Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Charles Z. Smith Interview
Narrator: Charles Z. Smith
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-scharles-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So, today is August 13, 2004, we're in Seattle at the Densho studios. On camera we have Dana Hoshide, and I'm Tom Ikeda, the interviewer, and today we have Justice Charles Z. Smith to do an interview. So, welcome, and thank you so much for doing this.

CS: Thank you.

TI: So, we're going to do a, a sort of simple, life history approach, and we're gonna start from the very beginning, Justice Smith, and then just kind of walk through and talk about your life. And so I wanted to start off and ask you: where and when were you born?

CS: I was born February 23, 1927, in a little town in Florida, Lakeland, L-A-K-E-L-A-N-D. I am the son of a Cuban immigrant father and an African American mother. That was the beginning of my life, now, seventy-seven and a half years ago.

TI: Well, how was it that your father and mother got to Lakeland, Florida?

CS: My mother was a restaurant chef, and worked for a tourist home in North Carolina, where she was born, and was taken to Florida -- where the same people operated a facility -- as their restaurant chef in Florida. She was relatively young, in her teens. My father was twelve years old when he and his parents left Cuba after the Spanish-American war, that very, very short war, around 1895, and ended up in Key West, Florida, where most of the Cuban refugees settled. And from Key West, Florida, he ended up in the central part of Florida, where the town of Lakeland is located. He met my mother there, and this was the beginning of their relationship and their marriage. They were married some years, long before I was born -- not long. I had two sisters who were older than I. One four years older and one two years older, so my parents had been married for at least six years at the time I was born.

TI: Did they ever tell you how the two of them met?

CS: Sort of. My father was an automobile mechanic, and at that time, in the central part of Florida, there weren't very many other Cubans. The Cuban culture, as it was established in Florida in the old days, was based upon a quote, "colony," unquote, of Cubans in Key West, which is 90 miles off the mainland in Florida, and then there was a Cuban colony in Tampa, which is 30 miles away from the town of Lakeland. Tampa was the center of the Cuban cigar industry at that time, so the only other Cubans my father was able to associate with were in the distant area of Key West where his family lived, or in Tampa, which was 30 miles away from the town of Lakeland, where he lived and worked as an automobile mechanic. Somehow or the other, these two persons of color, from different backgrounds, got together, and apparently they "fell in love," which is the expression we used to use, were attracted to each other. My mother was a very beautiful woman, and my father was a very handsome man. And so they fell in love, got married, and established their family, ultimately resulting in eight children. I am the third of eight children, with seven children younger than I. No -- five.

TI: So, so you had two older sisters, you...

CS: Two older sisters, then there was me, then we had...

TI: Five more.

CS: One, two, three... five. Five more, right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: And when you were born, what was the name that was given to you by your parents?

CS: Well, my, my name is as it is: Charles Zellender Smith. Now, the explanation for the "Smith," for a Spanish-born, a Cuban-born person, is amusing, and it has to do with immigration. My father's family name was Delpino, and when his parents came from Cuba and came through immigration, apparently the clerk who registered them could not spell it, so they gave him the name of Smith. And that happened very frequently with immigration throughout the country, but especially also with reference to persons with Spanish names. If the clerk couldn't spell it, they'd give them a name. And so the wonderful name of "Smith," which is an all-American name, more people in the United States are named Smith, perhaps, than any other name. And it was (...) never (of) any great concern to me.

I knew that my father was Cuban because he couldn't speak English. [Laughs] But my father was illiterate in English, and semi-literate in Spanish. He could read Spanish and speak Spanish, he could speak English with a very, very distinct accent, but he couldn't read it. But he was twelve years old when they left Cuba, and I suppose that the only schooling he had was before he left Cuba. And I am not of the opinion that my father went to school after they came from Cuba and settled in Key West. Maybe he did and maybe he did not. But if he did, he never learned to read English, and that was an embarrassment to my mother, who was very, very particular about the English language, and wanted her children to speak perfect English, and not speak English with the accent that their father was speaking. And I remember growing up, my mother drilling us -- literally drilling us -- on pronunciation of English words. My mother could not speak Spanish, and I think it was her intolerance of the Spanish language, simply because she could not speak it or understand it, that caused her to be so adamant that her children would grow up speaking perfect English and not sounding like their father. Now that I look back on it, it's sort of absurd. I just wish we could have, back in those old days, grown up essentially bilingual. I tried to learn Spanish as a child with my father. I'd listen to Havana radio with my father -- we didn't have television in those days.

TI: So, so how did that affect your relationship with your father? I mean, how would you describe, in those early years as you were growing up, your relationship with your father?

CS: It was perfect. I, I never... it's only looking back on it that I realized that my life was any different than anybody else's life. I just assumed that it was perfectly natural that children would grow up with two parents, which it is, that it was perfectly ordinary that one parent could be an African American -- we called them "blacks," or something else in those days, I think we called them "Negroes" -- and that one parent could be a Cuban. And I never thought of Cubans as being black or white. I thought of Cubans as being people who had an origin in Cuba, and most of whom spoke Spanish rather than English, and that was my personal definition of a Cuban. And that's what my father was. He was a good father, a good role model. He loved his children, he loved his wife, he sacrificed himself to make sure that they were comfortable. And it never occurred to me that there was anything unusual or different about that, except that in the neighborhood, the kids would always talk about my father as being "that Cuban who speaks funny." But it was not derogatory at all. It was their children's way of identifying him, and I never felt in any sense that there was anything bad, wrong, or unusual about our family relationship.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: You mentioned children and growing up. Growing up in Lakeland, what was that like for you?

CS: Well, in those days, we lived in a segregated world where the world was divided between whites and blacks. And all the blacks lived in one part of town, and all the whites lived in another part of town. The schools were segregated. I'm a product of a totally segregated school system growing up. Being a, considered a Negro person, I went to the Negro schools, we lived in the Negro neighborhoods, and so it was a way of life, not a matter of any great concern. There was no great recognition of discrimination as it truly existed, because you were born into the culture, you lived in the culture, and it didn't make any difference. The big question is, were you alive? Did you have food? Did you have family? Did you exist? And I never felt that there was anything that I aspired to that was not available to me, simply because I was not white. The fact of my not being white seemed more important to white persons than it seemed to me. And so I never had any sense of inadequacy based upon my race or my background --

TI: So when you said that --

CS: -- or economic circumstances.

TI: Yeah, so when you said it seemed to be more important to a white person rather than to you, what do you mean by that? How did that manifest itself?

CS: I never thought of myself as being, quote, "different," close quote. But most every white person I know growing up thought of me as being a Negro. And so the racial identification was more important to them than it was to me. It didn't matter to me what label was put on me, but it matters to other people what label is put on them. It -- and even now, at my age of seventy-seven, there are people that I know who are interested in who I am and what label applies to me. I have no interest in applying a label. I am aware of people as people, and I'm aware of cultures, I'm aware of languages, I'm aware of nationalities, I'm aware of politics, and all these other things, and it's all part of a large mosaic of humanity. And it makes no difference whether I apply to myself a label. For example, I identify very strongly with the Latino community in the state of Washington. There are some blacks who are very annoyed at me, because they think I am, quote, "denying my African American ancestry," unquote. But it's amusing to me, because I was a Latino when I was born. [Laughs] I was an African American when I was born, and the fact that I identify with one or the other is a personal thing to me, and it has nothing whatever to do with publicity, it has nothing whatever to do with what a community expects of me or wants of me.

And so, it is this kind of thing that causes me to consider that racial labels are irrelevant up to a point. I believe very strongly in culture. I think that we must be aware of our cultural roots. If we forget our cultural roots, then we are doomed to ignominy and failure. And so I applaud every cultural group that chooses to reach back to establish or re-establish its roots: the music, the literature, the dance, the religions, and all these things that come into focus. And they can all exist in one world, they can all exist in peace, they can all exist without rancor, and they can all exist without governmental interference which causes one group to be disrespected at the expense of their cultural identity. And I do not believe that we should follow the practice of erasing cultural identity, as we have done very largely with our Native American cultures. The Native American cultures are emerging again, into a recognition of who they are, where they came from, who their ancestors are. In the newspaper every day, there's some event relating to our Native American culture, and this is part of the thing that causes me to think as I do in this concept of a "one world."

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Well, and going back to your childhood, were you exposed to a lot of, of culture growing up? Music, dance, do you recall that back in Lakeland?

CS: Well, in a sense, yes. And this is an interesting question because I never gave it any real thought. I have a music background. I studied piano for twelve years; I'm very good at it. The music that is called Negro spirituals is an art form that I am very well-acquainted with. I am familiar with the original form of most of the spirituals commonly referred to as African American spirituals. That's part of my culture; I grew up with it. I know good music, I know good spirituals, I know true spirituals as opposed to the modifications of the spirituals, and the so-called gospel music, which is not part of my personal culture, although I accept it as part of a trend. But when we were growing up in Lakeland, Florida, we lived next door to a music hall called the Palace Casino. And it was there that the great musicians like Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, all these other musicians would come and perform at that music hall. And this was back in the '30s, when hotels would not accept blacks, regardless who they were, so these orchestras and bands, later to become very well-known in the world's musical culture, would have these big housing buses that would be parked out in front of our house at the Palace Casino next door. And the musicians would play at the music hall next, immediately next door to our house, and some of the musicians during the day would come to our house next door to use our upright piano to do practice and redo their work. So I grew up with most of the big bands. When I was a child I had no idea how important they were, I just knew who they were, and I knew the sounds of their music. And so any of the big-name bands that were in existence in the '30s, I am familiar with because they would come to the Palace Casino next door to our house. Now, in terms of culture, I'm very proud of that. I can hear a Duke Ellington piece and remember having heard it played when I was a child. I can hear "Fatha" Hines play, and I could recognize his style. Art Tatum, people like that, all of these people, that's part of my culture. Now, this is a part of my African American culture that I clearly would not wish to deny. I'm very, very proud of it, and I draw on that. There are writers and poets, who are African American, whose works I am familiar with. I'm very proud of them, and I'm very proud to identify with them. And...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Now, was there a conscious exposure when you were a child to this by your mother or your father?

