Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: William Hohri Interview
Narrator: William Hohri
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Gary Kawaguchi (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-hwilliam-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Friday, September 12, 1997. We're at the UCLA conference titled "Voice of Japanese American Redress." Our narrator today is William Hohri. Doing the interviewing is myself, Tom Ikeda, and next to me is Gary Kawaguchi from the Japanese American National Museum. The videographer is Matt Emery. And I'll start off, and William, to get going -- before we get into redress -- I want to ask some background information. And so what I want you to do is to think back to the time of the war and actually the period right before the war. And can you tell us what you were doing during this period?

WH: Well, I was going to high school, North Hollywood High School in the valley. And my family was sort of emerging out of poverty. My father was a Christian minister, a Methodist minister. But what happened was, as our family grew older, older siblings could go out and earn a living. So my second oldest brother went into the gardening business. He wasn't too happy about it, but he went into the gardening business, and I used to help him. And that was really, he was our primary source of income. And in those days, the gardening business was productivity. We used to run behind the lawnmower -- we had a power lawnmower -- just to see how fast we can get through a given place. Because you only made ten, fifteen bucks at each place a month. So, you know, you had to try to get as many places done as you could. And I was just a kid, I was only about fourteen then. I was fourteen when the war broke out in '41.

TI: And so you felt your role was, at that point, to really help the family out, earn as much money...

WH: Well, I didn't care about helping the family out because it ruined my personal life. I mean, because I had to work on Saturdays and summer vacations and stuff like that. I mean, you know, just no vacation, no weekends. Well, we got Sunday off, but... I wasn't that interested, I was only in the tenth grade. I was interested in gymnastics and school, and my friends at school. We were interested in sports and stuff like that. Typical kid. That's pretty much what life was like.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Okay, then how... what happened, or how did things change after the war broke out, after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese?

WH: Well, I think we heard about that, I think on the way home from church. We went to church every Sunday. We rented an American Legion Hall and used it on Sunday. It was a small church, of maybe a dozen, two dozen people, Issei, Nisei kids. Certainly not enough to support a family. And the one thing, one of the families I know that came to our church was very poor. We distinguished being poor and dirt poor or hungry poor. They were hungry poor. We were poor, but they were hungry poor. And I think that's, it's important that Japanese Americans were not... they were right at the bottom of the economic ladder. At least many of us were at the bottom, not all. But dirt farmers, you know, they had farms on what are now parts of L.A., but they were just vacant lots. You know, they couldn't have been making very much. Of course, some people were successful as farmers, but I think a lot of them were just... they'd raise lima beans or something, and hock them. You know, it was real, real tough making a living. And gardening was one of the best ways, but you had to work hard. But it was a way of getting out of poverty.

TI: Did you feel a strong sense of community with these families when you think of this...

WH: No, we were... in North Hollywood, there were two families, we had a good friend, the Hiramis, who lived... we lived on Ventura Boulevard near Studio City. And there were some good family friends that lived down the street from us on Ventura Boulevard. And we lived in a real tiny storefront house, house storefront. And it didn't bother me a lot. Poverty didn't bother me very much as a kid. But one of the benefits of poverty -- sort of ironic -- is that when we went to camp, we didn't lose a lot, because we didn't have a lot to lose.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

WH: But when the war broke out, my father was picked up on the night of December 7th. And that was, of course, a pretty stressful experience, and it kind of demonstrated the... I guess the story is told over and over again, but a couple of guys from the FBI came in. My father was this, I don't know what the term is, sort of pack rat, or someone who collected things. So they started going through his stuff and I said, "Lots of luck." [Laughs] He's got a lot of books and other things, papers and everything else just trying to find something, and of course they couldn't read Japanese. It was just kind of silly. All the stuff was in Japanese.

TI: When the FBI guys came in, how were you feeling? Were you frightened or were you angry, or what were some of the feelings you felt when you saw these men going through?

WH: Well, it was just very intense. There wasn't any time to reflect on anything. And I remember one statement my mother made, which, you know, I tried to do this on television. Of course, "No, no, we don't want to talk about that." And she said after they had gone, my mother says, "Gee I had to take a leak, and it just all went away all during this period." [Laughs] Just to give you an idea of the stress that she had undergone. And I think that says something. But the whole thing was kind of bizarre because they didn't understand what was going on. You know, they just took him away, and there's no reason given. And I think technically the law was probably, could not be activated until the following day. Because war had not been declared, so he wasn't an "enemy alien."

But he was on the A list, and I've recently discovered why he was interned. He had a hearing -- and this is the other thing about the internment of the Issei on the West Coast, not the East Coast, on the West Coast -- is they had hearings, which are required by law, but they were held in the camps. So his hearing was held in Fort Missoula, Montana. And I got a copy of the transcript. That's the thing I want copied. And in the transcript of the hearing, which I just got a couple of years ago, Western Division of National Archives in Laguna Niguel. There's two things that are interesting. The hearing board is the Southern California Hearing Board, holding hearings in Montana. It's not the Montana Hearing Board, it's the Southern California Hearing Board. That's where the hearing should have been held, in Southern California. In New York, when the Issei were picked up, the hearings were held in New York and the Issei could marshal whatever support. You can't use an attorney, but you can bring in friends as character witnesses. My father had no such option. He didn't know anything about it. And that's the way all the Issei were treated.


WH: [Reading] It says: "The Board feels that whereas the subject is a preacher, and it is a hardship to deprive his church of its minister, still, that very fact coupled with his membership in the veteran's association above referred to and the fact of his trip to Japan, Korea, and Manchuria, in 1940, makes him more potentially dangerous than as if he were a farmer, storekeep or the like." In other words, he was being interned because he was a preacher, and that just blew my mind. If they had said he was being interned because he was a member of the veteran's organization, which, of course, to me, is benign. I mean, if you want to join... the Japanese like to join everything. And then the fact that he went to Japan, Korea, and Manchuria, was that was the twenty-six hundredth anniversary of the founding of Japan, and a lot of Issei went to Japan. You know, I mean, who wouldn't? So... and it must have cost him a lot of money. He had to save his pennies to make that trip because we didn't have any money. But the fact that he's a preacher is the reason they interned him. I just can't believe it. I read this thing and it says... but anyway, I think that was, this business of being interned was... I don't know whether it's more striking, you know, as a event that occurred, 1941, or whether it's more striking because of this document that I retrieved, you know, back there in 1995 or '95. I mean, I just don't know. I can't... I have a hard time.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Let's talk about your, going to the camp days now, and your experiences. Are there any events or memories that sort of stand out in your mind when you think back to those days?

WH: Going to camp?

TI: Yeah, going to camp, and your time at camp. In fact, why don't you tell us which camp you went to and...

