Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Dale Minami Interview
Narrator: Dale Minami
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Margaret Chon (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 8, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mdale-01-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

MC: Let's talk about resources a little bit. You mentioned that you took these cases without any promise of payment. You needed to do some fundraising, and, how did that come about? What did you do? Did you make a lot of money on this case?

DM: Tons. [Laughs]. That's why I'm retired now. It's just like as if I worked at Microsoft or something. Oh, wait. [Laughs]. No, we... Don was in charge of that. And what Don did is because we had to do this in secret, we didn't want the government to know anything about this, and we also didn't want the JACL or other groups to know about it. We didn't quite trust -- even though they were our friends who were working there -- we didn't trust everybody in JACL so we couldn't let them know exactly everything we were doing because I don't think they wanted us, really wanted us to go through with this. So since we didn't sense they were supportive, we felt that we needed to try to do things a little more covertly.

MC: Can I explore a little bit about why some people in those organizations might not have wanted to move forward with the case?

DM: Well, I think it was clearly they thought we were gonna lose it. And that would have set the redress movement back. It was the purest of motives, absolutely. It was a just a difference, a disagreement. And I think they were doing it in the best interests of Japanese Americans. But see, we couldn't have a dialogue because we didn't want to reveal all the evidence we had, which was so strong. We wouldn't reveal it so they couldn't, they didn't know everything that we had, so they couldn't make an assessment, so they had to presume certain things. So...

MC: So, you tried to raise money --

DM: Oh, so --

MC: -- about a case that was secret?

DM: Yeah. So Don called up, like he made a list of like twenty-five people and said -- and he's just brilliant at doing things like this. He does most all of our business work now, so I mean before, he -- plus, he does civil rights cases, but this is what he does. But, he says to them, "We have a case that is gonna challenge the internment. We can't tell you what the evidence is, but we'd like you to make a donation. Can you give us five hundred or a thousand dollars just to start the case off?" And he raised it in like two weeks. There were enough people out there, Japanese Americans, who were, had enough money, who were, knew us well enough, and who were ticked off enough about the internment, that it just came, he raised it in a nanosecond.

MC: So they were private donations?

DM: Private donations. That's all we ever got, though, was private donations.

MC: And were there any big sums among those different donations?

DM: I seem to remember, I think the largest one was we got was maybe five thousand dollars, which is substantial for a non-deductible donation. 'Cause it was. It was just for a cause and not a charity.

MC: What would be the typical amount, though?

DM: You know, I can't tell you this. I think Don would be better. He's an interesting person to interview sometime because he's done a trillion things in his life. But he... we then took our show on the road. We took Fred around, we'd drive Fred around. Fred, whom we told that, "Oh, don't worry. You won't have to do any publicity 'cause you're so shy. We don't want people camping on your doorstep. You won't have to do interviews. Don't worry about it, we'll protect you." And then the next thing we're knowing, we said, "Fred, can you do this interview? Fred, 60 Minutes called. Fred, can you come to L.A. with us? Fred, can you..." and he did everything. He never said, "No." And so, having Fred there -- which was kind of interesting, because people didn't know how to react to him. The Nisei didn't know how to react to him. Because here was a guy that they probably despised, or did not like during the camp days. Because his case validated what happened. Not understanding the full story of the courage that it took to take the case, or do the case. And yet, when we told them the evidence, there really was... I could see a huge dramatic change over the years, and even during the course of hours of a meeting, from goat to hero, the guy became a hero. And he is now. When people, when you see him around, people just adore him and respect him for what he did. And it's partly because of the cases, but a large part of it had to do with the media coverage of Fred, through the movies that were done about him, too.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.