CS: Oh, not (really). My father was not that literate, but my mother was. We always had books to read, and there was a library, and I remember as a child in the branch library that we had, going through the library and systematically reading every book they had. And then I got to one book, Pilgrim's Progress, that I could never understand. I still can't understand it. And I realized then that there was a limitation of learning through the process of reading without some assistance. If I had had the book assigned to me in a classroom with a professor teaching it, I could have understood it. But even now, if you show me a volume of Pilgrim's Progress, I'll go to the other side of the room, because, like, at eight, nine, ten, or eleven years old, I'm trying read Pilgrim's Progress, I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. But the quest for learning through reading is, I think, the key to emergence from lower economic, lower social levels, to a totally functioning person in society, is read, read, read. And it never occurred to me that there was any other method by which one could become enlightened than by reading. And I'm very proud of the fact that in my immediate family, my wife is a voracious reader. She reads many, many books every week, and she's always finding a new book. She has books stacked over everywhere. But our children grew up the same way, and our children are now in their forties, and they are teaching their children that reading is an avenue towards full enlightenment. And I think that that is one of the things, if nothing else, that I have learned in growing up, is that the way to become a real person is to read, read, read. Experience is fine, but you don't have to have every experience for everything you read about. And you can read about and understand history, current events, science fiction, science, mathematics, whatever it happens to be, read, read, read, and the world belongs to you.

TI: Now, your appetite for reading, was that, was that unusual for a child in Lakeland to be like that? Or were others also the same, similar feeling towards, towards reading?

CS: It's sort of hard, because at the time I was growing up, I never thought to compare myself with others. The principal difference is that I did not engage in athletic activities like football and baseball and things like that. I was totally non-athletic. And so it was easier for me to put my head in a book and read it, than perhaps it was for somebody who would go out to play baseball. And the only non-reading activity that I was involved in was the Boy Scouts. I was a very avid Boy Scout growing up, and, but aside from that, that's the only extracurricular activity that I recall. But again, with reference to others in my neighborhood and in my school, even at the expense of being arrogant, I would think that perhaps I might have been just a little different than some of the others. I was always considered, quote, "a brain," unquote, a misnomer. But it's very easy for children growing up in a school context. They either would disparage you because of your academic approach to things, or they would admire you. And I was always two years younger than the people in my classes, because I started school at an early age, at the impossible age of three years. And so when I had classes with people who were twelve years old, I was ten. So they looked up to me because I was up-to-date on everything, simply because I was an avid reader. But again, that's oversimplifying a recollection of a background, and I don't want to give the impression that I was in any sense unusual or unique. But your question elicited that response, and it just occurred to me after all these years that maybe I was a little different.

TI: Well, yeah, especially you were two years younger than everyone else, and you were viewed as a, as, nicknamed "Brain," so I'm sure you were, you were very bright. Which, which kind of brings me to this next point. When you were about twelve, your parents divorced.

CS: Well, actually, that isn't quite true. My parents were divorced when I was sixteen. And news reports have been inaccurate in trying to put together that phase of my life. But if the question is designed to relate to my going to live with the Grays...

TI: Exactly. That's, that was the point --

CS: It was not in any sense related to my parents' divorce.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Okay, well, let's talk about this, when you're twelve, then, there was a shift in your life.

CS: Right.

TI: Why don't you talk about that and how that came about.

CS: Actually, it was when I was fourteen. I was going to a private school. I never graduated from high school, incidentally. I had completed tenth grade, and Dr. William H. Gray, Jr. was a young college president who had just gotten his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, and he was very heavy on, on intellectual testing. My godfather was chairman of the board of the college where Dr. Gray was president, and he got permission from my parents to administer a series of intelligence tests to me. Based upon the results of those tests, the most significant one I remember is the old Stanford-Binet test, which was then the most critical measure of intelligence. And whatever the results of those tests were -- I never actually saw them -- got him very excited, and he sent them to his professor at the University of Pennsylvania, to agree with him that he had encountered this very bright child, me, a fourteen-year-old. And so it was then that Dr. Gray got permission of my parents to allow him to take over my education. So that my starting college at age fourteen under the supervision of Dr. William H. Gray, Jr., this young new psychologist, was the beginning of that move that I made from my residential family to this family in a college context. It was later, two years later, that my parents were divorced. I was not even living at home at that time, I was away in college. But my parents did divorce, and so...

TI: But going back to the, the Grays, so this is interesting. So you're fourteen, this gentleman essentially "discovers" you, and asks permission from your parents to take over your, your sort of, your education.

CS: Right.

TI: Which, which means you actually physically move from your, your family to the Gray family. How did you feel about this?

CS: I had fun. [Laughs] The only thing is that the courses that he had me in were not fun. I had never had mathematics, and he enrolled me in a class in integral calculus. And the other students in the class were army officers -- this was during the early, early part of the second world war. And here was I, this fourteen-year-old, in a class with army officers, trying to learn integral calculus. I got through the course with a passing grade, but I still don't understand integral calculus, and I still don't understand mathematics. I can add one and one, and subtract two from four, but other than that, I, I don't have any mind for mathematics. He enrolled me as a music major. I decided I would never be a performer, and so I decided I would not major in music. But what he did was make a list of courses that I should take during the course of my undergraduate time, and he would check them off. And so I knew that I was part of an experiment, and it's fun being a part of an experiment when it's not hurting you, and when it's not something beyond your ability to deal with. The only part of it that I could not deal with was the integral calculus. Now, at the same time, Dr. Gray had decided I was going to medical school. So he had me taking courses, science courses, zoology and chemistry, and all those other courses, preparing for medical school. And it was fun for me then; I thought it would be great to go to medical school and become a doctor. Not because of the prestige of it, but because of the challenge of it. And then the mistake was made -- a mistake not on my part, but it was a blessing for me -- was that Dr. Gray arranged for me to witness surgery being performed. And I then realized that I could not stand the sight of blood. And so I decided that I would not go to medical school from there. But I had these various options, and I wanted to become a psychiatrist, and I realized that I had to go to medical school first, so I dropped the idea of becoming a psychiatrist, I decided to become a social worker instead.

And so I never thought about being a lawyer, and even though this was the early part of my life, Dr. Gray continued to, quote, "manage" me over the years as I became older. And when I told him I was going to get a degree in social work, he said that, "If you spend three years getting a degree in social work, you'll be working for somebody else for the rest of your life. You should go to law school, spend three years in law school, and become independent." So I thought to myself, "What is he talking about?" And it happened that I had taken business law courses in undergraduate school from the law school at Temple University. And I'd come out with very good grades, like "A's." So he being the psychologist that he was, and continuing to monitor and (analyze) my educational approach to things, said, "You did okay in your business courses in the law school." "Yes." "You liked it?" "Yes." "You'll go to law school." So it was his decision that I go to law school. So that, ultimately, was how I ended up going to law school. I never wanted to be a lawyer, and I never wanted to go to law school. And I got admitted to the University of Washington by walking in, in 1952.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Before we get there, I'm just thinking, going back to Dr. Gray. So you lived with him during a period where you're adolescent, teenager, so those are, are sort of a period where many people sort of form their, their opinions, their ideas about life. How much influence did Dr. Gray have on you during these years?

CS: Oh, I never consciously thought of it, but from... I was with the Grays from age fourteen to twenty-four. And during that ten-year period, and he was president of a college for a number of years, and for a few years later, not, he did other things in Philadelphia. But I was always his administrative assistant in whatever he did. So I was aware of his thinking about things, political things, academic things, writing of letters. I could write a letter for his signature, and the person receiving it would not know that he had not written the letter. We had come that close in terms of our thinking. And at one point, I became a bit concerned that my personality was merging into his personality. That was one of those negative thoughts that I would have, and I had to break away for purposes of my own sanity. And as a consequence of that, I did break away. But I came to law school in Seattle. It was a break from Dr. Gray in Philadelphia, because I had been admitted to the University of Pennsylvania law school, which would have meant that I would have remained in Philadelphia under his, quote, "supervision," at age twenty-four. [Laughs] And I came here to Seattle where my mother lived. And nobody had ever heard of Dr. Gray in Seattle. The University of Washington, I was a totally independent person operating on my own without any influence, however good it may have been, and without any recognition of a relationship with a mentor as strong as Dr. Gray was. And so that was my emancipation from this wonderful mentoring relationship, which had become so much a part of my life that it was interfering in my ability to function as a whole person. And so this was the beginning of the emergence of Charles Z. Smith as a person in his own right, without mentors, without someone opening doors for him, without someone using influence, whether good or bad, on his behalf. I was on my own. And so this was the part of me that I am most proud of, was that break.

Now, in fairness to Dr. Gray, he continued to be part of my life. My children absolutely adored him. He was like a grandfather to them, and like a father to me. We have surrogate parents in different environments, and even now, he's dead, but his wife is still alive, and she is Grandma Hazel to my children. And she is like a surrogate mother to me. And his son, William H. Gray III, was recently president of the United Negro College Fund, like a brother to me. And I, quite frankly, am closer to my brother Bill Gray, than I am to my brothers, my Smith brothers, who live in Seattle. Because we grew up together, and we had more common interests in the academic field. But again, at the same time, it was a very positive part of my life. As I look back on it, I would have structured it differently. I would not have allowed one person to have such control over my life, to the extent of deciding for me what courses I would take, what schools I would attend, and that kind of thing. But in retrospect, it was all good. I, I have not suffered from it. I sometimes am amused at the fact that over a period of time, I had twenty different majors in undergraduate school. [Laughs]

TI: And that was all Dr. Gray saying, "Try this, try that"?

CS: Yeah.

TI: That's interesting.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Now, I want to go back, when you first started living with the Grays, this was about 1941, and I'm curious, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, do you recall that? And if so, what were thinking and what were people saying when that happened?

CS: I remember 1941, and I was actually with the Grays in '42, 1942. So I was in boarding high school in 1941, on December 7th of 1941. At that time, I did not know the difference between Imperial Japanese citizens and Japanese Americans. In fact, I never knew a Japanese American at that time. And so my thoughts were generated largely by the war propaganda, the caricatures of Japanese with long teeth and all those other terrible things that we were doing to generate feelings against the Japanese during the war. And like everybody else, I just assumed that this was a vicious attack by a vicious people against the wonderful Americans, who are great democrats who loved everybody despite all the disrespect they had given to we persons of color over the years, and Native Americans over the years. But Americanism was the thing. I'm a flag-waving patriot then, and even now. And I'm very proud of my status as a retired marine in the United States Marine Corps. Because that's what I am, an American, true to the core. But at the same time, I intelligently can reflect upon the evils of our system, which have mistreated so many people for so many reasons, many of which have been absolutely wrong. And so, but my reaction December 7, 1941, "What a terrible thing those terrible people have done to us wonderful Americans."

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Because later on -- and this was sort of, you mentioned a ten-year period with the Grays, you did serve two years in the U.S. army.

CS: Right.

