(Bay City News Service) — The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 25 approved a proclamation honoring Fred Korematsu, an Oakland native who was arrested in downtown San Leandro in 1942 for refusing to go to a concentration camp for Japanese Americans.
The resolution coincided with a new California holiday called the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution that was celebrated for the first time on Jan. 30.
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill on Sept. 23 that makes Jan. 30, which was Korematsu’s birthday, a holiday every year.
According to the resolution approved by the Board of Supervisors, Korematsu, 23 when he was arrested, had been working as a welder in Oakland. He defied an order by President Franklin Roosevelt that ultimately led to the forced incarceration of more than 120,000 other persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
He was later convicted in federal court of violating military orders and forced to live with his family in horse stalls at the Tanforan Race Track Assembly Center in San Bruno, Calif., then at the desert concentration camp at Topaz (Central Utah). He appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him by saying his incarceration was a military necessity.
But his conviction was formally overturned by the U.S. District Court in 1983. President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. Korematsu died in 2005 at the age of 86.
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who sponsored the proclamation, said, “The story of Fred Korematsu is a story of courage and sacrifice that ought to make our country live up to its ideals of individual freedom and dignity. He was a real-life hero who made our community, and the entire world, a better place, and it is with gratitude and humility that we honor him.”
Korematsu’s son, Ken Korematsu, was among those who attended the Jan. 25 meeting and spoke briefly.