WH: Well, I went to Manzanar. There are a couple of things about the trip. One was there was a teenage, probably eighteen-year-old soldier guarding us on the bus, we went on busses. Some people went on trains, we went up on buses. And he says, "Oh, you'll be coming back in two weeks." He had no idea what was going on.

TI: So he was about your age, too. I mean, he was a little older.

WH: Yeah, a little older, but you know. The thing is that most people, most Americans of the time, the teachers and so forth, they had no idea what was going on. I was in the gymnastics team, my gym teacher says, "Oh, you know." I said, "I don't think I'll be back." We left during Easter break or Spring vacation. I think they used to call it Easter break. And he said, "Oh, you'll be back." So he'll leave my stuff there in the locker for me. And of course I didn't make it back. But he had no idea what was going on. And most people had no idea what was going on. So that was one thing. And the other thing is when I arrived, I'd never, I'd never seen so many Japanese faces in my life. I'd never lived in a Japanese community, except in West L.A. But even there it wasn't, it certainly wasn't solid Japanese. But here it was solid Japanese, everybody was Japanese. And it was kind of mind-boggling for someone who... most of my friends were white when I was going to school.

TI: I mean, was it, it must have been exciting. You were a teenage boy, and to see all these Japanese, I mean, it must have been interesting or how did that feel?

WH: Well, the only thing that was nice, was the girls. Because all of a sudden you had a, you know, they were your peers, your true peers, you know. And we were sort of attracted to each other and stuff like that. That was a real interesting, new dynamic in life. I don't think I handled it very well. But I think the, it took quite a bit of adjustment.

And then the thing is that we went to Manzanar because my mother had friends who were from Terminal Island, and the Terminal Island people had been kicked off the island by the Navy. It's pretty much like Bainbridge except it happened earlier and they were only given... initially they were given twenty-four hours notice and then the church intervened and said, you know, that's really impossible, so they were given forty-eight hours notice. And the reason it was impossible was because the fathers had all, most of the fathers, the fisherman fathers, were all interned. And so they were among the first contingent to go to Manzanar. They weren't the first, but among the first. I think the first contingent were from Bainbridge Island in Seattle because they had to leave Bainbridge Island, they had no place to go. And the same thing happened to Terminal Island, but they... I don't know how they managed. They doubled up, living with relatives, moving into churches or, you know, it was really rough. And so anyway, we decided to go up with the people from Terminal Island. So we lived in the middle of the Terminal Island community in Manzanar. And the Terminal Island community is a very "in" group. They were pretty much isolated from the rest of the Japanese Americans in L.A., because they lived on an island and they had to take a... I don't think it was a bridge, they had to take the ferry to get to San Pedro.

TI: Well, I imagine, too, as a fishing community, they were a probably sort of working-class, rougher.

WH: Right, they had, it was all self-contained. The grammar school was there, the Japanese language school. They only left the island, the kids, when they went to high school. And they spoke Japanese. They had sort of a, their own variety of the Japanese language, it had a lot of things that were a little bit different, things stuck in there. And there's a guy who has done a paper on that, on the Terminal Island community, and it's really... I've heard him speak. It's very interesting. Because he knows the language, he grew up there. He talks about all the... and he uses these Japanese phrases, "Oh yeah, I remember that." And they are kind of, you know, if you were from Japan you wouldn't understand what they're talking about because they're sort of a mixture of Japanese and English.

TI: And so you really bring it, when you go to Manzanar or think of Manzanar, you bring all these different components of, I mean, again, it's not a homogeneous group. I mean, they came from different communities.

WH: No, no. Oh, yeah.

TI: Rural, fishing, and you're all pulled together.

WH: Well, the Terminal Island people didn't get along with everybody else. Because they were very Japanese, "Japanesey." I mean, they spoke Japanese and everybody had Japanese names, first names. Nobody had an English first name. And then after camp when I ran into these kids, my friends, they all had English first names. I said what, "Well, wait a minute, what happened to your Japanese first name?" [Laughs] I was really a little disoriented. They'd have some name, and I said, "No, no, you were so and so, you were so and so." And now I think most of them now have sort of reverted to, well, a lot of them reverted back, some of them, well, reverted back to their Japanese names. But I guess they tried to transform themselves or something, I don't know.

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Thinking back now about your experiences again in Manzanar and perhaps the time right after it, were there any experiences that you can remember that sort of stand out as like a defining moment, or something that it was really important that happened?

WH: Defining relative to what?

TI: Well, defining... what I'm trying to think about are, if there's anything that happened back then that helped you to prepare for what you did during the redress movement.

WH: Well, there's one thing that happened after camp, but it's related to Manzanar. And that is, I left camp in '44. Graduated high school in June of '44. High school was not... was very poor. A lot of the graduates think it was a great high school, but I, objectively, I'm pretty sure it was very, very poor. And there were just a lot of things that we didn't get taught. Chemistry, you know, we didn't have Bunsen burners so the experiments didn't work. It was just, it was crazy. I don't know why they had chemistry. And the physics teacher was a good teacher, but he says, "We're not going to use the textbook, because the textbook is so poor." So he taught us out of his college textbook, but he was a good teacher. But the rest of the classes were... English and things like that, were... I just learned wrong English there. And that's one of the things I really resented. And then as I grew up I had to correct all the things that I'd learned in school. The teachers just didn't know the subject matter. Some of the best teachers were Nisei, but they weren't really teachers, 'cause they had, they were still students, UCLA students. And they were very good because they knew the subject matter. But when they taught, there'd be a white professional teacher sitting in the room who didn't teach anything. She was the teacher and this Nisei guy would be doing all the blackboard work. This is in advanced algebra.

But anyway, I left it in June of, I graduated in '44 and I left about a week later. And the thing that's interesting is most of my friends left the day after graduation. And we all -- I left with my brother -- and almost all my friends left alone, on their own. And I think the reason that we did this was because we felt that we had to get out of the place, because the place was just sucking us away. It was destroying our morale. And that's something that hasn't been talked about very much. But you know, when you're... confinement is, it's bad. It's really hard on people. And I know one of the things I thought about when I was leaving and going through this whole experience was the experience of Indians, Native Americans. And they've been cooped for a long, much longer, generations. And boy, that's really got to be devastating. Because even within the short period of time, you could see what was happening to ourselves, and our friends, and it wasn't good. There was something, something... this was really bad on our morale, sense of, whatever, self-esteem, or whatever you want to call it. But it was a bad experience. And I don't know, you know, these reunions, everyone says they have a great time and so forth. But I'm not so sure about that. I'm very skeptical. Because why did they leave? Because leaving was a real challenge, you know, they didn't know anybody. They went to these little towns in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota. They didn't know anybody. Then they had to work a little bit and then they went to school. But, you know, zero support. I just can't imagine any kid today doing that. Just going out in the world and trying to find a job, and making a living.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

WH: So, but anyway, in '45, I became eligible for the draft. I turned eighteen. I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, near Madison, Wisconsin, working on a farm. And I got my draft notice and at the, about the same time, my father was thinking of moving out to Madison. Well, I don't think order's that important. I was living both in, outside of Madison and in Madison at the time. I'm not real clear. I was living with my sister and her husband and her mother-in-law, and they had a baby son. And my father wanted to come out to Madison, and I... he just wrote in Japanese, that was his language. I couldn't write Japanese. Well, it was just impracticable, because Issei simply couldn't get jobs in Madison. So I thought, well, I'll go to Manzanar to visit him, and try to convince him that he shouldn't do that.