TI: And how did that come about? Were you drafted, or how did you get into the, the army?

CS: Well, it was part of my rebellion against Dr. Gray. [Laughs] I was registered in, with the draft board in Tallahassee, Florida, where the college was, Florida A&M University where Dr. Gray was president. Unknown to me, he had gotten me a deferment. So when I went to the draft board to find out why they had not drafted me, they pulled out the file and said I had a deferment. So I decided to go visit my parents in Lakeland, Florida, and I went to the draft board in Lakeland, and had my records transferred from Tallahassee, and signed a request for voluntary induction. And so I went back to Tallahassee, and I was working in the office, in the president's office at Florida A&M, and Dr. Gray was on a trip. I got my notice to report for induction, and I left a note on his desk that said, "Goodbye, I have gone to the army." [Laughs] And so that's what happened to me in 1945. And so I was drafted, in a sense, but I was drafted under a request for voluntary induction. And so I went into the army and was there, and...

TI: I'm curious; did you ever have a conversation with Dr. Gray about that decision?

CS: Oh, yeah. [Laughs]

TI: And how did that go? I'm just curious, it's such a good story. [Laughs]

CS: Well, it, it actually came when I asked him to provide me a readmission to school in order to get out of the army. And the war was over, and the army came out with a regulation that if you left college to come into the army, and you could get readmitted, you could get an immediate discharge. So I called Dr. Gray and asked him for readmission to Florida A&M University. And he never let me forget it, that even though I had literally run away from him by going into the army in the first place, that when I needed him, I called him to get him to get me out of the army by providing me readmission to college. [Laughs] And so, but my army experience wasn't bad, except that I really wanted to go into the army to engage in hand-to-hand combat with those "terrible Japanese." And the war was over in Europe in May, and the war was over in Japan in August. And I went in the army July 2nd. So here was I in this army with no war. And I, I never had a chance to be a combat person, because I was a court reporter in the army, and I headed a court-martial section in the army. And so the army people discovered that I was a champion shorthand writer, and that I had highly developed clerical skills. I had two years of college at that time, and so I was taken out of a regular unit where they carry rifles and march and do things like that, and was assigned to a headquarters unit where we were glorified clerical people. And I was made the head of a court-martial section within three weeks, and, through a combination of many things. The people who were running them were getting discharged, and they needed somebody with my skills to take over. So at age eighteen, I was a staff sergeant in the army and headed a court-martial section until I was discharged.

TI: Was this your first taste of, of sort of courtroom activities? Or did you see this before? I mean, I guess the question that I'm wondering is, is did this sort of encourage you to later on seek a legal career?

CS: Just the opposite. [Laughs] And the answer to the first question, I had never been in court. And so the army court-martial system, under the old court-martial system was slightly different than it is now. The court-martial system as I now know it is just as good as, or better than the civilian court system, but that's another story. But back in 1945 and 1946, the way court-martials were conducted was entirely different. In order to be, in fact, the head of the office, all you had to do was be an officer, and it didn't make any difference what kind of officer you were. At one time, the officer in charge of the section which I headed was a lawyer, a Harvard-trained lawyer. And that was fun working with him. And then when he was discharged, they assigned a captain to me who came out of a truck driving company. He was semi-illiterate, and I had to do all of his work for him. I would write up everything, and he was perfectly content to do that. But administering the court-martial system, as I did in those days, did not give me a good taste for the legal system. And so when I left the army, I had no intention whatever of going into law as a career, and it was only after I got into law as a career that I realized that there was some connection, maybe subtly, psychological connection, but not direct. And if my only experience had been that, and I had to decide, "Shall I go to law school or shall I not go to law school," I would have said, "No, I will not go to law school," because my experience as a head of a court-martial section did not impress me.

TI: Oh, that's interesting.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: While you were in the military -- so this is '45, '46 -- what did you observe in terms of how the army treated people of color, soldiers of color during this period?

CS: Well, in the early days, it was a totally segregated military system. I was at Camp Lee, which is now Fort Lee in Virginia, and we had a colored section and white section. So all the black troops were in the colored section. The Puerto Ricans were in the colored section. If there were any Asians of Filipino ancestry, for example, they would be in the colored section, but at Camp Lee, Virginia, we had no other Asians. I don't even remember seeing any Filipinos. And in the white section, they had German prisoners of war and Italian prisoners of war, who were treated as whites.

TI: Although they were -- I'm sorry -- they were prisoners of war?

CS: Prisoners of war.

TI: And they were in the white section.

CS: Right.

TI: Okay, go ahead.

CS: And treated just like white soldiers were treated. They ate in the mess halls with the whites, they drilled with the whites, and the Italian and German prisoners of war were treated better than the blacks were treated, because the blacks were in the segregated black units. When I, in 1945 at Camp Lee, Virginia, I can recall seeing only two black officers. All the officers who headed companies and battalions were white. And we had one black captain who was temporarily assigned there, and one black second lieutenant who was temporarily assigned. But in 1945 -- and I was in the quartermaster corps -- and in 1945 there were very few officers of color. And if they had them, they weren't assigned to Camp Lee, Virginia. And, but it was while I was in the army that President Truman came up with the executive order to desegregate the armed forces. And that desegregation process was underway when I left the army in (...) November of 1956. And the Truman executive order was sometime around October. And the armed forces were beginning to desegregate. They were beginning to house blacks with whites.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: But going back in terms of even before they desegregated, so how, how did it make you feel when you saw these, these inequities? Having prisoners of war and German and Italians treated better than U.S. soldiers of color?

CS: Yeah, it really didn't bother me. I was aware of it, and outrage is an unusual thing. Sometimes it is conscious, and sometimes it is not conscious. And to the extent that as a person of color, I would resent the fact that prisoners of war were being treated better than non-prisoners of war who were persons of color, it occurred to me that there was something wrong with the equation, but it never occurred to me to be so resentful of it that I was truly outraged. After the fact, as I look back on it, I, I think it was very typical of our white-oriented military society, is that if you are not white, you are sub-human, and if you are white, you're human. And they considered Italians white, they considered Germans as white, so they had white prisoners of war. They didn't have any prisoners of war of color. There were no Japanese prisoners of war at Camp Lee, Virginia, and I don't know whether, if they had had any, how they would have treated them, whether they would have treated them the same as they treated the German prisoners of war, or the Italian prisoners of war. But I was even then in the early stages of my awareness of the inequity of our government having prisoners of war who were being treated better than they were treating their own soldiers who were not prisoners of war. But what could one do about it? You just wait -- we used to have an expression: "for the duration of the war plus six months." And so you wait six months after the war is over, and then you decide what you're going to think about something, or what you're going to do.

TI: That's interesting. So after the military, you went back to school.

CS: Right.

TI: But at some point, you changed schools. Didn't you go to Temple University?

CS: Right, right.

TI: So how did that happen?

CS: Dr. Gray was president of Florida A&M University, and he left there, I think it had to be about 1948, and returned to Philadelphia. And I returned to Philadelphia with him, and that was how I ended up living in Philadelphia. Temple University was in my neighborhood, two blocks away, and so I enrolled at Temple University and again, pursuing this smorgasbord of courses -- [laughs] -- that Dr. Gray had decided for me. And I ended up with a degree in business education, which was a heavy emphasis on business administration. So I took courses in advertising and communications, all kinds of things, as part of the package that was my degree. And I got my degree in February of 1952 from Temple University.


TI: So let's pick it up, you decided to attend the University of Washington law school. And I seem to recall in something I read that your mother was also in Seattle, or did she come to Seattle with you?

CS: Yeah, my mother had lived in Seattle for a number of years. I had a sister who lived in Seattle, and after my parents' divorce, my sister bought a house for my mother to live in with her then four younger children. And so I came to visit my mother in 1951, my first trip to Seattle. I fell in love with Seattle, the city. Lake Washington was crystal clear, Mt. Rainier was visible, and I thought to myself, "This is God's country. If they have a law school here, that's where I'm going." Because otherwise I would have been doomed to law school at the University of Pennsylvania in downtown Philadelphia, and I wanted to get away from Philadelphia. And so I decided to go out to the law school at the University of Washington. And the associate dean I know very well, and I'm still in touch with him, his name was A. John Nicholson. A. John said to me, "Do you have a transcript?" And I happened to have had a photocopy of the transcript in my pocket, I showed it to him and he looked at it and he said, "You're admitted." That's the way I got admitted to law school. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] Little easier than it is now.

CS: Yeah. They hadn't invented the law school admissions test, the LSAT, and in those days in order to be admitted to law school, you had to have a degree from a recognized college or university in a field other than music or agriculture, and you had to have two semesters of accounting. And if you didn't have the accounting, you were allowed to take the accounting after you were admitted. I had my two semesters of accounting, I had my degree, and I had my performance. And so that's how I was admitted, and that was the beginning of my legal career, from law school beginning in September of 1952.

TI: Before we get to the law school part -- I'll ask a few questions about that -- but what was it, after you moved to Seattle, how would you, how was it different than Philadelphia? I mean, what, what did you notice about Seattle?

CS: Well, number one, you didn't have streetcars clanging in the middle of the night. In Philadelphia we lived on the street where the streetcars came all the time. But it was the antithesis of the urban area. Philadelphia was, was then and still is, a highly impacted urban area. Presumably high crime rates, heavy police activities. In the North Philadelphia neighborhood where we lived, the chief of police had armored vehicles patrolling the streets at night. This was the early reaction to urban crime. And I felt that I needed to get away from that kind of environment, so Seattle, in comparison to Philadelphia, was an oasis of calm, where people were polite and spoke to each other, the streets were clean, people lived in neighborhoods with lawns and grass, and flowers grew, and we had water on this side, Lake Washington, water on that side, Puget Sound, we had the magnificent mountains and the forests. And I thought, this is sort of like Eden. It's different. And my mother lived here, my sister lived here, and so I was sort of coming home, in a sense. That I was anchoring myself in my mother's home and going to a law school to get the education that I had promised to acquire, which was a law degree. And so that was how all of that happened. But I would go down to Madrona Beach, Lake Washington, and swim. I haven't been in Lake Washington for so many years, but this was an ideal world for me, entirely different than the intense urban environment of a city like Philadelphia or Chicago or New York, or places like that.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Well, when you got in the school, how was that? I mean, the caliber of students, the faculty, how would you compare that to a Philadelphia law school? I mean, you didn't go a Philadelphia law school, but you probably had a sense of what that was going to be like.

