Fugh used his degrees from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and George Washington University Law School to give back to his country and joined what is called the oldest law firm in America, the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the U.S. Army, established by George Washington. In January 1961, he was commissioned in the Army JAG Corps and held overseas posts in Europe, Vietnam, and Taiwan. In 1991, Fugh became the 33rd person to serve in the Army Corps’ top post, The Judge Advocate General (TJAG).
Among his innovations, Fugh created the Army’s first environmental law and procurement fraud divisions, and as TJAG during the Persian Gulf War he established a human rights training program and published the War Crimes Report documenting Iraqi and other enemy war crimes, while serving as the legal advisor to the Army Chief of Staff. In the role of TJAG, Fugh also found himself embroiled in a conflict with then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who sought to bring White House control over the military branches’ uniformed legal services, documented in the 2007 book, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. At his retirement, Fugh was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and his many other military honors include the Legion of Merit, Defense Superior Service Medal, and Bronze Star.
Between 1993 and 2001, Fugh worked in private practice for the Washington law firm McGuire, Woods, Battle & Booth and then guided the China operations of McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, and Enron International. He pursued his foreign policy interests through leadership positions for the Atlantic Council of the United States, Asia Society Washington Center, National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, and the Committee of 100. He also spoke out as a retired TJAG on such issues as U.S. detention and interrogation practices at Abu Graib and Guantanamo and on the handling of the case of Army Chaplain James Yee.
Bob Lee, whom Fugh succeeded as C-100 Chairman, wrote, “Always putting the organization first, John enthusiastically accepted roles such as Regional Vice Chair for the D.C. area and Vice Chair of International. Then, when I stepped down as Chair, he made his biggest commitment to us by being our Chairman for three years. With his combination of passion for our mission, leadership skills developed throughout his career, and an energy level characteristic of a person half his age, John led us through a challenging period of growth. Also, I thank his wife, June, for supporting John’s decision to lead this organization. I know he would not have done it without her loving support. And, I will certainly miss him as a friend. I will miss his heart of gold and his kind counsel.”
Fugh’s sense of justice, patriotism and pride in his family can be traced to his unusual birthright, which put him at the center of Sino-American diplomacy. Born in Beijing as the son of Philip and Sarah Fugh, his father was the lifelong secretary to John Leighton Stuart, the president and founder of Yenching University (now Peking University) and the American Ambassador to China from 1946 to 1949, when he was unceremoniously bid farewell by Mao Zedong. Ambassador Stuart was so close to the Fugh family that he arranged for their settlement in the United States in 1950 and ended up living with them after he had a stroke. For Fugh, Stuart was “Grandpa” and very much part of the family. Stuart, who died in 1962, had told the Fughs he wanted to be buried in China, where he was born and where his wife was buried. Not until 2008 was John Fugh able to overcome the enormous diplomatic sensitivities of this task and return Stuart’s ashes, encased in a bronze box, to Stuart’s birthplace in Hangzhou. It was a mission fulfilled not only for Stuart but for his father, who had died twenty years before regretting that he had failed his old friend.
Former Ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy said of Fugh’s act: “It represents the finest traditions of both the United States and China, in terms of duty and loyalty, passing on an uncompleted task from one generation to the next, and ensuring that it is finally carried out successfully under adverse conditions.” Fugh and Roy (a C-100 Advisory Council member) in December 2008 at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is described in Committee Bridges: Fugh on U.S.-China Relations.
A heart-felt letter in honor of Fugh written by the American Chamber of Commerce in China president, Christian Murck, included this quote from Jim McGregor, who served with Fugh on the AmCham-China board in the 1990s:
John Fugh’s greatest contribution will likely be carried out in the next fifty years. He has left us with a mission.
John loved America. He was the gentleman general, a friendly but straightforward man. . . . John also loved the country of his birth, China. But he was no apologist for either country. He spoke straight to both sides, and expected both countries to be honorable, ethical, fair and friendly toward each other–just as he was to everyone he met. John believed in U.S.-China peace and prosperity. He was in favor of burying the anger, misunderstanding and enmity that comes between the US and China at regular intervals.
That is the mission for the rest of us now that John is gone. Bury the enmity and mistrust.