Lane Hirabayashi, one the nation’s leading scholars on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II who spent decades trying to keep prison camps from being FORGOTTEN, has died. He was 67.
Hirabayashi died Aug. 8 in Santa Monica after a long struggle with cancer, his family said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The son of camp survivors, Hirabayashi plowed through field notes from the camps, interviewed photographers tasked with making the forced confinements seem like a pleasurable experience to the rest of the U.S. and dove into the back story of his own uncle, Gordon Hirabayashi, who was imprisoned when he protested the roundup of Japanese Americans after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, The Times reported.
Gordon Hirabayashi’s legal fight reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and though the court ruled against him, his case was cited again and again as President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which blamed the wartime imprisonment of Japanese Americans on racial prejudice and failed political leadership.
“In the height of the hysteria, I think Gordon was very, very brave,” Lane Hirabayashi told The Times in 2006.
That year, Hirabayashi became the first professor in the nation to be named to an academic chair dedicated to the study of the incarceration camps and the wartime experience of Japanese Americans. It was a deeply personal appointment.
“To me, I feel that this is a family obligation,” he said during ceremonies when he was appointed to the George and Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair in UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center.
Hirabayashi is survived by his wife, Marilyn, his sister, Jan Rice, and several other relatives.