CS: Right. Well, because the University of Washington is a smaller school than the Eastern schools I was accustomed to, it was more personal and I had the sense that my professors knew me as a person rather than a number in a book. And, but, again, it's sort of hard to draw comparisons. I can tell you how I felt about my law school experience, and it was probably three of the most enjoyable years of my life, University of Washington law school. My professors, I absolutely adored all of them, give or take one or two. They became my friends from law school until they died. I recently ran into one of my law professors whom I hadn't seen for fifty years. We greeted each other as if we were long lost brothers. I didn't even know he was still alive. He knew I was still alive because he has followed my career in the media. But law school, to me, was three years of an intense experience, more or less of a family nature. My law school classmates who are still alive -- and most of us are still alive -- are very close to me. We recognize each other's voices. If I got a telephone call and the person on the other end did not identify themselves, I'd know who it was. Because our law school class, which ended up with sixty-eight -- we started out with 120 -- and we ended up with sixty-eight. And of those sixty-eight, at least fifty of them are still alive. And just a close-knit group of people who lived and worked together for three years, and it was a magnificent experience for me, and to others of them, more or less. Whenever we get together, either individually or in small groups, we reminisce about the "good old days" in law school, about the professors and all of these things. And it was really a very, very fortunate part of my life, and in fact, it was part of the reason that I chose to abandon my earlier intention not to get a law degree. I entered law school in order to satisfy Dr. Gray, and I initially intended not to complete the three years. But I was so fascinated by the law school experience that I determined, "Well, I will at least get my law degree, but I won't practice."

So I went through law school, passed my courses, took the bar examination, passed the bar examination, and began a career in the legal field. I could not have chosen a better field than law. It has been the most satisfying decision I have ever made, which is to one, complete law school, two, go into law as a career. And it was something that I really had not intended to do.

TI: So although you were reluctant to do this, in, I guess, in some ways, Dr. Gray was right. He, he probably saw that law would be a good fit for you.

CS: Absolutely. And I'm sure, and he reminded me many times. [Laughs] But it was an area where I am on my own. I've had positions where I worked for somebody else, but I've been in total control of my life as a law-trained person, as a lawyer, and in my current role, I'm still a lawyer. Retired from the highest court of the state, and all those other things, and these were things that came rather naturally. I never strived for any of these things, I never strive for appointment to anything. On the courts I never had opposition, and all of these things are part of the package that is Charles Z. Smith, University of Washington law school, 1955, and Charles Z. Smith, 2004. What has happened during that period of time has been attributed largely to the fact that I made the decision to stick with law as a career.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And going back to when you first came to Seattle, I realize this was probably -- Seattle has a fairly large Asian American community, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Filipino Americans. And I'm guessing, sort of, growing up on the East Coast, you did not come into much contact with Asian Americans.

CS: None at all.

TI: So when you came to Seattle, what was that like, when you met Asian Americans?

CS: Well, I have to follow on an old cliche, "some of my best friends are..." [laughs]. And so I have to identify individuals in the Asian community who began to open my eyes and ears. The first Asian that I met was Ike Ikeda, then the new director of the Atlantic Street Center. I was a Boy Scout troop leader or something, and we held our meetings at the Atlantic Street Center when I was in law school. I was head of a Hi-Y group, which also met at the Atlantic Street Center, and I met Ike Ikeda, the first Japanese American I had ever met. And then in law school, Wing Luke, a Chinese American, was one year ahead of me in law school, and we became very good and close friends. The first Chinese American I had ever met. That is to say, to know and to have conversations with. And then one year behind me in law school was Liem Eng Tuai, the Chinese American, who became a very close friend. And so Ike is still my very dear friend, we're in touch with each other, he follows me and sends me photographs and newspaper articles. And I was on the board of the Atlantic Street Center for a number of years, and then Liem Tuai is now dead and Wing Luke, of course, died. But these were the three Asian Americans who opened my eyes and ears to the Asian community in Seattle. And all of this happened in the first year I was in law school. Well, with Liem Tuai, my second year. But with Wing Luke and Ike Ikeda in 1951, 1952, and with Liem Tuai, 1953, and that was the beginning of my awareness that there was this significant community in Seattle, most generally associated with what we called the International District at that time. And so that was the opening of my eyes, and opening of my ears to a recognition that the world consisted of other than blacks, whites, and Cubans.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Well, so I'm curious; with Ike, Ike was incarcerated during World War II. Did he ever share that with you?

CS: No.

TI: And so when did you find out that this had happened to Japanese Americans?

CS: Oh... [pauses] you know, I can't, I can't remember how it was that I learned it, and I didn't learn it... I think I learned it from reading, but I became aware of the fact that there was a dichotomy between the Chinese Americans and the Japanese Americans, and some unstated and sometimes stated antagonism between Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans in Seattle. And I remember seeing photographs of shops run by Chinese Americans that said, "We're not Japanese," and that kind of thing. And somehow or the other, my curiosity about that came into focus around 1952. And the, with respect to the incarceration experience... you know, I really don't know. I don't know when I first became intentionally aware. But when the commission report came out, it was not news to me, because I already knew all those things. When I was president of the American Baptist Churches, for example, I got our general board to pass a resolution condemning the incarceration. So that was some years later, in the '70s, but I just don't know. But it -- and this is not a true answer, but it seems that I always knew it. But the question is, when did I know it, and I could never under oath say, "I became aware of it at this time," or, "I became aware of it through this process."

TI: How about just recollections? Because you're well-known in the Japanese American community with people like Ike and others, at points did people just sort of share their stories of what, what happened to them? Or did they avoid telling you? I'm curious, sort of, because you're, you're outside the Japanese American community, and I'm just curious how people within the community communicated what happened to outsiders.

CS: In the Nikkei culture, you may be aware, there is a reticence to talk about unpleasant experiences. And while I was on the board of the Seattle chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League for a number of years, I never... I do not remember ever hearing persons talking about the incarceration experience until we got into redress, which was opening another chapter. So I was aware of, for example, Reverend Emery Andrews, who was the non-Japanese minister of the Japanese Baptist Church, who was dearly loved by the Nikkei community in Seattle, because among other things, he would make weekly trips to Minidoka to stay in touch with his friends and parishioners, and other residents of Seattle who were in that concentration camp. And so I began to get little bits of information through that process, to the point at which I would be nervy enough to ask my Nikkei friends, "Were you in a concentration camp? Which one?" And I was able to identify all the camps. I knew where they were located and all of these other things. And it all came into focus, however, when the Commission on Wartime Relocation issued its report, which is a comprehensive report on the relocation experience. But again, I learned through the testimony before the commission -- I was not on the commission, but I attended all the hearings here in Seattle -- I learned of experiences that some of my friends had had for the first time in those hearings. And later on, of course, when we got involved in the redress movement, everything came into focus and that was the beginning of my intense knowledge of what actually happened. And we had what was called Days of Remembrance, the first time at the staging grounds in Puyallup, that was where the logo with the barbed wire was first used.

TI: Right, that's the Frank Fujii...

CS: Frank Fujii did it.

TI: Did that one.

CS: Right, and I am the proud owner of an original copy of that. [Laughs] It's a print, but it's, it's a framed print. But I attended and participated in the first Days of Remembrance at Puyallup. And so these things began to churn inside, intellectually and emotionally, to the point at which you began to look into it and see what actually happened and how a government could do such terrible things to a part of its population, and the idea of literally imprisoning. And whatever euphemism they may use, "internment camps," I call them "concentration camps," and they were imprisoned and the staging grounds, stables, fairgrounds and stables, things like that, throughout the area, and how they applied the law simply by a person's appearance, by the name that they had, and with nothing, nothing more than that. And not every person of Japanese ancestry was in the prison camps. I have friends who went to Chicago, for example, and people living in Chicago were not in the camps. But again, all of this is to say that as you put together little bits of conversations, and little bits of reading, and you begin to determine what actually happened, I think Michi Weglyn's book, (Years) of Infamy, was probably the most intense reading experience I had about the incarceration experience. And when you put all the things that have been written together, you get a pretty good idea of what actually happened, and then when you reach the stage where I am, where you have no hesitancy to ask one of your friends what their experience was, and you get their reaction to their experience, then you know that this is not a figment of someone's imagination. You know that this actually happened. And so some of this information I learned through my affiliation with the Japanese American Citizens League, but not all of it. It was just a platform where we had common goals and common interests, but it was not a platform on which people were able to express their rage and anger over the experience they had had.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, actually, I want to go back. You mentioned the, the commission hearings, and you mentioned how you attended those. From your perspective as a judge, watching those hearings, were they an effective way to, to learn about and for the government to evaluate what happened? I mean, there have been claims that, that they were, they were biased. Most of the testimonies were from Japanese Americans, and there weren't that many in terms of actually their, from the side of justifying the government's perspective. And I was wondering from your perspective as a judge, as sort of a more objective viewpoint, what you thought of the hearings.

CS: I never saw the commission as a vehicle to help to justify the government's position. I saw the commission as a vehicle to investigate the facts of what actually happened to our citizens who experienced the internment and relocation and the imprisonment, all of these together. To me it was revealing to -- not only to me, but to other members of the general public, who did not have the background that I had, to hear what had happened to some of these wonderful people who had maintained their silence for so many years, who had not even discussed their experience with their children. And so we had these Issei, Nisei, coming forward to share publicly -- for the first time -- their recollections of their experience. And it was moving, absolutely moving. From the standpoint of fairness and my role as a judge, I felt that it served its intended purpose: to investigate the facts of the experiences of American citizens, mostly citizens -- and those who weren't citizens couldn't become citizens under our alien exclusion laws. And so all of this was capsulized in the commission report. I do not consider the report biased in any sense. I do not consider it biased, any more biased than any other report issued by the government. And the federal government had, did not have to have a commission to publish its side of the story. Even now, they can publish their side of the story, whether directly or indirectly through well-meaning writers who will come up with the government's position on it. But I look at the true story as being documented in the court opinions, particularly the Hirabayashi cases, the opinion by Judge Donald Voorhees, United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, and its successor opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the opinion by Chief Judge Mary Schroeder. If I need to have any information on the facts, instead of reading the commission report, instead of reading Michi Weglyn's book, I would read Judge Voorhees' opinion and Judge Schroeder's opinion. That would give me all the information I would need to have to know that the relocation under 9066 was absolutely wrong. It was inconsistent with all the principles of democracy that we believe in.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: I'm going to shift gears now, and, because I wanted ask you, around 1952, when you were in law school, that was about the time you met your wife, or, or you got married? What can you... let's talk about your wife a little bit... and talk about that.

