OBITUARY: Frank Akira Iwama

Frank Akira Iwama

IWAMA, FRANK AKIRA, 75, a pioneering Asian American lawyer who successfully represented the Japanese American Citizens League in the effort to obtain redress from the United States government for wrongful detention of Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II, died on September 23, 2016 in San Mateo, California
Frank was born on April 2, 1941 in Suisun Valley, California, the son of Japanese immigrants who owned the Iwama Market in Fairfield. Incarcerated with his family during World War II at the Gila River War Relocation Center, an internment camp for Japanese Americans, Frank spent his early life surrounded by armed guards. This inspired him to become a lawyer and dedicate his career to social justice.
After receiving a B.A. in Business Administration with great distinction from San Jose State University, Frank went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Santa Clara School of Law, where he was Managing Editor of the Santa Clara Law Review. He began his career as a state Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, where he acted as legal counsel to several state governmental agencies in criminal, civil, and administrative law matters. He entered private practice in 1977 and worked as a business and legal advisor to facilitate business relations between Japan and the State of California. He also served as an advisor on California trade issues for the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco and represented international Japanese clients including NEC and Daiwa Corporation.

Frank was dedicated to championing greater diversity in the legal profession and encouraging minorities to pursue a career in law. He was the first Asian American elected to the California State Bar Board of Governors. As a co-founder of the California State Bar Foundation, dedicated to building a better justice system for all Californians, he served as Vice President and a Board Director. He also co-founded the Asian Bar Association of Sacramento and served as President. He received numerous awards for his commitment to civil rights and community affairs and served as Vice President and Legal Counsel of the Japanese American Citizens League and a Board Member for the Board of Visitors of the Santa Clara University School of Law. He volunteered substantial pro bono legal services to non-profit charitable organizations during his extensive legal career and served as Board Director for the Legal Aid Society of Northern California.

Frank’s death from heart failure followed four years of illness. He is survived by his wife Mitsuko Iwama, son Kenneth, daughter Mia, and step-daughters Shirley and Georgia Archer.

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