OTTAWA — Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought the United States’ internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, has died in Edmonton, Alberta at the age of 93, said local media.
“My dad… passed away early this morning (Monday),” his son, Jay Hirabayashi, said on Facebook. “He was an American hero … who taught me about the values of honesty, integrity and justice.”
Gordon Hirabayashi was one of the first to challenge the United States’s wartime removal of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants from the US West Coast to inland camps in the 1940s.
While a student at the University of Washington in Seattle he ignored a curfew imposed on people of Japanese background, and later refused to register for the internment camps.
He was jailed 90 days for violating both the curfew and internment orders, appealed his conviction before the US Supreme Court, and lost. But he would emerge as a symbol of protest against the US government’s unchecked wartime powers.
Decades later in 1987, a US court overturned his conviction after concluding that the US government had based its internment policies on political expediency and not on actual risks to national security.
But by then he had left the United States to work at universities in Beirut, Cairo and Edmonton, where he headed the University of Alberta’s sociology department.