CS: My wife is an ethnic Puerto Rican born in Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1954, came to Seattle to teach. She enrolled in a course at the University of Washington in the evenings to be around younger people in her age group. I was then in my third year of law school, February 14, 1955. And I met her in the cafeteria at the University of Washington. She was with somebody else, and I tried to move in and take over the conversation, and that didn't work. But I found out that she came to the university once a week. And so I sneaked off from my buddies in law school, because we had a group that studied together, about six of us. We were sort of like a gang, a studying gang. And we would go to dinner together, and if we saw somebody with somebody, we'd interfere. Well, I sneaked off from my friends and camped out at the cafeteria, because this young woman -- who I learned was Elie Martinez -- would be coming there at 5:30. So I camped out at 4:30 -- [laughs] -- and as it happened, she came in at 5:30, and I got in the cafeteria line behind her. And when she got to pay, she realized she had left her wallet at home, and she was embarrassed, and I was behind her, and I said, "Do you mind if I paid for your meal?" It was something like seventy-four cents. And she said, "On the condition that I repay you next week." I said, "Fine," so I paid for her meal, seventy-five cents, seventy-four cents. And so I said, "May I sit at the same table with you?" And she said, "I don't mind." And then when we sat down, my buddies from law school found out where I was. [Laughs] And so they came through the cafeteria line and decided to come and take over the conversation. And I realized then that my wife had a Spanish-language background, and I had a Spanish-language background, and neither one of us is fluent in Spanish, but at least we know Spanish well enough to communicate, and I knew none of my law school buddies could speak Spanish, so we just shifted into Spanish. And so that's how I kept my law school buddies out of our conversation. That was (one week after) February 14, 1955.

Then every week after then, I would sneak away -- not sneak away -- they knew where I was going. I would separate myself from my law school gang, and go and wait for Elie Martinez to show up, and then I would follow her through the cafeteria line and we would sit together. And I found out that she was taking the Greyhound bus on Highway 99 from Burien, where she was teaching, coming into the, what is now the Metro bus station in Seattle, and taking that bus and coming to the university to go to her classes. And her class was from 7:30 to 9:30, and at 9:30 she'd reverse that and get the Metro bus back downtown and get the Greyhound bus to Highway 99 in Burien, and then walk. They had no lights or anything else to where she was living, about a mile down the road. I was absolutely horrified. I couldn't believe... and this was a very young woman, first year out of college, and I said to her, "Do you mind if I take you home after classes?" And she said, "I do not wish to be involved." And so I said, "All right, I'll make an arrangement with you. Would you let me take you home whenever it rains?" And she said, "All right," and I prayed for rain. So every night she would come to the university, it would rain. [Laughs] And so under her agreement with me, she let me drive her home. And that was the beginning of our relationship in 1955. And I think it was three weeks after I met her that I asked her to marry me, and she said, "No." She was going back to the Islands, and so she did. She stayed through my graduation, June 8, 1955, went back to the Islands...

TI: So you just fell totally in love with her. After three weeks you, you proposed to her?

CS: Yes. Yeah. She, it was a combination of a lot of things, but anyway, you read about, quote, "love at first sight," that's a cliche. I believe that in the universe that of the billions of people in the world, two people may be destined to meet each other. And it's sort of like star crossing. So somehow or the other, she changed her mind. It probably helped that I would write her a letter every day. So from June 8th to August the first, she'd get a letter from me every day. And then finally, I think, out of exasperation -- [laughs] -- she said she changed her mind, and she would marry me after all. So she came back to Seattle and we got married August 20, 1955. We will have been married in (2004) for forty-nine years, and we're still in an intact marriage. And I used to say we stayed together for the sake of our children -- we have four children in their forties now -- and now I say we stay together for the sake of our grandchildren. [Laughs] We have six grandchildren. But whatever our motivation for staying together, that 1955 meeting, February 14 has matured into a marriage of forty-nine years, four children and six grandchildren.

TI: Well, I'm glad I asked that, that question. What a great story.

CS: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: That's really nice.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: After your graduated from law school, what happened then? So this is, again, about the same time, 1955.

CS: 1955, I graduated June 8th. I was offered a position as a law clerk for one of the Supreme Court Justices, Matthew W. Hill, and that was the beginning of my legal career. I was with Judge Hill for... from September 1955 until about May of 1956. And then I was retained as a deputy prosecuting attorney for King County, where I was for four years, until I went into private practice for a year, and then I went to Washington, D.C.

TI: Well, as a, a deputy prosecutor, you had -- we talked earlier -- a particular case. The Dave Beck, sort of, prosecution. Can you talk a little bit about that case?

CS: Right.

TI: And what, the significance of that?

CS: David D. Beck, Mr. Beck, was the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He had appeared before the old Senate Rackets Committee, when Bob Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy was legal counsel, that was the old McClellan Committee, and had taken the Fifth Amendment 157 times. Locally, the public was incensed over the fact that this person had taken the Fifth Amendment before the Senate Committee for 157 times, and "he must be a crook, therefore something should be done about it." The King County Superior Court judges decided to call a grand jury -- which we rarely use in the state system in King County -- with a direction to investigate possible crimes by Mr. Beck. I was a deputy prosecutor, the elected prosecutor, and one other deputy as chief criminal deputy and I were assigned to run the grand jury, and to come up with something. And quite by accident, we came up with the sudden disbursement of the title of Teamster-owned Cadillacs from the Teamsters union to named individuals. From that, our investigation led to the fact that these were Cadillacs owned by the union, assigned to Mr. Beck's son, Dave Beck, Jr., who would sell them to his friends, and they would write a check to cover the purchase, payable to, quote, "Mr. Dave Beck." The checks were deposited in a special account that David D. Beck, Sr. had, and it was one of those sort of throwaway accounts, where you deposit money and you never withdraw. So that when confronted with the fact that these checks had been written to him and deposited in his account for the automobiles that had suddenly moved from title to the Teamsters union to the named individuals, his response was he had paid the money back. He could not prove that he had paid the money back, so that was our case. [Laughs] So we had a grand larceny case against him and a grand larceny case against his son. So I was not the chief trial lawyer; I did the research and the brief-writing and the legal arguments. But somehow or the other, when the conviction occurred, the media gave me credit for getting the conviction. The same happened with Dave Beck, Jr., who was tried two weeks (earlier and convicted), and the media gave me credit for getting the conviction.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

CS: It was then that Bob Kennedy, whom I had known through his investigation of the Teamsters union (for) the McClellan Committee, quote, "took notice" of me, and my ability to convict the president of the Teamsters union. And Mr. Kennedy was interested in Mr. Beck's successor, James Riddle Hoffa, who was then the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. And so that was sort of my connection with Robert Kennedy, and I subsequently went to work with him in Washington.

TI: Because he offered you a position as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General at that point.

CS: Right.

TI: I mean, how did that feel? I mean, coming from Seattle, being asked to come to Washington, D.C., to join the administration?

CS: Well, to me it was not a big deal, and you have to understand that I'm never impressed with these things. And the way it happened was this: Edwin O. Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize writer for the Seattle Times, went to Washington as Bob Kennedy's Special Assistant for Public Affairs. Ed called me and said, "Are you going to be at home? Bob wants to call you." And I said, "Oh, sure." So...

TI: And at this point, he -- this is Bob Kennedy -- he was the attorney general?

CS: Bob was then the attorney general. And historically, I had been a Republican. I hesitate to admit that, but -- [laughs] -- and I was very resentful when John F. Kennedy named his brother as attorney general. So I was prepared to dislike him totally. And I had known Bob Kennedy when he was with the old McClellan Committee, and I didn't care for him then. I thought he was too brash. So when he became attorney general, and my friend Ed Guthman was his public information officer, called and said, "He's going to call you," at least I knew he was going to call me. So he called me -- I can't remember whether I was in my office or whether I was at home, and he said, "I'd like for you to come to Washington to work for me." And I said, "I don't think so. I'm a Republican, I didn't vote for your brother." And he said, "I'm looking for lawyers, not politicians." So at that time, my wife was in the hospital having just given birth to our fourth child, our daughter who was several days old. And I said, "Well, I'll have to consult with my wife, and I'll call you back." I said, "When do you want me to come to work?" He said, "Tomorrow." So I said, "Well, I'll call you back in a couple of days." And I talked with my wife about it, and she is, fortunately, one of those persons who will never direct me. And she will not tell me, "I think you should," "I think you should not." She said, "It's up to you." So two days later, I called Bob Kennedy and said, "I've talked with my wife about it. Yes, I will come to Washington." And that meant moving my family and all of that.

TI: Which, which was a huge inconvenience. So why did you take the position?

CS: I suppose the challenge -- and I had been a prosecutor at the state level, and getting involved in an investigation. Quite frankly, I didn't know all the details of the reason for my going to Washington. But moving from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County to Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States in the legal field was sort of a move upward, and not in terms of prestige, but in terms of challenge and opportunity. So I went to Washington and found out that what Bob Kennedy had in mind was assigning me to a unit that later became known as the "Hoffa Squad." We denied that it existed. I was technically assigned to Organized Crime and Racketeering, and if anybody ever asked me what I was doing, "I'm in Organized Crime and Racketeering." But my job was to run grand juries around the country, and principally, I, my offices were located in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Chicago, but I was supervising grand juries run in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Detroit, and I had a staff of government lawyers who were reporting to me, and we were investigating mismanagement of Teamster pension funds out of the Central States Pension Fund in Chicago.

And so that's what I did for four years, I traveled a lot, back and forth, back and forth. For a while I was commuting daily from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, because I had these four small children, and I would be away from them for two or three weeks at a time. Bob Kennedy had told me, "Whenever you can arrange it, go home and visit your family." So Chicago was, for me, ideal, after they opened Dulles Airport, which was ten minutes away from my house, and so I would leave home at 7:30 in the morning, get an 8:10 flight to Chicago, put in a full day in Chicago, leave my office at 5 o'clock, get a flight, and get back to Dulles airport by 8 o'clock at night. And I did that on a daily basis for about a month.

TI: So when you said "commute," it's not like a weekly commute, it was a daily commute.

CS: A daily commute.

TI: From D.C. to... to Chicago.

