Saturday, March 18, 2006

Another Oregonian piece...

Gresham tribute to mayor hits anti-Japanese question
Monument planned - The 1944 role of Herbert Hughes in a group against resettlement is debated
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

GRESHAM -- When Dr. Herbert Hughes stepped down as Gresham mayor, after serving the city from 1941 to 1956 and delivering thousands of local babies, the city declared it "Dr. Hughes Day."

That's how popular Doc Hughes was in this town.

Now it looks as though the City Council is about to honor him with a monument. Some, however, see a problem.

Back in November 1944, Hughes' name turned up in a local newspaper in connection with the Oregon Anti-Japanese Society, a group that opposed allowing people of Japanese ancestry to return to their Gresham-area homes during World War II.

At the time, Hughes was listed as one of a handful of temporary directors.

That information came to light in 2003 as the city considered renaming a park for Hughes. Since then, the park renaming idea died, but a monument idea surfaced. And concern about how complicit Hughes was in the anti-Japanese movement continues, despite an investigation that found he had little significant involvement.

"I hope the city has investigated this thoroughly," John Kodachi, president of the Portland chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, said Monday after learning of the monument proposal. "I realize there was anti-Japanese sentiment at the time, but it appears Mayor Hughes took it to a different level -- that's certainly troubling."

The council is scheduled to vote on the monument at 7 tonight, as part of the "consent agenda" that typically includes items approved without debate.

Currently, scant information is available about the level of Hughes' involvement.

But the head of Gresham's Historic Resources Council Advisory Committee, which is proposing the memorial, reaches a different conclusion than Kodachi: that Hughes' association with the group was brief, that his contributions outweigh any perceived missteps and that a new effort to honor his service with a monument should move forward.

David Lindstrom, a retired school principal who serves as the advisory committee chairman, said he spent two months in 2003 researching Hughes' involvement with the group. He could find only a single reference to Hughes in newspaper stories about the group and also uncovered no further evidence of anti-Japanese sentiment by Hughes in talking to local residents who remember the era.

Lindstrom said even though there isn't a lot of hard evidence, his personal belief is that "because the (anti-Japanese) movement became so nasty, and because his name does not appear later, and knowing he was a very humane person, I feel he saw the fact it was wrong and quietly dropped out."

Neither individual residents of Japanese ancestry nor members of the Japanese American Citizens League were specifically sought out for input during the review -- something Kodachi sees as a significant oversight. But Lindstrom said the members of two city advisory committees grappled with the question of Hughes' involvement, in the context of the overall hysteria of the times.

"In my mind, it was an unfortunate chapter in our history," Lindstrom said.

The proposed monument to Hughes would be in the location of his former office near Main Avenue and Powell Boulevard in Main City Park. At first, it would consist of a temporary wooden marker, to be replaced -- after about $2,500 is raised -- with a boulder with a brass plaque attached to it.

Gresham Mayor Chuck Becker said Monday he would support the monument, adding that he hoped the community would not raise the anti-Japanese issue again.

"I'm satisfied with recognizing that this is the location where Dr. Hughes had his medical offices," Becker said. "That's fine with me. . . . It's more a historical marker than anything else."
Councilor Paul Warr-King said Monday he is satisfied that Hughes had no direct involvement with the anti-Japanese group.

"Being a small town, I'm sure he was involved with everything that was going on," Warr-King said, but Warr-King believes it was "very minor involvement."


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