The trip to Manzanar was quite eventful, but I won't get into that. But when I got to Manzanar, I was denied admission. They said, "Where's your pass?" And I said, "What pass? What do you need a pass to visit camp?" This is in '45 now, and the exclusion zone had been lifted, and the policy was let everyone out of camp. And I didn't know anything about a pass or anything. So they said, "Well, what do you want to do?" And I said, "Well, visit my parents." And, "Why do you want to visit your parents?" "I want to talk my father out of moving to Madison." And he said, "Well, you can't do that. Our policy is to close the camps." And I had a very emotional experience. I was very frustrated, I was just a kid, I had just turned eighteen. And, but what they did was they wouldn't let me in. And it was partly my fault, but you know, on the scale of things, I think... what they did certainly didn't deserve... it was nothing in what happened to deserve this, but they excluded me from the state of California.

TI: Because of this experience, they excluded you from...

WH: No, they just wanted... they didn't want me to go visit my father so they gave me an individual exclusion order, and ordered me out of the state of California that night. And traveling was not like traveling by plane. It was a multi-day trip. I had traveled by train all the way from Madison to Chicago, and then Chicago all the way to Reno, and then hop on a bus. It had been a long trip and I had a lot -- there was a lot of things that happened to me on the trip -- so I was just really bone tired. I hadn't slept for about thirty-six hours.

TI: But what happened during that meeting that made them decide to do an individual exclusion order?

WH: They did not want me to talk to my parents. It was that simple. And...

GK: But with Endo and everything, how could they do that to you?

WH: Well, that's the thing. The WRA was a bureaucracy that had no control. And so, you know, that's such a vast, sweeping thing to do, such an extreme thing to do, to kick somebody out of the state of California because of some bureaucratic disagreement. Because when I was outside, one of my teachers came to me and he says, "Well, I can get you in as my guest." And I said, "I'm sorry, I've got to get on the next bus." And I tried to talk to the guard, it was a soldier who put me on the next bus. I said, "Well, you know, there is a bus coming a little later that I could catch." Because then I could spend some more times with my friends, they all congregated near the gate and my father came down to the gate, too. And he said, "No, my orders are to put you on the next bus." And that was a terrible experience. I cried, I was crying, you know, and everything else. I think it was probably the last time I cried. No, not... the next to last time I cried in my life. But it was a real, I was just worn out and tired, and slept most of the way back to Wisconsin. No, I didn't sleep most of the time, but I slept quite a bit of the time 'cause I was really tired. But I've never forgotten that. So when I came, when I decided to move out there to California three years ago, I wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior. Sort of a funny letter, but I said, "I was excluded from the State of California and I wonder if I could be permitted to move back to California now." [Laughs] Because they don't tell you that the order's been lifted. They give you the exclusion order, but they never tell you it's okay to move back. And that's the way the bureaucracy works. But, things like that, you know, you never forget the rest of your life. So that's really embedded in your, in your gut. And I think that's the kind of thing that motivates people to basically get even.

And I think that, because the one thing that I've learned in my experiences in the civil rights movement, more than civil rights movement, the peace movement, was the government would always do something crazy, like they'd run over people or hoist dogs on people. And they think they were doing something to repress, they did just the opposite. Every time they did something like that, it just galvanized the black community, the civil rights community. Something like that would happen. They did the wrong thing every time. And they would do this over and over again, and it's the same kind of thing. When you do something to someone like that, the person never forgets. You can't forget it, it's just in your gut. So here it comes, you know, I don't know how many years later. And forty years later, and there I am, you know, challenging the government. Well, and then you talk to other people, Nisei, and you find the same thing. I mean, some of the, you know, some of the stories are -- one of the things we did in the redress movement was, which I don't think, well, I don't know how many other people did, but we allowed a lot of time for just talking and consciousness raising. People talk about their experiences and what happened.

TI: And this is during the meeting, when you say a lot of time for talking, this was just a general meeting?

WH: We had, in our meeting, we had meetings every month and we spent about half the time just talking. Somebody would talk about this or that and the other things, and we never shut them up. We just said okay, you want to talk about... because that was part of redress movement. It wasn't just organizing this and organizing that. People tried to do that and I don't think that was... you know, that might have been a model for something else, but it wasn't a good model for the redress movement, not as far as Nisei were concerned, and I don't know about Sansei, because we didn't have Sansei in our movement. We had a couple who drifted in and drifted out. But as far as Nisei were concerned, they had to get things off their chest. There were things they had to talk about and some of them were really, you know, really feeling. I'd just sort of sit there and say, "Oh, wow." Like one woman said when she left camp, she basically separated herself from her parents for a while because she was ashamed to be Japanese. And she was able to admit that to herself, and that's terrible thing to have to admit to yourself. And of course she reconciled that, but the first part of going, leaving camp, that was part of her experience. And so that's a hell of a thing to have to live through, and a hell of a thing to admit. But those are the kinds of things that happened to people. And my sense was that there was a lot of that kind of stuff in the guts of Nisei that we worked with in our movement.

TI: And so your meetings, you spent time just letting them come and talk about them.

WH: Yeah, if somebody wanted to talk about his or that and the other thing, we said, oh, you know.

TI: That's good.

WH: And so I learned a lot about the 442. We had... I think most, I was the only male, Nisei male, who was not a veteran. They were all veterans. We'd talk about their military thing, this or that and the other, if they wanted to talk about it, some of them didn't, some of them did. And it was, everything was interesting, and I think that was, that was a very helpful and important part.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Let's go back to the very beginning when you got involved with redress. And can you describe how you, yeah, how you came about getting involved? I mean, what motivated you to get involved with the redress movement?