CS: To Chicago. But I didn't do that regularly. When I would commute to Los Angeles, I'd go once a week, and I'd leave home on Sunday night, be in my office in Los Angeles on Monday, leave my office on Thursday, get back home on Thursday night, go into my office on Friday in Washington, and be at home on Saturday, and get a flight out on Sunday night. That I did for four years on a regular basis, either... and I was young, fortunately then and still am now, in excellent health. And so it was easy for me physically, but it was, I'm sure it must have been difficult for my wife with four small children, two in diapers at the same time, to have to manage, and she learned to be an efficient manager in my absence. And that was the time of her growing, because I had always been in charge of everything, I'm the old macho father figure who runs everything, and I'm not there. And so she had to do all these things herself. And so for that approximately four-year period, she learned how to survive with an absent husband, and the children don't seem to have suffered from it too much.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: I'm curious; as the point person to go after Hoffa, were you ever in fear of your safety and security, or the safety and security of your family?

CS: Not really, only once. I came home to our house, we lived in northern Virginia, and we had a deck on the back from the dining room, up off the ground, and I saw a device about that big up against the wall, and I panicked. I thought it was a bomb. And I found out that my wife had installed a clothesline -- [laughs] -- and that was the clothesline implement. And that was the only time that I ever really felt that my family was in danger. From a personal standpoint, because when I was away from home, I lived in hotels, and my hotel residences were rather well-known. And for exercise, I would always walk from my office to the hotel in Chicago. My hotel was down past the El tracks, and I'd walk about ten blocks under the El tracks late at night, regardless of the hour, like eleven, twelve, one, two, or three o'clock at night. I never felt that I was in danger. I had these staff persons who worked for me who were career lawyers from the Justice Department, who wanted to have a sense of importance, and they'd claim that they had received threats. So I decided since I was in charge of the operation, that if anyone was in danger, it would be me, so I assigned myself twenty-four-hour guards from the U.S. marshal service. So they stayed in my hotel suite, they traveled with me everywhere I went for about a year. I never felt the real necessity for that. It was more, to me, sort of a tongue-in-cheek response to the claim by my under-staff people, that they were in danger. I felt that if anyone would be in danger, it would be me. But I never felt physically threatened at all, and even though Mr. Hoffa and I were on opposite sides of the fence, I was out to prosecute him, I think he had a lot of respect for me, as I had respect for him. And I do not think Mr. Hoffa would have allowed any of the people who were operating on his behalf to do anything that would harm (me). I just had that feeling. And so danger, I probably feel more in danger in Seattle today than I felt in danger when I was investigating the Teamster pension fund.

TI: That's interesting. I just have to ask this question: would you care to speculate what happened to James Hoffa?

CS: Yes. I believe the story that his body was dismembered and put in the concrete at the (Meadowlands) Racetrack in New Jersey. And this is based upon an interview with, in Playboy, with a person in the witness protection program who is supposed to have known all the details of what happened. His relation of events and names was very, very accurate. People whose names he referred to, times and dates he referred to were very, very accurate. And I compared my response to that article with a high-ranking person in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who, like me, was very familiar with Mr. Hoffa's background and investigation, who shared my belief that that was an accurate story. And so I am myself personally of the opinion that that is true, but I would never publicly say that it is true, nor would I be confident to testify that it is true. It is simply my internalized response to something that I read, applying it against my background, and my background consists of a lot of things in the back of my mind. I kept no written records, and my style of investigation was, "keep no records," because if you do, they're subject to production, and I fortunately have a fairly good retentive memory, and so all the details that I needed to recall, I could recall.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: During this same period, while you were assigned to investigate Hoffa, the Kennedy administration, in particular, Robert Kennedy, was active in the Civil Rights movement. And I'm curious; was there any connection with your work to this other work happening in the Department of Justice?

CS: Absolutely none, and for an unusual reason. Number one, I was not in the civil rights division, which was headed by Burke Marshall. But when the Justice Department was involved in such things as the Freedom Rides and other things like that, Bob Kennedy was very adamant that I should not be exposed, as a person of color, to whatever was going on. We deputized Justice Department lawyers, all whites, as deputy marshals to go to Mississippi and Alabama, because the spokespersons in the Federal Bureau of Investigation asserted openly that, quote, "We work for the same government, but we're not on the same side." So we -- that is, the Kennedy administration -- did not have a lot of confidence in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and therefore, deputized lawyers to become investigators. I was never one of them. I never had anything at all to do with the Civil Rights movement.


CS: I was never part of the Civil Rights movement, in large measure because my assignments in the Justice Department were in a totally different direction. Bob Kennedy well-meaningly tried to become aware of the Civil Rights movement. One of the instances where he made a big mistake was to call in some celebrities, Lena Horne being one, the singer who sings "Day O"... momentarily his name escapes me. Famous --

TI: Is it Belafonte?

CS: Harry Belafonte. Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, and some other celebrities among the African American group, and he thought he was going to get their blessings. And they raked him over the coals. And this was a baptism of fire for him to recognize that at best, he was a well-meaning white liberal who didn't really understand what the Civil Rights movement was all about. And after that meeting, I think that Bob Kennedy became changed. I think that it was reflected in his, in his speeches, his public appearances. I worked on his campaign for the Senate in New York in 1964, I left the Justice Department and was on the staff of his campaign. And the speeches that he made, some of which have been memorialized -- and they're not all his words, he had a wonderful speechwriter who's a very good friend of mine. [Laughs] And, but at the same time, when a person in public life, a politician or other person, delivers a message, and it is partially crafted by a professional speechwriter, it becomes the words of the person delivering it, so that Bob Kennedy's speeches and messages rang a bit more true, and a bit more sincere after his encounter with Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, and some of the others. I think that he was genuine in his belief about equality. I think he was genuine in his belief that there should be equal opportunity. My going to work for him had nothing whatever to do with the fact that I was not white. And while it is easy for persons like me to boast that whatever I achieved was on my own merit, I recognized that Bob Kennedy would have asked me to come to him regardless who I was. If I had been a woman or a man, or a person of color, person not of color, because I had something that he wanted, and I was able to deliver it, and ultimately resulting in a prosecution and a conviction.

But again, I remember one instance that sticks in my mind. Bob Kennedy used to come into the area where our desks were located, and he said to the person in charge of the office, "I see there are no Negroes here. Aren't there any available?" The next morning, we had a black secretary. [Laughs] And the person in charge had "stolen" this young woman from the State Department. She may have been competent, but she knew that she was a token, she spent her time polishing her fingernails, doing her fingers, she wouldn't do any work. And I called her in said to her, "If you are ever assigned to work for me, if you don't do the work, you are fired." And so she was never assigned to work for me, but that was, however, an indication of the strength of the words of someone who heads a department like an attorney general, who would say, "There aren't any Negroes here. Aren't there any available?" and then they'd find one. And so that was a crude attempt at inclusiveness in employment, in equal employment. And it was also the hallmark of his work, not only as attorney general, but as United States senator from New York, that he engaged in equal employment opportunity.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: I'm curious, during this period, if you were in D.C. on the Civil Rights March on Washington. I believe that was '65? Is that time or '64?

CS: It was later. I think it was, I think it was about... let's see. I left the Justice Department in '64, so it was before '64. I was still with the Justice Department.

TI: Right. And was wondering, because, again, so much was happening with civil rights during that period, if you recall that, that march?

CS: I recall it very, very clearly. We had been notified by the FBI to stay out of Washington, that terrible things were going to happen. The FBI had agents stationed on rooftops with machine guns to control the disaster resulting from the unrest arising from the March on Washington. I lived in Northern Virginia, I comfortably stayed at home in Northern Virginia, and watched the march only on television, intent on protecting myself and my family against terrible things that were going to happen. It was the worst decision I've ever made in my life. I missed probably the most significant event in the history of this country by not being physically present for the March on Washington. And it was orderly, the people came by buses, planes, trains, automobiles, on foot. They marched to the monument, the Washington Monument, they had the program, the service, and that was when Martin Luther King, Jr. did his so-called "I Have a Dream" speech and all of this. And then when it was over, everybody went back where they came from and the streets were clear. No evidence of any misconduct or misbehavior on anybody's part, even the wonderful Metropolitan Police did not misconduct themselves. [Laughs] It was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful experience, and I missed it. And I regret that I missed it.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Finishing up this -- you mentioned how you helped Bob Kennedy get elected as New York senator. Were you working on his campaign to become president in 1968?

CS: No, I was on the... and incidentally, I helped him in his New York senatorial campaign only in the sense that I was on the staff, and what I did, I was merely recording or reporting his speeches so that he could review them after he made speeches. But I was part of the press corps on his campaign. When he was running for president, I was on the King County Superior Court, and I was then prohibited by law in the State of Washington from engaging in partisan political activities. When Bob came to Seattle, I could not go to a public event where he appeared, because it would have been a violation of the code of judicial conduct. But his secretary called me and arranged for me to privately meet with him, so I had a chance to meet with him privately when he was here in Seattle. And it was a week later -- about a week later -- that he was in Los Angeles and he was assassinated. But I had an arrangement with my family that if he had called me and asked me to serve on his campaign, I would have resigned from the court and served on his campaign.

TI: I mean, it must have been not only the assassination of Robert Kennedy, but also Martin Luther King. That must have been a, a horrible year.

CS: Yeah, and in the sense, although interestingly enough, my reaction to the assassination of Bob Kennedy is much more intense than my reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., even though I knew Martin King and I knew his father and mother quite well -- in fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. did his pastoral internship at the church in Philadelphia where I was Minister of Youth Education, pastored by Dr. Gray, William H. Gray, Jr. But, so I, I had known Martin Luther King, Jr. as he was growing up, his high school, college and all of that, but I did not have the same intense emotional connection with him that I had with Bob Kennedy. Bob Kennedy, I literally lived with and worked with on an intense basis for over a period of four years, and I knew what he was thinking, how he reacted to things, and I would see him in his family environment, I'd see him in the political environment, and I'd see him making decisions and questioning people and demanding work and this kind of thing. And to see that over a four-year period of time, you come to a position where you react much more strongly to an untimely death like an assassination, than you would to someone who's not that close to you. But it is true that both those assassinations occurred in the same year, and I, I don't apologize for the fact that I don't have the intense reaction to Martin Luther King's assassination as I do to Bob Kennedy's.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: After Bob Kennedy was assassinated, what was your view of America at that point? It must have been difficult to, to see this happen, and for someone to have spoken out and then to be assassinated. I mean, what were you thinking?

