Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Art Hansen Interview
Narrator: Art Hansen
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 22, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-hart-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Art, just tell me about Jimmie Omura.

AH: Well, Jimmie is one of the most enigmatic people I, I've ever met. I met him in 1983, I met him in Salt Lake City, and we were both attending a conference that was put on over there by the Center for the Study of Demography. And it was put together by Roger Daniels and Sandra Taylor and Harry Kitano and it later became a book, the proceedings. And it was From Relocation to Redress --

FA: Well, Art, tell me about Jimmie --

AH: Yeah, but I met Jimmie when we were going out from the hotels in Salt Lake City out to the campus of the University of Utah and he was sitting on a mini bus with me. And I was just making chit-chat with somebody on the bus and he turned around and he had a name identification and it said "James Omura." And I couldn't believe it, because I didn't know he was still alive. And so I said, "Are you, by any chance, the Jimmie Omura?" and he said, he said, "Yeah," he said, you know, he said, "I am." He said, and I said, "I thought you were dead," and he said, "No, I'm very much alive." And apparently others have had the same conversation with him because we all felt that he was kind of consigned to oblivion, that he wasn't around anymore. And so then I decided that I would like to interview him. And he told me that he had already done a lengthy interview with Frank Chin, but he would be happy to come out to California, he came out on a regular basis, and we did an interview. So I interviewed him for about four days. And that's where I got my first reading of him. And by the time I picked him up at a motel in Hollywood 'til the time that I took him back four days later it was almost non-stop. I mean, he, and he had already done this same sort of thing with Frank, and we just talked for four days. And he, you know, in the mornings when I would get up he would be sitting on the couch down in our living room and he was ready to start at like 7 o'clock, he was ready to start being interviewed. And one time even the tape recorder broke and he continued to talk right through the time that I was trying to fix the tape recorder. So, I mean, he had a real need to be able to tell his story. And even when I took him back to his motel the next day I got a postcard and he said, "Oh, there's some other things I forgot to tell you," and he writes this thing out: people who he should have mentioned in there, and one of them was Michi Weglyn. He said, "I wanted to..." 'cause I had asked him a final question about which people had, you know, been very important to him.

FA: Well, Art, who, who was Jimmie? Who was Jimmie Omura?

AH: A very lonely sort of person of, of enormous self-regard. He had, in some ways, even though you might think of him as a person who didn't think well of himself, I thought he had a very inflated, actually, opinion of himself. And he was so self-encapsulated because of living an effectively orphaned kind of life that he was able to be Thoreauvian and act like Thoreau when he, when he had to. He was the sort of person that was, was so unsocialized that I think he could steel himself for the kind of actions that he later took. So, I mean, I think that was Jimmie Omura, but he was also desperate -- increasingly so as his life went on -- for affirmation from other people. And I think one of things that, that was really important for him was, you know, getting the sort of applause that he did. But, you know, when he had his picture in the Broadway High School yearbook, underneath it the editors of the yearbook had said, "Jimmie Omura I, I, I, I, I, I, I." And he said, "Well," he said, "It's better to be recognized than to be ignored." So, I mean, you see it there. He is self-focused but at the same time, you know, he wasn't easily hurt by those kinds of things because it fed his ego a lot.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.