WH: Well, there were a couple of things. In 1970, the JACL had its national convention in Chicago, and I attended that. And we had formed a second chapter in Chicago, it was called the Chicago Liberation Chapter. [Laughs] And we got our credentials so we could actually be a part of the convention, official part of the convention. But we were, we formed a caucus, and we called the caucus the National Liberation Caucus. So you could see a lot of the, you know, the earmarks of the anti-Vietnam war. And the Liberation Caucus confronted the JACL with a bunch of things. They weren't that far out. My thing was just to get rid of some of the things that were in the constitution about the way they conducted meetings. Getting rid of, for example, proxy voting, which is very poor practice. Because proxies don't know what's going on inside the council meetings, they don't hear any of the arguments or anything. It should be one delegate, one vote. And there were some interesting things that happened during the convention that were interesting. People didn't understand parliamentary procedure. You know, somebody would make a motion and somebody would get up and be very angry and say, "Well, that's not what he agreed to before." And I said, "Oh, no, you don't have to fight, just amend, just get up and amend the resolution." And they would make an amendment and the amendment would pass and the guy who made the thing was just sort of dumbfounded. [Laughs] I said, "Just make an amendment." I wasn't involved in the issue, you know, I just said, "Just make an amendment." So they make an amendment and the amendment passed and everyone said, "Oh, gee." But they didn't understand a lot of parliamentary procedure, and I thought that was real interesting. But that was the convention at which Edison Uno read the California-Nevada Resolution on some sort of reparations. I didn't remember. I heard about it and I heard it, but it didn't register very much.

And then... but one of the things that caused this group to coalesce was that we were all part of the movement to repeal Title II. And that group was largely in Chicago anyway. You have to be very careful of the story because people keep saying it's JACL-run, but it wasn't really JACL-run. In Chicago it was almost entirely non-JACL, even though the Chicago JACL Chapter takes credit for it. 'Cause I know how the Board of Directors were selected from an existing committee, The Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights in Chicago, they loaned us their board of directors so we'd have a board. It was not a functioning board, but just so on paper we could have a board. They loaned us their fund appeal list, their membership list, so we could do fund appeal and we didn't get any money from any Japanese Americans, except one. And so the whole thing was being run in Chicago from the Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, and JACL was not anywhere to be seen. And nationally, the thing was run, the national version of The Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights was also part of the national movement, they helped the national movement. The national movement was, from the Japanese American side was, was run by Ray Okamura and Bob Suzuki and Edison Uno, and so forth. So that formed sort of the core of this group.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

WH: And the next thing I got involved in was the pardon of Iva Toguri, and we got involved in that in Chicago in a fairly big way, and we did it through a church, our local church. And when the redress movement came along, the first thing we thought of was modeling it on what we did for Iva Toguri, through the church. And, so we didn't think of it as a major thing. It got major only when the JACL decided to go for the Commission. And then when they went for the Commission, our little church said, "Well, wait a minute, what's going on here? Why are they going for the Commission?" And one of the things that we had observed was there had been a movement for... it wasn't against the government, it was some sort of black reparations, led by a fellow... anyway, he addressed the church, the Protestant church, and our own conference responded to that. But the thing somehow died. He didn't follow through on it. And we were afraid the same thing was going to happen with the redress movement, that it would just simply die. So we were very worried about that. And so we just sort of followed our instinct. We says, "Well, we really can't support the study. We have to go along with what we originally agreed, which was redress." And it was a real goofy decision, 'cause we didn't have, we said, "Well, we have to form another organization, a national organization. How we gonna form a national organization? Well, we'll try." So that's how the whole thing began. But it was a real, real long shot kind of thing. And not within the church, but forming this national organization was a huge, huge, long shot. And I sent out three memos, a copy to three people that I knew, one in New York, L.A. and Seattle. And Seattle responded. And that turned out to be the group that, Miyatake and Sasaki and so forth. The thing is that I had no idea that they were looking at me as a leader. I thought we were looking for them, you see. And I didn't realize this 'til much later. And then I got a call from Shosuke Sasaki one night and we talked for a long time about this and that and the other thing. And he just wanted to see where I stood on various things. And we pretty much saw eye-to-eye and I was real happy that they had gotten a commitment from Mike Lowry to introduce the bill and stuff like that. Because that was a real big question, if you are going to introduce a bill, how we gonna get it introduced? And they had solved the problem. So yeah, I was willing to take it from there.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

WH: And then they were then working on the, this full page ad or half page ad in the Washington Post to attack Hayakawa, respond to Hayakawa's statements about redress. And I supported that and we had press conferences in Chicago, and it was very well-organized. They had press conferences all over the country, and I was in charge of the one in Chicago and it was very successful. The only thing that was interesting about that press conference, however... we held the conference in front of a mural that had been painted by a Chicago muralist depicting the whole Japanese American experience. Immigration, and then the camps were real big, you know, the names of all the camps, the barracks and so forth and some sort of real optimistic thing about the future, I don't know, didn't understand. But the camp part was very dramatic, and that's where we held the press conference, right in front of that mural. And the reporters, they didn't care about Hayakawa at all. [Laughs] What they were interested in was what happened in the camps... they saw all these, this mural, and you know, taking pictures of the thing and taking the cameras up and so forth and interviewing us. So, it was a huge media success, but it wasn't on Hayakawa. [Laughs] I thought that was real interesting. Hayakawa was just sort of like an excuse for doing it. Because they weren't interested in Hayakawa. "Hayakawa? Who the hell's Hayakawa?" He used to live in Chicago, but they were interested in the camps. So you know, you just sort of go with the flow.

TI: So this is one of your first dealings with the press.

WH: Yes. And it was very successful, we got all three major ABC outlets -- ABC, NBC, CBS outlets -- to show up, and the two newspapers. So it was a real, real success. I've never been in anything that successful.

TI: And so these press conferences were coordinated from Seattle, from...

WH: Well, this, this particular one was because it was on the Hayakawa ad. And so, and the whole thing went off pretty well. We got a group of people together and they answered, fielded questions and so forth. So it worked out real well.

And then after that was over, then I went to Seattle and met the people there, they took me out to dinner. And I talked to... my contact there was a brother of my brother-in-law, my wife's sister's husband's brother. I call him my brother-in-law squared. And he's an old time Seattleite, JACL'er, Aaron Nagaoka. He says, boy, he's never... I stayed with him, and he said, boy, he's never seen so much activity. He took me to all the meetings. He says he's never seen this much activity going on in Seattle. You know, ever since he'd been in Seattle. And I didn't know. I thought this was sort of normal you know, holding these meetings and so forth, I met with these people. And then we went down to Emi Somekawa's place, near Puyallup, or maybe it is Puyallup. Anyway, she was living down there, we went down there the next day and had lunch or something. You know, met all these people and they were talking about it, and they formed the... I think Frank Abe and Karen Seriguchi came up with the name, National Council for Japanese American Redress. And they asked me to lead it and I said, well, I didn't care for the idea of leading it. Because I says, "Well, it looks like the leadership is in Seattle." So I went back and I said, "Give me a couple of weeks and I'll let you know."