CS: Well, assassination has been a way of life in our great America. Somehow or the other, I did not see it as being the death knell for democracy. And I'm not sure that Bob Kennedy's death was directly related to his speaking out. I think Sirhan Sirhan may have been mentally ill, I'm not, and not in a legal sense, but I've never understood the motivation behind his actions. With Martin Luther King, Jr., I think the person who killed him was acting purely out of racial motives, because he was the outspoken person that he was. Internationally recognized, nationally recognized, not always highly regarded by people in his own country. And even now, as a matter of fact, I recall when Martin Luther King was assassinated, one of my prosecutors, who was the city attorney, reported to me that in the Seattle Police Department, their reaction was, "It's about time." And so this is not to condemn the Seattle Police Department, but it is a reflection on the attitude of a public, if someone whose responsibility it is to uphold law and order comments after someone is assassinated that, "It's about time," then you have to understand that it was not unusual.

And so, fortunately, we have not suffered through that kind of activity in recent years, and I hope we don't. But somehow or the other, the direction society was taking in the '60s, the protests, the murders in places like Mississippi, for example, Medgar Evers' assassination, which affected me more so than any of the other assassinations, and you get a history of some of those things. The three civil rights workers who were buried in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the reality of that strikes home, especially when I recognize that the widow of one of them is a lawyer in Seattle, a dear friend of mine. And I didn't know she was his widow until they had the recognition of the three in the White House, and she was a spokesperson for the surviving families. But those were things that happened, and I come from a period of time when we had uncontrolled lynchings. The lynching of Chinese in Seattle, for example. The lynching of blacks indiscriminately in southern states. The Ku Klux Klan, an organization which is ludicrous on the one hand, but on the other hand, exercised a great deal of power over the lives of people. And so to have the background of knowing about the lynching of people, and the fact that we could never get passed in Congress what was commonly called an anti-lynching bill -- even now we don't have an anti-lynching bill, but now we have hate crime laws that come into play. But for thirty or forty years, every effort to make it a federal crime to lynch someone failed. It never got through Congress. And so human life is or was of little value. And Billie Holiday had a song she would sing called "Southern Trees Bear Strange Fruit." And it's a haunting song, but it nevertheless focuses attention on the fact that blacks in America are likely to be hanging from trees. The Emmett Till matter just recently coming into focus because of a new investigation into his lynching. Horrible, horrible thing. You see photographs of Emmett Till's body, at the insistence of his mother, in an open casket. She wanted the world to see what happened to her son. And after all these years, like, thirty or more years, a new investigation has arisen to find out what actually happened and who was actually responsible for it.

But you sort of get accustomed to the fact that things will happen, people will be murdered. It's sort of like the street murders, the drive-by shootings and things. It becomes a way of life and you're not shocked. We should be shocked any time a person dies, but I am not shocked when I read that in Tacoma, they found a woman who had been shot four times, and a man shot two times, the woman died and the man is still holding on for his life, they don't know who did it. But that happens, and why have we reached the point in our culture where we accept these things? The good people among us -- and I'm one of the good people -- what am I doing about it, other than talking about it? Why can't we, in our modern society, come up with devices by which we can avoid or eliminate the useless deaths of people, men, women, and children? And it isn't necessarily racially motivated. The assassination of Robert Kennedy, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., one African American and two whites, their lives were lost, and they should not have been lost. And so who is responsible? What are the answers? We know the questions, but we don't know the answers.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Well, if you were to ask, or to talk with students today -- I think so much of the future of our country will soon be in the hands of the students in colleges and high schools, and you've had this, this rich place to look at the history of our country for the last sixty, seventy years -- what do you tell them, I mean, in terms of what they need to do now? What should they be looking at?

CS: Well, I think the most significant message that I could give is to have young people orient themselves to public service, whatever that role may be, whether running for political office, or whether participating in agencies such as Densho, for example. But to be involved outside themselves, to be more than merely a selfish person, and have a concern for the rest of the world. In public service, especially in public office, there's an opportunity to create laws, to administer laws, to develop programs, a good example is Mayor Nickels' recent brash decision to discontinue the food program overnight.

TI: Right.

CS: "As of four o'clock this afternoon, anyone who serves will be arrested." Now, that was a stupid decision on his part. He's recanted, and said, "Oh, no, we've changed our mind. You could still serve, and you move from the park, and you'll move to the plaza." And, of course, the plaza is going to be torn down very soon, but will he agree that they could go in the plaza of the new justice center, up three blocks away? And what park is convenient to the homeless, and all of these things. But to me, this is an opportunity for public service, regardless who it happens to be. As mayor of a city, a mayor has power and influence. As governor of a state, the governor has power and influence. As a state senator or state representative, or a county council member or a city council member, these are public service opportunities where creative things can be done to correct the evils of society as we see them. And one of the evils is the indiscriminate death of people. Sometimes the persons are well-known, like the assassinations of great historical note, the Kennedy assassinations and the King assassination, and then some are nameless, faceless, homeless people who are killed, and nobody cares. And why do people not care?

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

CS: And one of the cliches that comes to mind initially came out of the Holocaust, but it is applicable to the incarceration of Japanese Americans: "Never again." And if we take the mistakes of history, it has been said we're doomed to repeat them unless we are aware of them. And so we take the mistakes of history and determine for ourselves that in our lifetime, it will happen "never again." What does that mean, then? It means to become aware of the reality behind historical experiences, as opposed to some writer's imaginative approach to it. To know what the actual experience of people has been, rather than some writer's impression of what they think people's experience has been. In my own case, every time I read an article about me, I have to laugh because it depends on the orientation of the writer, and different writers will make certain assumptions, and it comes out and it's published, and technically, it becomes a matter of fact. A newspaper article can be used as proof of fact in a court case, simply because it was published. Now, I read these various articles about myself, and I'm aware of the inconsistencies and the inaccuracies, and the untruthfulness of many of them. And for example, when I was retiring from the Supreme Court, there was a young woman writer who was determined to give the impression that I was fighting retirement. I had planned my retirement for three years -- [laughs] -- I knew I would be seventy-five years old, and I knew that the Constitution says, "You'll give it up when you're seventy-five." Under no circumstance did I want to stay on the court after I reached the age of seventy-five years. And I was on for nearly a year because of the way the calendar operated, but this newspaper article, with a big picture of me across the front page, "He doesn't want to retire." And I kept telling her, "But I do want to retire." And she was determined to make it appear that I was fighting retirement.

Well, this is the kind of thing that we have to be wary of, and it is interpretation by persons in the media. The New York Times and the Washington Post have, in the last several days, come to criticize themselves for their inappropriate coverage of the period prior to the entry into the Iraq war. Why did they wait for so long? They should have been aware of what they were doing at the time they were doing it. And we members of the public need to be critical of the media on a day-to-day basis rather than waiting until a study is made, or waiting until an ombudsperson for the newspaper comes up with a critique, or waiting until some academic comes up with a critique. We are the people who sustain the media in this country, whether it is the print media or the electronic media, and we are not as participatorily aware as we ought to be. And I'm one of those persons. I, I don't think I've written a letter to the editor in years, and I'm not inclined to write one even now. But I do have platforms, and whenever I have a speech to make, I could say whatever I want to say, and I'm no longer bound by the code of judicial conduct, so I could criticize whomever I wish to criticize. It doesn't matter whether I am encroaching on some sensitive code of judicial conduct, because I'm no longer governed by the code of judicial conduct.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Given that, what are some of the important issues for you right now? I mean, you've had, again, this wealth of experience, you can now look at our country, what are the important things to you right now, in terms of more issues about society? I mean, I know you've been involved in certain issues, but with a, just a blank sheet of paper, if you were to say, "These are the important things to me right now," what would those be?

CS: I tend to think on an international level, and, of course, I, like most persons, am very much concerned with what we have done in Iraq, what we've done in Afghanistan, but I'm also concerned with what we're not doing in places like Sudan and China. The revelations that are coming out about Sudan are old hat to me. When I was on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, one of our areas of major emphasis was Sudan. On the commission still is a woman, Nina Shea, who is an expert on Sudan. And Nina Shea educated me on what was happening in Sudan. I'm aware of the genocide in Sudan, I'm aware of the Arabs in charge in Sudan who are systematically annihilating the African population in southern Sudan. All of these things that you read about in the paper today, I was reading about them four years ago. Nothing is new. We tried to get our State Department to pull the strings on Sudan that was getting money from our United States government, and they would not. In the paper two days ago, I saw where some high public official said, "We have to give them a chance." And when does that chance begin and when does it end? And we've been giving them a chance for ten years, and the atrocities that are occurring in southern Sudan are not new, and millions of people have lost their lives in Sudan simply because they were native Africans, because they were of different -- the, the Sudanese, four years ago, bombed a Catholic hospital for children, and nothing was done about it. And it is these kinds of things, I, I think that -- and I have been involved with a dormant group, the Stockholm Accords on Ethnic Cleansing, and that is, was and still is, a very exciting activity. We are dormant because we lost our funding, and it was operating out of a university in Texas, and I haven't been able to reestablish contact with the people. But I'm very much interested in the concept of ethnic cleansing. I'm interested in the concept of democracy and freedom for all peoples, and of responsible, non-corrupt governments.

And while on the one hand, there is plenty of work to do in our own backyard, I am not as active on the political scene as perhaps I could be, because I have been restricted for these nearly thirty years, in not being able to participate in active politics. But I just sent a check to a political candidate for reelection to the United States Senate, which I could not have done a year ago, but I can do it now. And so I need to be involved in politics at the local level, but my insights because of a, sort of a, an egoistic approach to who I am, suggest to me that my role is larger than the city of Seattle and the county of Martin Luther King, Jr., or the state of Washington, but my role is a larger role somewhere else in the world. Now, having said that, I don't expect to live forever, and I'm seventy-seven and three-quarters years old, and I don't have as full a lifetime ahead of me now as I had thirty years ago. But during the remainder of my life -- however long it may be, and I hope it will be for a long time -- I'm going to try to do the things that I believe will make a difference in bringing peace to all people, and extending basic human rights to all people, and seeing that government run by persons do not disrespect and persecute individuals or groups simply because of the label they put on them.

And one of the big areas of great concern is China. I don't understand it; I know a lot about China, but I don't understand it. I don't understand the culture, I don't understand the shifts in the culture, from the Cultural Revolution to the present-day. Tiananmen Square is foremost in my mind, arrests of religious dissidents is foremost in my mind, the persecution of religionists in China is foremost in my mind. And I could take different spots of the world and come up with problems, whether they are connected with religion, or (where) they are connected with politics, (where) they are connected with genealogy, and on the continent of Africa, the background of persons, the tribes that they come from makes a difference in terms of their treatment, even among themselves. And so you have these conflicting cultures, conflicting languages, conflicting approaches to things, and then you have the wars that go on between people of different tribes within a same community.

