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Title: Roger Daniels Interview III
Narrator: Roger Daniels
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 26, 2013
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-416-8

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TI: So, Roger, I wanted to ask you how you started getting involved with the JACL and redress. When did that happen and how did that happen?

RD: Well, they came to me and asked me to help them. I've always been willing to help anybody who... well, I want to be very careful about how I phrase this. I have not been a great fan of the JACL, but it was the one organization that spoke for a large number of Japanese Americans. And anytime they came to me and asked me for help in something -- and this began to happen in the '70s -- I had no way to say no. So I was very much involved with the preparation.

TI: Before we go there, can you tell me why you weren't a fan of the JACL?

RD: Because of their disgraceful behavior during the incarceration; their failure -- although they got certain things down on paper -- their failure to pursue appropriate goals; the outrageous way in which they had denigrated those who brought the Japanese American cases; their too close collaboration with the War Department; their failure to acknowledge the justice of the draft resisters and other protestors. I mean, we could go on and on, it's a long thing.

TI: But many of these things were historical in nature. These were World War II era...

RD: Yes, but the attitudes continued. And the leading figure, Mike Masaoka, man of a great deal of energy and ability, and utterly unscrupulous, did some very interesting things. One of the great shocks that I had -- I don't get surprised very often -- but this ties in to... I'll have to go back to how I got there, but I was a member of the one panel that was called for a senate hearing by a committee led by "Scoop" Jackson, which essentially recommended the creation of the commission, and they assemble a panel of people who go in together, they testify as a bloc. And I went there, and I wasn't surprised to see Mike Masaoka there, but I was very much surprised to see a man who I had not met previously and I admired greatly, Clarence Mitchell. Mitchell was a storied lobbyist with the NAACP in Washington, and a very important cog in the whole process of getting civil rights legislation through. And I went over and I introduced myself, people were waiting in a kind of green room before we go in there, and said, "I was surprised to see you here." "Oh," he said, "I had to be here," and he pointed over at Masaoka sitting in the corner and says, "For twenty years, anytime we had needed some testimony and support, Mike showed up and took a beating from a lot of people in the organization for doing so, but he testified, and the JACL is on record as supporting all of these things. And now that he needs help, I have to be here." And I found that very interesting, and you have to give credit where credit was due. That was a bright thing to do. That must mean, while he really kept putting brakes on, he knew that eventually there was going to have to be a time when something was done, and he made preparations for it.

TI: Oh, interesting. So you think it wasn't necessarily that he was just doing the "right thing" by supporting civil rights, but you think he was consciously --

RD: I don't think there's any two ways about it. And it was a smart thing to do, and it paid off. Lot of things he did weren't very smart, but that was very smart. It just surprised me. He didn't ever seem to me to be a very subtle person. So if you've ever seen it -- I think I gave you a copy -- it was a bound book or collection of papers -- of arguments for redress that was formally presented, and the lead was my piece, which was something I wrote specifically for that. Apart from giving advice for that -- and I also was at the same time giving advice to the people doing the coram nobis work.

TI: And so these were the lawyers who were representing Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui.

RD: Yes.

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