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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Floyd Shimomura Interview
Narrator: Floyd Shimomura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-466-18

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TI: Yeah, before we get into Personal Justice Denied, I'm thinking of the arc of all this. So the JACL really encourages and advocates for the hearings, they happen, you're all part of this. The hearings go on, they're incredibly successful from a community standpoint, from an education standpoint, visibility, media.

FS: Yeah, on every level.

TI: And as those are, the commission's happening, at that point, you become national president, kind of at a, in terms of momentum, the greatest momentum ever, probably from the redress is happening. Tell me your decision to seek the presidency, the national JACL president of the board position. What made you decide you were the one at that point?

FS: Well, they have term limits, so you can only be a vice president for two terms, so you get termed out. So you have to run for some other position, so if they would have let me have, like, three terms as vice president I probably would have just been a vice president. But at that point in time, a lot of people wanted me to do it, for various reasons. And I happened to be from the biggest district, because usually it's the districts that solicit candidates for national office. And so the district wanted me to do it. And why did they district want me to do it? Well, I'd like to think that they thought I was the best candidate, but I think part of the reason was that after the redress hearings, NCRR and other groups got activated. And it was really an extraordinary time where normally in a volunteer organization, you're always trying to get people to join and do stuff for you, right? Recruiting... but we were in a stage now where this whole movement thing, we didn't have to motivate the community, the community was motivated. And, see, that's what happened, and hearings were '81, '82 was the year when they were doing the report, and '82 was a dead year. But you know, that's when the communities went out and got all their state employee redress things done or the county or city for employees that were fired during World War II. So there was a lot of activity on the local level. So really, it was a stage where we were channeled... as the leadership, we were trying to encourage and channel that in constructive ways.

TI: So with all that happening, and I can think of this, but I want you to say it. Why were you a good person to be president right now?

FS: You know, it's because I think the JACL leadership, they wanted to show a younger face. And because, frankly, NCRR and other groups outside the JACL who were interested in this issue, were largely SanseiĀ­-based organizations. But for a lot of reasons, kind of cultural, generational, they didn't feel comfortable working on redress within the JACL structure. No, I totally understand that. And so I think a decision was made to, that I would be a good representative at the time. Plus, I think the old-timers thought, maybe correctly, that I was not a person that was hostile to the organization, that I was more of a conciliator, that I wouldn't do anything really crazy. But I can go out and maybe articulate what our position was. And in that way, it kind of helped the organization. I don't know, it's hard to say, but a lot of people wanted me to run, and I don't want to talk about the two other people who were my opponents, but let's just say that both of them were lacking in certain, they had some problems. So I kind of ran against a weak field. I mean, there were a lot of good people in the organization, Nisei and others, who, I think if they would have run, they could have probably beat me, but they didn't. [Laughs]

TI: Well, and you did your term, so what was the reaction? I think the headline, the Pacific Citizen, "First Sansei JACL President," "Youngest JACL President," all those things. I mean, what was the, after you were elected, what did you hear, what happened?

FS: I mean, there was the headline there, but actually on a day-to-day basis, people didn't really... well, okay, one thing did happen. Because I was elected at the convention, and it was down in Los Angeles, and after I was elected, everybody comes up and congratulates you and everything. But a lot of the Nisei women, JACL had women's auxiliaries and things like that at the chapter level. So there was kind of a segregated aspect, and the women really did a lot of work whenever we had a picnic or event or something, so they're indispensible. But they were very influential in the organization, they weren't always out front. But a lot of those women came up to me and I could tell they were looking at me like I was their son. But they also thought that maybe they were throwing me to the lions, because they said, "Don't let those Nisei boys push you around, Floyd. You just do what you think is right because you have the education and you know what you're talking about. And those guys, they don't know nothing." I mean, it kind of made me laugh when they said that to be, because these guys, they knew a lot. I had great respect for them, but some of these were the wives of very prominent people, so I guess they know these people real well. [Laughs]

TI: Well, but they were right, too. Because of your, even though you were young, you actually had quite a bit of experience by this time in the JACL, you knew how things worked, you understood the roots of the redress and the hearings, and plus, you had a legal background and had done research kind of in these areas. So you actually were poised to...

FS: Well, the education and the studies that I'd done helped me target the easiest, simplest way to achieve the goal.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.