And so it's a puzzle that I do not understand, I have no answers to it, and I'm not absolutely certain that any of the people in our wonderful American government have any solutions to it, either. I do have a lot of respect, however, for the United States Department of State. I think that even with changes of administration, there is a capacity to select good people as Secretaries of State. Dr. Madeleine Albright I absolutely adored, Colin Powell I think is one of the finest public servants I've ever met, and I've known staff persons in the Department of State whom I highly respect. And I respect Dr. Condoleezza Rice, though I disagree with her mightily. She's a hawk and I'm a dove -- [laughs] -- but I think she's a fabulously brilliant and bright woman. And so we have the capacity for identifying and bringing into public service persons of high quality. I read in the newspaper recently that there is another young woman whose name is Rice also, Dr. Susan Rice, who is now an advisor to the Democrat political candidate, and I knew Susan when she was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Phenomenally brilliant, and she is one of the walking experts on Sudan. And I could see Susan Rice exercising a role in the government to help to come up with a solution to the problems in Sudan.

But these are the kinds of things, and what does this have to do with the challenge to young people? Public service. And it doesn't matter whether it is local, or whether it's national or whether it's international. United Nations, I don't have the same disregard for the United Nations as some people do. I think it has its place, I think it has limited utility, but at the same time, having an international organization which has for its purpose the solution of human problems in the world is good, and the treaties and other documents that the United Nations has promulgated or sponsored or encouraged are worthy of note. Our wonderful government has chosen not to agree to many of them, many significant ones of them. And so operating at the United Nations level, the United States government level, at the state level and the county level, at the city level, or even at the small town level, the opportunity for public service is an opportunity to bring about change.

TI: So that's the message to, to young people.

CS: A long (answer) to a short question. [Laughs]

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Well, here's another question: legacy. Justice Charles Z. Smith, what would you want the legacy of Charles Z. Smith to be? When people talk about your, your impact, your, the changes that you made, the contributions you've made in your career, what would you want people to say?

CS: Oh, I have to use cliches. I would start out first by saying, "He was a nice person." [Laughs] But in all seriousness, I would like to believe that people would remember me for having a strong concept of justice for all people, and to have an innovative approach to the administration of laws through the courts -- because that has been the major portion of my professional career, is in the courts -- to do creative things within the bounds of the judicial ethics process, to come up with new approaches in the adult courts and the juvenile courts, to sponsor, inspire and participate in programs for change, new ways of dealing with offenders in the courts. I think that our prisons are an abysmal failure, and there has to be some other way of dealing with offenders. I think the "Three Strikes Law" is an abysmal failure; I think it is unfair, it does not work uniformly as it is supposed to work. I think mandatory minimum sentences are unfair; they don't work the way they are supposed to have worked. And when they were created, we had theories that we were working on. And at the time, it seemed the theory would work. We've had years of experience in working with these new ideas, and we're finding they don't work, so what we need to do is go back to the drawing board. So, innovative approaches in the criminal justice system, innovative approaches in the civil justice system, and the fair treatment of all persons is part of what I would like to believe my legacy would be.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: I want to just come back now to the Japanese American community, to finish this up. Because you were an observer during a period -- I'm talking about the redress -- when you were aware of what people like Henry Miyatake were, were thinking about and doing, and it was a time when the community was sort of grappling with, "What can we do?" New information was coming out about what the government knew and what they suppressed during that period, and yet it seemed so daunting. I've interviewed people like Henry and others who were involved, like Cherry Kinoshita, who were involved, and to take on the U.S. government to get redress for Japanese Americans seemed like such a daunting task. As an observer and advisor to some of these individuals, what were you thinking? Did you think it was possible for the Japanese Americans to get redress?

CS: I never believed that our United States government would come forward with the response that it came forward with, ultimately. I believed that at best we could have gotten an apology. But at the time, when I was involved in discussions and as advisor to persons like Henry Miyatake, Shosuke Sasaki, Cherry Kinoshita, Min Masuda -- and I'm dropping names now, because these are people who greatly influenced me in my thinking on this -- I thought that the concept that Henry Miyatake came up with made sense from a mathematical or an engineering standpoint, but I wasn't quite certain whether it would fly from a political, social standpoint. But what we had going for us, though, was Dan Evans as the governor of the state of Washington, Mike Lowry as the United States Congress member, and the process by which these things would move. And ultimately, when the national Japanese American Citizens League came aboard and decided it was a good idea, because at the national level, it was not always thought to be a good idea. At the Seattle level, it was not always thought to be a good idea. So we came through the growing pains of a new idea, and the establishment of a trend or a movement, which ultimately brought us to where we were with redress. But I was pleasantly surprised, however, when it got off the ground in the Seattle Chapter, it got off the ground in the national JACL, and when it was so favorably received in Congress. When Mike Lowry sponsored the first bill, and then when, ultimately, we had the bill signed by Ronald Reagan, and so this was totally unexpected, because of all the people in the world, to be aboard this idea and acceptance of it, a Republican president who had come from the background that Ronald Reagan had come from, would be the least likely person to be supportive of it.

So down the line, as the bill for redress moved along, and gradually was approved, and was signed by the president and became a reality, I was literally stunned. And especially when I do the mathematical calculation, it's one billion, six hundred thirty-seven million dollars. I could not have ever conceived of that figure. Not at all. And as much as I love Henry Miyatake, and loved Shosuke Sasaki -- [laughs] -- I thought they were way off in left field when it came to calculating. But the idea of redress and an apology was easy for me to accept. But then again, in my field, in the law, if you think you are right, you pursue something regardless of the result. And so they were right, we were right, I can't claim credit for anything, but I was there. And so I say "we," because to me, the redress movement was "our movement." And so the best that we could hope for was (...) acknowledgement, acceptance, apology. So we got acknowledgement, acceptance, apology, and redress. One billion, six hundred thirty-seven million dollars. And different people have reacted to it in different ways. I have Nikkei friends who were insulted by the twenty thousand dollars, some of whom were glad to get it, and some who had different reactions to it, but it's not something that you would expect people to be overjoyed about. There were some people who were pleased and some who were not pleased. But the interesting thing is, I have never heard any criticism by the non-Nikkei public in the United States about the expenditure of the funds for redress. If it happened, it just has not come to my attention.

TI: Yeah, I know, I think there is, there has been criticism, especially more recently, I've heard.

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<Begin Segment 29>

TI: In terms of lessons to be learned, is there anything that we can take from the, the redress Japanese Americans received, and learn from that in terms of potential redress or reparations to African Americans because of slavery? Is there anything that we can, we can take from that?

CS: I have to be careful of my response to this, because one of my dear friends at Harvard has written a book on redress, and he goes around the country promoting it. And I totally disagree with him on it. I jokingly say, "Where's my twenty acres and my mule?" And, because after all, my grandfather on my mother's side, my great-grandfather on my mother's side, was a slave. And so therefore, I'm fourth-generation from slavery, and so I'm entitled to my forty acres and a mule. I do not seriously contend that I would be entitled, as a person four generations removed from slavery, to any form of redress, but I would not be concerned if somebody else got it, but I don't see the redress for Japanese Americans as being similar to redress for African Americans. If you chart it out -- and you with an engineering background would know how you would chart this out from an engineering standpoint. The only thing that is in common is the claim for redress. Then you go below the claim, and you find out what is the basis of your claim. With the Nikkei community, it was, "We were put in concentration camps in 1942, in this generation." With the African Americans, "Our ancestors were held in slavery in 1860 and 1865." Immediately the parallel is lost, because you are about a hundred years apart in terms of time of the last event. But there was no government action that caused slavery. It was acceptance of slavery as a way of life, as opposed to incarceration in a prison camp with barbed wire and military guards with rifles to keep people from leaving. Slavery was something altogether different. It's inhumane, there are many aspects of slavery that are frightening, and it is more than the television depiction of slavery, and Alex Haley's fine book Roots, which is probably the only information most people have about what slavery really was. But there are many, many stories about slavery that are handed down from family to family, and there are some families who recall good events, and some families that recall events that were horrible.

And in my own case, my great-grandfather was the son of the plantation owner. His mother was a beautiful woman, a house slave, who bore children for the master. And they were not field slaves, they didn't have to work in the fields, and they didn't have to do the things that some of the other slaves, but I would not wish to draw a social structure in the inhumanity of slavery. I can never justify human bondage, never under any circumstances. And so regardless of the more or less pleasant circumstances of my slave ancestor that I can identify -- and I knew my great-grandfather, I met him once when I was four or five years old -- I would not say that because my great-grandfather did not suffer as a slave, that slavery was not bad. It was bad that his mother was a slave, that she was subjected to the sexual advances of the plantation owner and that she bore children for him. This is human bondage, and that is, in our present-day nomenclature, we would call it rape.

So at any rate, back to the question of parallels between redress for Japanese Americans and redress for African Americans, I think the only thing they have in common is the demand for redress. Everything else fails in comparison when you put them on a scale and say, this happened in this case, this happened in this case, this happened in this case, this happened in that case. And I was never put in prison because I am African American, and every Nikkei who received redress did have that experience, either as infants or children, or as adults. But to be uprooted and taken away with twenty-four-hour notice and all those other things that go along with it, totally un-American. And at the time of slavery, slavery was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court, it was approved by all the structures in our society, and I think that the challenge to our government for redress for African Americans relates to the acceptance of the established political structure of slavery, of human bondage as a way of life in America, and that the government in 2004 owes the descendants of those slaves something. I would never stand in a line to apply for redress for African Americans.

TI: Well, that's all the questions I have, is there anything else you wanted to, to share or add at the end of this?

CS: Not really. The only thing is that I would say that though I jokingly talk about "some of my best friends are..." but there are people in the Nikkei community in Seattle who were very much a part of my learning and awareness, and some non-Nikkei, I think. Reverend Emery Andrews was an inspiration to me, Floyd Schmoe, an inspiration to me, Gordon Hirabayashi an inspiration to me. More currently, Cherry Kinoshita an inspiration to me. Dr. Minoru Masuda, now deceased, an inspiration to me. (...) Dr. (Terrance) Toda, now deceased, an inspiration to me. Tak Kubota, now deceased, an inspiration to me. And so it was... and of course, my dear friend Ike Ikeda -- no relation to you -- but Ike still is an inspiration to me. He and I are still very close. But, and then, of course, in my own family, I have two daughters-in-law who are Japanese, and that means I have grandchildren who are Asian (...). And that is another part of my life that brings me great joy, but also gives me a connection to the Nikkei community.

TI: Well, thank you again so much for doing this interview. This was wonderful.

CS: Okay.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.