TI: Going back to these meetings, they were there to you know introduce you to all the people and were they sort of recruiting you to be leader? Were they sort of prepping you, sort of, to...

WH: I think so, yeah. Well, they were sort of sizing me up. So I met Tomio Moriguchi. I met a lot of the leaders. Ron Mamiya, this was before he became a judge. And I remember Henry Miyatake took me home. I think it was when we arrived. They took me out to dinner and we had a long dinner and then he took me over to Nagaoka's place. And while he was taking me over, he was telling me about his divorce, which was, my god, it was just really a disaster. But anyway, that's how that whole thing began. It was very, very much up in the air. And all during this, prior to this, I'd been getting intimations via Michi Weglyn that Frank Chin wanted to get me to lead this thing, become a leader and so forth. She was telling Frank, "Well, why don't you call Hohri directly instead of dealing with me?" And I didn't... Frank was supposed to be in Seattle, but he got there after I left. They wanted me to stick around, I said I can't stick around because I had other commitments in Chicago, and I was working and everything else.

TI: What were your first impressions? You were there, so it's a whirlwind of meetings and talking to people, what...

WH: Yeah, I thought that they had a good group. They had a lot of experience, they'd thought the thing through. They seemed to be pretty well-organized. I just didn't think I was the appropriate person. But then I talked to Frank Chin, after he got out there he called me and he basically went through all the negatives of each individual and said why he didn't think they should lead. And I think he was basically correct. You probably know these people better than I do, like Shosuke Sasaki and Henry Miyatake and I forgot who else. But, so I think he convinced me more than anyone, anyone else that, yeah, maybe I should do this. But I really thought it was coming out of him, not the Seattle group. [Laughs] I didn't find that out 'til much later.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: William, you just finished talking a little bit about your meetings in Seattle and Frank Chin and about what actually happened. Since then, you've learned more about what was going on back then, and what Frank was doing. Can you explain some of that for us?

WH: Well, Frank was very much into public relations, demonstrations. One of the things that we worked on, we were gonna do, but never happened, was we were going to announce the establishment of NCJAR at a event at the Minidoka, site of the Minidoka camp. And that was... what we were going to do is to take a guard tower and burn it down symbolically. And then everyone says, "Well, you can't do that because it's a fire hazard." So Frank says okay, then we'll just take it down piece by piece and throw it into a fire or something like that. But that didn't work out. There was a lot of counterpressure from the Idaho JACL, so we just went ahead and announced the formation of the (NCJAR). You know, it was a great idea and it was going to be done on ABC and all that stuff.

I think that from my own perspective from what happened in the movement is, after a point, the media does catch up with you, and you do do a lot of media things that have absolutely, there's no planning, no organization and it's probably fairly wide-reaching. I think a lot of people don't understand the impact of talk radio, for example. I did talk radio all over the country. You know, they do it by calling you up and then hooking you up. I did it all over the country. Some of them I did at the sites, but most of them were by remote hook up and I did them in places like Portland and Seattle, Texas, Phoenix, various places. A lot of them were repeat. They liked the response, you know, they always want the lights to go on, people calling in, and so they would do repeats. But I don't know what effect those have, but they would happen after every event, after a major event. And we didn't initiate them, they initiated, always, they'd always call. I wasn't that interested in doing them. And one of the things I found out was that it took its toll on me, so I'd limit myself to one a day. If I did two a day I would just be so worn out. It's the adrenaline, because a lot of hostility you deal with. But I think that's part of what you have to do. I mean, I hadn't heard anyone else talk about that, so I'm just sort of wondering how much talk radio other people did, but I did quite a bit. And you really get down to the common man, and it's not real enlightening. But it's important because you know what people think and they respond to you. It's not hard to figure out. And some of the people, well, like there was a guy in New York who was just absolutely terrible, he was very hostile, racist. I guess in New York you can be openly racist, it was just, it was amazing to me. But I was prepared for it. But I think I did two interviews and after the second one, I called up the producer and said, "I never want to do an interview with this guy again because he's not fair." I don't mind people who are conservative, but I want equal time. I don't want him dominating everything and just, you know, making me look like a fool. I want equal time, and most of the people will give you equal time, even if they don't agree with you. But here, the guy was just, and he's one of the most popular talk show people in New York City. And he just got demoted recently, but he makes newspaper news when he gets demoted. But Grant was his name, Bob Grant. And I was just flabbergasted at the kind of stuff he'd get away with.

TI: Do you have any examples of, of some of things that he...

WH: Yeah. I was waiting for my time. I was listening, somebody had called in a question on Jesse Jackson, they called him Reverend Jesse Jackson, which of course is proper. And Grant says, "He's no Reverend, what are you calling him Reverend for?" And I'm sitting there, "Holy smokes. What is this guy? He's crazy." I mean, you hear that, you know, from the host. And I'm sitting there and says, oh. So the thing I learned is when you deal with people, you have to be very aggressive yourself. You cannot be a nice Japanese American. And you just have to go after them with a vengeance. And that tends to balance things off. But if you don't do that, you get chewed up. The same thing is true of Lillian Baker. You know, you just have to call her a liar. You're lying, or she's lying.

TI: And you think by doing that, they respect you more, or is that just the way you have to deal with them?

WH: They, I think Lillian Baker in particular takes advantage of the fact that most Nisei are polite and they don't respond in kind. But I figured out that the only way to deal with her is to respond in kind. You tell the truth, but be very candid about the truth. If she's lying, just say, "You're a liar," and cite your reasons why. But don't be polite, because they just walk all over you if you are.

But anyway, with, the other thing with Frank Chin was that he also introduced me to the idea of this Chinese god, Kwan Kung. I don't know how to pronounce Chinese, but that's the way I pronounce it. Who is the, he's the god of various things. One, he's the god or keeper of the cash register, I found out, in most Chinese restaurants, red-faced god. And he has, in his armaments, he has a weapon of some sort, a sword and a pen. It's a combination of fighting with the pen. And I thought, gee, that's a nice metaphor, to fight with a pen. And I think that's one of those things that we did in our branch of the redress movement. I did a lot of writing. I wrote for newspapers. I wrote for the New York Nichibei. I didn't get paid for it. You know, I'd write... I got very friendly with the editor and she asked me if I'd do a story. You know, I'd go to hearings and she'd ask me, "Well, would you mind doing a story on it?" and I'd say sure. So I'd write, wherever I went, went to a hearing, I'd do a story and I'd get published. And that's important, too. And that's one reason why I did the book in '84. I said, well, it's about time we did a book, and a newsletter and stuff like that, just to keep people informed. Writing is a very, very powerful thing. People say, well, you know, just this and that. But television is fine, but it's very transient. You see it and it's gone, then you see something else. I mean, you know, your attention span is just real limited. But writing, if you take the time to do the reading, has a different kind of an effect. I think it's a little bit more enduring. And it's something people can use and you can reach a lot of people that way, too. You don't reach as many as television, but I think it has more of an impact.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, going back to Frank Chin, Frank was the person that, that helped convince you to head up the organization.

