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Minoru Yasui file photo [29071]

Minoru Yasui

Given NameMinoru
Born19 Oct 1916
Died12 Nov 1986
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseMinoru Yasui was born in Hood River, Oregon, United States in Oct 1916 as the third son of nine children of Japanese immigrants Shidzuyo and Masuo Yasui. He spend a good part of 1924 in Japan, at the age of eight. He graduated from the local high school in 1933 and went on to study at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, receiving a law degree in 1939. He was also a participant of the US Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program, which earned him a commission of second lieutenant in 1937. He opened his own law firm in Portland, Oregon in 1939, and then, through his father's acquaintances, started working for the Japanese consulate in Chicago, Illinois, United States as an attaché.

ww2dbaseYasui resigned from the consular position the day after the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in the US Territory of Hawaii. He immediately returned to Hood River to report for military duty, but was denied from doing so multiple times at the Vancouver Barracks in the state of Washington. On 13 Dec 1941, he was arrested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as an enemy alien, and had his assets frozen; he would soon be released after the FBI realized that he was a US citizen. He then moved to Portland to open a law firm focused on assisting Japanese-Americans. In Mar 1942, he deliberately broke the curfew in Portland, Oregon, United States by walking around the downtown area after 2000 hours; when a policeman on the street refused to arrest him, he presented himself at a police station at 2300 hours, and was prompted charged with violating the curfew. When the US government issued the orders to deport Japanese-Americans from the country's west coast regions, he declared that he would defy the order, leading to him being arrested at his parent's home in Hood River. At his trial, federal judge James Alger Fee decided that the racially discriminatory curfew law targeting Japanese-Americans was unconstitutional, but because Yasui had worked for the Japanese government prior to the war, Fee stripped Yasui of his citizenship, and thus the US Constitution no longer protected him. Fee sentenced him to an one-year prison sentence and fined him US$5,000. While his attorney took his case to the Court of Appeals, he was first imprisoned at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland and then was deported to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho, United States. The case ultimately went to the US Supreme Court in 1943, where the judges decided that Yasui was still a US citizen and upheld the original verdict against him. At this time, James Fee lifted the US$5,000 fine. He was allowed to leave the internment camp in the summer of 1944 and briefly worked as a laborer in Chicago before moving to Denver, Colorado in Sep 1944.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Yasui passed the Colorado bar exam in Jun 1945, although due to his war time criminal record, it took until Jan 1946 before he could convince the Colorado Supreme Court to allow him to practice law. He opened his firm in the Japantown section of Denver, and would accept barter for clients who could not afford his fees. In the same year, he became a founding member of the Urban League of Denver, an organization that aimed to assist African-Americans in the city; he would also offer assistance to the nascent Latin American Research and Service Agency and Denver Native Americans United. In Nov 1946, he married True Shibata, who was interned at the Granada War Relocation Center in southeastern Colorado during the war; they would have three daughters together, Iris, Holly, and Laurel. Between 1959 and 1983, he was on Denver's Commission on Community Relations (later renamed Denver's Human Rights Commission); he was the executive director of the commission between 1967 and 1983. In 1954, he was the chairman of the Japanese American Citizens League's district covering Colorado. He passed away in Nov 1986 while waiting to be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a possible dismissal of his 1942 conviction; the case was dismissed after his death. He was buried in Hood River, Oregon.

Densho Encyclopedia

Last Major Revision: Jan 2020

Minoru Yasui Timeline

19 Oct 1916 Minoru Yasui was born in Hood River, Oregon, United States.
8 Dec 1937 Minoru Yasui was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant in the US Army Infantry Reserve.
8 Dec 1941 Minoru Yasui resigned his position at the Japanese consulate in Chicago, Illinois, United States.
13 Dec 1941 Minoru Yasui was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an enemy alien.
28 Mar 1942 Minoru Yasui deliberately broke the curfew in Portland, Oregon, United States by walking around the downtown area after 2000 hours. When a policean on the street refused to arrest him, he presented himself at a police station at 2300 hours, and was prompted charged with violating the curfew.
21 Jun 1943 The US Supreme Court upheld the original 1942 verdict against Minoru Yasui.
12 Nov 1986 Minoru Yasui passed away.
16 Nov 2015 US President Barack Obama announced his intention to awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Minoru Yasui posthumously.
24 Nov 2015 Minoru Yasui was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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