L.A. County Superior Court Judge Vincent Okamoto dies

Former Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Japanese American National Museum board of trustees chairman issued a statement mourning the passing of Judge Vincent H. Okamoto, “a decorated Vietnam veteran, a prominent lawyer and judge, an articulate speaker and historian and a community leader.”

According to the statement, Okamoto was “the 10th child and sixth son born in an American concentration camp during World War II. … All six of his older brothers served in the military.”

Okamoto graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in international relations in 1967, and “completed officer infantry school, ranger school and airborne training before serving with the 82nd Airborne Division. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam and was an infantry platoon leader, company commander and intelligence officer. Wounded three times, he was recognized with 14 combat decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, America’s second-highest award for valor in combat.

Leaving the military with the rank of captain, … Okamoto earned his law degree from USC and became a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.”

He entered into private practice, as well as served as a Gardena City councilman, a member of the California Veterans Affairs Commission’s board of directors, and a member of the founding board of the Japanese American Bar Association.

“He was instrumental in the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Court at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. In 2002, he was appointed to the California Superior Court.”

Okamoto was named “‘Hero of America’ by the American Veterans Center in Washington, D.C. in 2016.” He was elected to the Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2007, becoming “the first Japanese American to earn that honor. In 2018, the Nisei Week Foundation chose him as its grand marshal.

“On behalf of the leadership, staff and volunteers of JANM, I send our condolences and deepest sympathies to Judge Okamoto’s wife Mitzi and son Darby and family. His heroism, leadership and public service ensures his place in our country’s history.”

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