WH: Yeah.

TI: Can you talk more about that and how that all came about?

WH: I don't think there's too much more I can say.

GK: Well, it's just that you were cut off before, so if you could just tell the story again that you were telling.

WH: Oh, well, I think we had... I remember we were, I was talking to him over the phone and he was having dinner. I could hear him eating. [Laughs] And we were talking about, I was just arguing with him about why I shouldn't lead the thing, "Why don't you have so and so?" Then he started going through the, the various alternatives in Seattle, and why he didn't think they were... they were good people, but they weren't leaders. And I didn't know them that well, but I could see that his points were well-made. And I don't remember what the points were, but... and so that had some influence on me. Frank, I think, got to know me through my writing. I'd written a lot of letters to the editor to the Pacific Citizen and maybe some to the Rafu Shimpo, but probably mainly for the Pacific Citizen, and he had come to some funny conclusions. Like, for example, he thought I was a minister. And he written something, I wrote back and said, "Hey, Frank, I'm not a minister, I'm a computer programmer." [Laughs]

TI: As you mentioned, you have Frank thinking that you're a minister. I mean, I know the church played, had a large influence on you in your life. Let's talk a little bit about that right now.

WH: Yeah, I think that you can't overlook the church because I was very heavily involved with the Northern Illinois Conference. It's a regional collection of about 400 churches. And the Methodist church is very hierarchical in structure. And the Northern Illinois Conference had a group of people, they called themselves a renewal caucus. And our purpose was to make the conference itself more democratic and to respond to various issues like civil rights issues, peace issues and stuff like that. And it worked. We did our job. We got the conference to be more democratic. But one of the things they did very early on was, their rule was that if you wanted to push an issue, you had to be willing to speak to it yourself. Well, I wasn't a public speaker and the conference has about a thousand people in it, both minister and lay delegates. And so I says, "Oh my god, I got to get up and talk about all this stuff." But you know, I says, well, got to do it. So I started doing that, and that's how I learned how to talk. Because up until then, I was really... some of it was stage fright and I'd get real nervous. But gradually I began to overcome... my voice would waver and stuff like that. But I learned a lot about organizing, about how to do things. You know, to be oriented at being very clear about your objectives and so forth, how to work out compromises, and this and that. I think I learned, it was sort of a prelude, at least from the legislative side, in what kind of things was needed. Of course, I didn't know anything about Congress. But it was a good training ground, how to get things going.

And you know, when I interacted with the JACL, as I said earlier, 1970 convention, they were just neophytes when it came to parliamentary procedure, and I was an old pro by then because of my experience in church. And the thing that I learned, one of the things I learned, an important lesson, was pay attention to Robert's Rules of Order, the parliamentary rules. So I started reading the thing, studying it. Because we used it, the church was very formal. And I remember we had a new bishop, and he wasn't familiar with the spirit that had developed in our conference and it became much more democratic. And the bishop tried to introduce legislation. Well, he's the chair of the... he can't introduce legislation. And as soon as he tried to introduce legislation, everybody rebelled. Liberals and conservatives said, "You can't do that. You're the chair. If you asked one of us to do it, we'd be happy to do it, but you can't do it." And so it didn't work. And he was really disappointed. But he was learning the hard way that he was violating Robert's Rules. And people would challenge the bishop and the bishop would, you know, he said, "You really want to challenge me?" "Yeah, we want to challenge you." But the thing is, that's how learn. You learn how to do that, and it wasn't that easy. And there were a lot of disappointments, a lot of defeats, we didn't win every time. So you learn how to lose, too, which is important. It's important to learn how to lose, so it doesn't destroy you completely, you know, you can learn to recover. So I think that the church was a very important experience. And the other thing about the church is that you have to, you really have to appeal to not people's intellect, but their spirits, their hearts. How they feel about something. Because that's basically how I think you and me, not just Christians, but how human beings respond. They respond with their hearts, and so you have to try and convey this to others.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

GK: So did you have any background in the civil rights movement or anti-war movement or anything that helped you?

WH: Yeah, I had... I remember one city, they published a story in the Pacific Citizen talking and describing me as a civil rights activist. And I said, no, no, I was in one march in Jackson, Mississippi, the last leg of the march, which I just sort of fell into. The Methodist conference I just got through talking about had voted to send a couple of people to the march when the guy that was leading the March Against Fear, my name memory is very poor, but anyway, he got shot. He got shot at and hit, I think. James Meredith. James Meredith ran the March Against Fear. And it happened during the, while the conference, annual conference was in session, and so they voted to send two people. And then I was at a meeting of a committee that I was a member of, and they said, "Tomorrow's the last day of the march and we haven't sent anybody yet, so anybody want to go?" And it was Sunday, so the clergy, none of the clergy could go, and nobody raised their hand, so I says, "Well, I guess I can go." [Laughs] So I went down there myself and it was a tremendous experience. It was scary, you know, because I didn't know how to get to the place. I had to get to Tougaloo College from the airport. And they said, "Oh, there will probably be someone down there that'll meet you there." I got to the airport, there wasn't anybody there. So I got in a cab -- white driver -- and he said, "Where you going?" And I said, "I'm going Tougaloo College." And I said -- I had my camera with me -- and I said, "I'm going to take some pictures." Because well, I didn't want to tell him I was going to march. [Laughs] Because I don't know what's going to happen. So I got there... but that was a tremendous experience.

And from that, the second march I went on was much different, it was a Black Power march. The Black Power emerged in the Jackson, Mississippi, march, and it was real interesting. Just a few months later they had a march in... in Jackson, Mississippi the marshals were saying, "Cool it, don't say 'Black Power,' cool it, cool it. We don't want any Black Power." But it was a big issue, 'cause on the plane back, all the blacks were talking about what Black Power means and so forth. Nobody could quite figure it out. And I remember I reported on it and there was a lot of consternation about this new concept of Black Power, it was threatening and everything else. I didn't really understand it all. But then a few months later we went up to Milwaukee and the battle cry of that march was "Black Power." I still remember the chant. And it was run by the NAACP youth division. And all during the whole march we went into the white, the south side of Milwaukee. Tried to avoid, one of the tactics was to avoid any police escort. And the idea was to, for the young men to dare the whites to attack them. So they would stand in front of them. They'd go to a bar and they'd stand in front of it with their backs to the door, daring people to attack. They'd go in an alley and stand with their backs to the door. And it was scary. I tell you, I had my kids on the march, and my wife. [Laughs] And nothing happened, and it was a tremendous experience. So the marches were, they were something else. But I still wasn't an activist. I would consider myself a civil rights activist, but it was a great experience for me. I certainly learned a huge amount about... well, I'll tell you, though, when I marched in, Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi, they gave us each a little plastic flag to carry. And it was the first time in my life that I felt proud to be an American. You know, carrying this little plastic flag and marching with all these people. And it was blacks and whites, a couple of Asians, me, and I think a woman I spotted, but mainly blacks and whites. But it really was a great feeling, I'm going on a march with a little plastic flag.

