IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'200 millionth American' passes the torch

With the arrival Tuesday of the 300 millionth American, Bobby Woo is welcoming a new milestone that surpasses an unofficial distinction he has held for nearly 39 years as  the 200 millionth American.
Robert K. Woo, Bobby Woo
Robert K. Woo, now an Atlanta attorney, was designated the 200 millionth American by Life magazine when he was born in 1967.Ric Feld / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

With the arrival Tuesday of the 300 millionth American, Bobby Woo is welcoming a new milestone that surpasses an unofficial distinction he has held for nearly 39 years.

When Woo was born in 1967, Life magazine heralded him as the 200 millionth American.

Growing up, he did not understand the special distinction until his parents told him it was because he represented "the average American."

While the Atlanta attorney, born of a Chinese immigrant, considers it an honor, he now laughs at the whole concept of average for this diverse nation.

"There's no typical American," he said, with a view of his native city sprawling behind the tall windows of his 36th floor law office. "You've got to see us for all our diversity."

Another minority?
Although nobody will know for sure, many demographers are betting the milestone baby — or immigrant — was a Hispanic.

"A Hispanic boy born in Los Angeles County to a Mexican mother," predicted William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. Latinos accounted for almost half the population increase last year, more than any other ethnic or racial group.

But then, in 1967 a white baby born in the suburbs should have been typical, Frey said. Instead, while the Census does not pinpoint it, the unofficial milestone went to Woo, who was indeed raised in the Atlanta suburb of Tucker, but whose mother immigrated from southern China when she was 15 and whose entire family is ethnically Asian.

When a Life magazine reporter and photographer visited Woo in kindergarten to keep up with the milestone child, the then-5-year-old was embarrassed and nervous. The pressure did not diminish when his parents told him all the attention was because he was the average American.

"But then they realized how it would be impossible to be," he said.

Proud of immigrant fabric
Woo — whose wife's parents also came from China — does not read much into the speculation about the ethnicity of the 300 millionth person. He said he is proud that so many immigrants are woven into the fabric of the United States that any one of them might be the milestone thread.

"I could be nothing but for immigrants," Woo said. "I'm very proud to be American and also very proud to be Asian-American."

He hopes that whoever becomes his successor in fame will treat it as an honor.

As for himself, he is looking forward to the media spotlight's move elsewhere, so he can "get a lot more work done."