TI: Can you explain that? Why did you feel proud to be an American at that point?

WH: Because I felt this is what "American" meant. You know, black and white together, marching for our rights and stuff like that. I thought it was just a great thing. And I didn't know. I mean, I had no idea that that's what I was going to do or how I was going to feel, it just happened, this marching. And it was just a great feeling. And there was a lot of threat, there's always threat in these marches. But you know, people will do it mainly just trying to scare you, but you never know. Guys going up and down, white guys going up and down on motorcycles and you know, anytime they could hit somebody. You just don't know. So we had to stay, the men had to stay on the outside and women stay inside the march. But the only thing about that march I remember that was so physically draining was the thirst. So my advice to people if they go on a march is always carry some water with you, because you're going to get thirsty, in Mississippi especially, it's so hot. So that was important.

And I did get pretty much involved in the anti-war movement through the church. Because I was on the, I was head of the World Order Division of the Committee on Social Concerns. And so I talked to about twenty churches about the war in Vietnam. And the thing that's interesting about the Methodist church is that it's very much a cross-section of America. And so in Illinois, the opinion on the war was about 50/50, equally divided, and same thing in the church. So we'd vote on these resolutions, and they'd have to do what they call a division of the house, they'd have to count the votes. Usually they could just raise their hands and the bishop can see right away, you know, who has... but when he can't determine they have to take a count, division of the house, or someone can ask for it, ask for a division, that's a motion. And they have to take a count. Every time we had one of these Vietnam resolutions we'd have to count. [Laughs] I remember once we lost by one vote, and somebody says, "Bishop, can we re-count that?" [Laughs] And he says, "No, come on," it was real late, getting past adjournment time and everything else. But I was very involved in the anti-war movement. So I certainly brought that to the redress movement. And the redress movement... I wasn't the only person who brought that, but it certainly flowed out of, I think, the civil rights and peace movement. That's my opinion, anyway, my observation, I should say.

GK: I noticed you used non-violent tactics, and also what you were saying about in the meetings, you just talked, let people say what they wanted. That's similar, I think, to the civil rights movement before the so-called militant period.

WH: Yeah, I'm not that familiar with the totality of the movement. You know, I can tell you what happened in our branch of the movement. But I know in other places, other... a friend of mine was trying to, he was trying to be part of a group, and they... he got in trouble with it because he wanted to talk, and they didn't have time for that. I think he may have gotten in trouble, too, because he was conservative, politically conservative. But we didn't try to be political one way or the other. I would say that our group was largely liberal, but we had a lot of conservatives. And this one fellow is a good friend of mine. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Harry Ueno. I saw him a couple of years ago, and he told me for the first time, he says he's voted Republican all his life. I looked at him and I said, "Harry you've voted Republican all your life?" He says, "Oh, yeah." And I just couldn't believe it because we'd become pretty good friends. And he says he's voted Republican all his life. And I knew he had a lot of, like he was anti-Cesar Chavez, 'cause he was a farmer, and some other things. But I just couldn't imagine that he was a Republican. But it never got in the way of our relationship. And we had other people who were conservative, that were very strong supporters for us. And that's why I tend to shy away from any kind of rhetoric about liberal, or left-wing, or stuff like that. Hey, we were a single issue organization, and we didn't want to get involved in anything else. We did get involved in other things, but that was sort of pretty much on a personal basis, not on an organizational basis.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

GK: So you're talking about how NCJAR got involved in redress and the for redress, but how did the lawsuits start? Whose idea?

WH: Oh, the lawsuits started very easily. You know, we supported the first Lowry redress bill. We didn't think it would succeed, and it didn't. But I think it was very important for us to support it. It was important for Lowry to introduce it, for two reasons. First of all it showed that there were Japanese Americans who weren't interested in the Commission, they wanted redress. And the second thing was that it may have been the first time in Japanese American history that someone besides the Japanese American Citizen League was in Washington testifying. And I think that was very important, too. Because the thing I, one of the things I noticed and nobody, no one wants to talk too much about this. But I think it's very, very important for Japanese Americans. One of the by-products of the redress movement is there is a complete change in complexion in Washington. There's all kinds of different advocacy groups, there might be the Journalists Association, AA Journalists Association, they got this... I don't know the name of the organization, but they just got some coverage on anti-Asian crime, anti-Asian violence, national coverage on that. They were on the Lehrer Show. And you know, that's not JACL. And what's happening is that everybody is speaking for themselves -- various organizations and various interest groups. And that's much, much healthier than being controlled by a single organization. And a lot of the issues they get involved in are civil rights issues, very clearly. And one of the things that is interesting, I think, is the role of the JACL, nationally, is really declining on national issues. But I think it was important for other people to become involved. I think one of the problems that JACL has had is that they really haven't been able to nurture young leadership. I have a lot of Sansei friends and they all were in the JACL and then they left. Primarily with respect to the newspaper. And I think it's a tragedy that, you know, they can't relinquish their power to the younger generation. But I think it's very healthy, and I think that's one of the things that happened in the movement, just getting an alternative voice. Very important.

GK: Can you recall where the idea came from?

WH: Of the lawsuit?

GK: Yeah.

WH: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't answer the question. I sort of got sidetracked.

GK: It was a good sidetrack.

WH: A lot of the things that happened were not that well-thought out in advance. And this was a situation where after the Commission had been established as law, July 30th or so, 1981, I think. No, 1980, excuse me, 1980. There was nothing to do. We couldn't introduce any more legislation because obviously we had to wait for the Commission. And so we says, "Well, why don't we try the courts?" And it was just like, "Well nothing to do, why don't we try the courts?" And Jack Herzig, who's here today, he says, "Well, I know an attorney that I can talk to about this and he might be able to point me to a law firm." Because in Washington, D.C., the problem in Washington, D.C. is finding a law firm. There's just too many of them. I call Washington, D.C. a city that is attorney-intensive, attorneys all over the place. And so he pointed us to Benjamin Zelenko, Benjamin Zelenko pointed us to his law firm. We went there for an interview and stated our case and talked to Michael Rauh. Rauh said, well, he'll let us know. He said, "There's a lot of problems here." And so we went back a couple of months later and he said, well, he'd be willing to work on this, but we'd have to pay in advance, $75,000. And he'd work on it for about a year, preparation, legal preparation. Because he says he always likes to be prepared before he goes into court. And then we were going to hire an attorney. That's where Ellen Carson comes in. And I told Ellen Carson about this and she just, she said, "I never knew this." We were going to hire an attorney to keep the costs down, so they were going to hire a young attorney. Well, you know, that's kind of an insult. I told her that, and she said, "Gee, I never heard that." [Laughs] It turns out she was a true gift, because she is really bright. Just take my word for it. She is very, very bright, very hard-working, does a huge amount of research, and she had tremendous education. I think she graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and magna cum laude or summa cum laude from University of Tennessee. She's very bright and a tremendous person. And she described her first day on the job was at this hearing in Washington, and I called it her the baptism of fire because all of these movers and shakers from the war period were there testifying. And oh god, it was really something to sit there and listen to these people your first day on the job. And it was just, oh, mind-boggling. But that's how the whole thing started, just sort of informally.

And then, you know, the $75,000 was a big hurdle, how were we going to raise it. And we decided that we would set ourselves a deadline, and set ourselves a goal, and we set the goal for, I think, March of '81. And we announced it in November, December of 1980 that we'd raise thirty, I think $30,000 by that date. If we didn't raise it then we would quit. And it would be all be pledges so we wouldn't have to give any money back. And we didn't quite make it by March, but we were almost there, just a few thousand dollars short. So everyone says, "Well, why don't you continue?" So we extended ourselves, gave ourselves a couple more months, and we made it in April. And signed our agreement with the lawsuit, retained them in early May, May 5, and that's when things began. The only bill we didn't pay on time was the first $75,000. We were about eight months late, but the law firm was about eight months, they were about eight months late in doing their research, so it came out even. And after that we paid every bill on time. And it was amazing because we just had a small group, but there were a lot of people who didn't, they either didn't trust the JACL or they didn't trust the Congress, and they preferred the legal route. And our whole philosophy was: we don't need to convince everybody, we don't need to raise a huge amount of money, we just need to convince enough people to keep going, to raise enough money to keep going.

And one of the things we did, which I think is maybe the first time it's ever been done, is that we never asked for money unless we needed it. If there was a specific thing involved we sent out a fund appeal. But if there wasn't, sometimes I think we went almost as long as a year without a fund appeal going out, because we had enough money. And that gave us credibility, because when we said we needed it, people knew that we needed it. And it turned out to be, fundraising was one of the most easiest things, the easiest thing to do. We said, "We need $10,000 for this." One of the big expenses of going to the Supreme Court, is the printing has to be done in a certain format, certain sized format, and you have to pay for... that isn't too bad because you can control that. But then we had this appendix, it was called the joint appendix, of documents relating to it. And both sides contributed to that, both sides paid for it. Well, that thing cost $10,000 to print. And maybe you only made a hundred copies of the thing. $10,000 bucks, you sit there and say, "Wow." So you know, we'd have to raise $10,000 for the joint appendix. And the firm would cost, charge us for all their fees. But I think we paid more for the printing than we did for the firm. The lawyers, it's crazy, you know. But I think that... and as the lawsuit progressed, I think people got more and more excited by it. But we never, we never ever misidentified the lawsuit. We always said it was high risk, and that the chances of getting your money back were zero, pretty close to zero. So the idea that the people were doing it for the money is just, that's just wrong. At least as far as the lawsuit was concerned it was wrong, because everybody knew it was high risk. But again, it was exciting when we did succeed. So that's important, you know, the various steps.

GK: And you worked closely with coram nobis cases, too, right?

WH: Yeah, see, the coram nobis thing was based on research and our lawsuit was based on research.

GK: Yeah.

WH: We had to do legal research, which is very, very involved and that was done by Ellen Carson. And the historical research was done by the Herzigs. And you know, you have to see the Herzig's master bedroom to believe. It's truly the Japanese American branch of the National Archives, there's no two ways about it. You know, if you get a chance, you know when I was talking about the computer, I think it will make some sense.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

GK: Well, how would you kind of assess personally the role of NCJAR? Just not... Sort of how, how do you feel about it? How do you feel about the accomplishments?

WH: Well, I think we did a great job. I think most of the people that were on the board feel very positive about it. And one of the things that we did, which I think is unique, too, was we... there was a lot of things being published, so we tried to invite the authors to Chicago and hold a meeting, sort of book party, you know, type of thing. But have them talk and stuff like that about why they did things. We invited Peter Irons and, well, various people who wrote books. Sometimes were couldn't hold public meetings because it was just too... like we had John Toland and we just invited him to a dinner, potluck dinner at someone's house. He was great. He had just published a book. So, you know, he came by and he talk to us. And he was one person who really believed in the courts versus the Congress. But he came in as a strong supporter of ours. We sort of mixed the literary stuff that was going on with the movement, too. And I think that was important. Because it was sort of related to all this business of, you know, what I said about people talking about their own experiences and stuff like that.

Because we, you know, one of the things that happened in the, in the redress movement, which people don't mention very often, was we began to, there was really a quantum improvement in understanding what had happened during the war. And that was a result of research, and primarily our research. Because nobody else, you didn't have to research for the legislative side. Congress doesn't do any research at all. The kind, the kind of research they do is they look at the hearings that they've conducted and that's it. But that's not, I wouldn't considered that good research because it's too selective. People present things that they... you want to do research, you got to go to the National Archives, and that's what we did. And I think the Herzigs did a... well, I keep telling people, it's worth a few PhDs what they've done when it comes to research. [Laughs]

I think overall... and the other thing is that we've made, we've made tremendous friends amongst ourselves. You know, people like Peter Irons, Ellen Carson, Herzigs and Chizu Omori, and people all over the place. And in New York, we got a lot of support in New York. I don't know why, but I guess it's because Michi Weglyn was behind us and other people were behind us. And in a way, in a curious sort of way, it seemed to sort of almost bring the community out, and to take a look at each other, because there weren't that many things that were going on in New York. New York, you know, New Yorkers pretty much stick to themselves. And I know in some instances I've asked people about a Nisei artist who was in New York, nobody knows him. Finally he moved out here. But I asked my brother, no one's never heard of him. That's New York, but here, this sort of brings everyone out and brings them together, these events. And that was, it wasn't just NCJAR, but that was... the redress thing was very good in New York in that sense and probably a little less so in Chicago. Maybe, I don't know about other places, but these various events brought people together and newspaper, so forth, helped. I think that was very important.

GK: Can you think of anything else that you might want to add to the whole thing? We're pretty much out of time.

WH: No, I really can't. I appreciate your interest and time.

TI: Yeah, we'll stop now, but thanks very much.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.