Saturday, March 18, 2006

Original Oregonian piece that started it all..

Look, if in fact the mayor was involved he was wrong to resist the ethnic Japanese from returning to Gresham or any other community. Perhaps he didn't hold Japanese in high esteem.

The historical reality is after a bloody three and a half year war with Japan the feeling wasn't rare among Americans.

What is the Gresham City Council using as evidence? Old newpaper articles? Hearsay from AJA activists?

Apparently the comments of a couple AJA activists holds more weight than anybody else as far as the City of Gresham is concerned.

This shouldn't be an open invitation to deliberately distort the rest of the history of the evacuation. Pretty soon they'll be demanding the FDR presidential library and Washington Monument be dismantled, too...

That's my point.

Here's the original story if you missed it...

http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/metro_east_news/1142139316241370.xml?oregonian?lcfp&coll=7

Gresham confronts pride and prejudice in recalling its past
Race - A monument for a former mayor is tabled because of his role in an anti-Japanese group

Sunday, March 12, 2006
ROBIN FRANZEN and ERIC MORTENSON

GRESHAM -- Setsuko Okino's younger brother, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was killed fighting the Nazis in Europe. She and her family, meanwhile, spent three years at an internment camp in Idaho.

When she returned to Gresham, she encountered "No Japs Allowed" signs in storefronts. Others of Japanese descent struggled to reclaim farms that white Americans took over in their absence.

Worse, they learned their mayor, Dr. Herbert H. Hughes, was involved in a movement to keep them from returning. This was the same kindly physician who had come to Okino's unpainted cabin when she was 10 and treated her for scarlet fever. "Doc" Hughes, whom "we thought the world of," Okino says, had changed.

Last week, Okino, 82, and other Japanese Americans felt an old hurt return. As city officials considered erecting a monument to Hughes to note his service to the city, Japanese Americans were stung by a city process that excluded their opinions and ignored obvious references to a black mark on the late mayor's tenure.

The conflict has exposed the difficulty of reconciling how differing groups remember history. Although the city intended to boost civic pride by honoring the achievements of its longest-serving mayor, officials failed to recognize how deeply that would hurt a group its own country had banished during World War II.

"I'm going to be so upset if they put up a memorial to him," Okino said. "I'll cry every time I drive past it."

City officials knew they were dealing with a potentially sensitive situation, e-mails and memos show, but they pushed ahead.

For now, the issue of honoring Hughes, Gresham's mayor from 1941 to 1956, is in limbo. On Tuesday night, reacting to critics who learned of the plans at the 11th hour, Mayor Chuck Becker announced that the City Council would postpone acting on the proposal.

Afterward, two Gresham city councilors acknowledged that the matter was handled poorly.

"I blame myself," said Councilor Paul Warr-King, liaison to the city's historic resources advisory committee, which proposed the monument. Warr-King took office after the monument project was inching ahead and said he assumed that Hughes' background had been fully investigated. "I should have asked the question."

Warr-King said he was even more dismayed when he heard one report that Hughes refused to treat a pregnant Japanese woman.

Yoji J. Matsushima, president of the Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland, said that his mother-in-law, who is now deceased, told him Hughes refused to treat her in late 1941 because he "didn't take Jap patients."

"That would kill it right there, as far as I'm concerned," Warr-King said.

A time of hysteria, fear

After the outbreak of the war, 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese descent, most U.S. citizens, were ordered to internment camps, including about 2,000 from the Portland area.

In November 1944, with the war winding down, Hughes and 12 other Gresham men formed Oregon Anti-Japanese Inc. The local group flared for several months then faded, reflecting and inspiring similar efforts in other West Coast agricultural communities.

The movement grew in a time of hysteria, fueled by fear of economic competition and losses during a war that was not over yet.

At one event, nearly 1,000 people crowded Gresham High School for an anti-Japanese conclave. An organizer from Seattle congratulated Gresham for launching a national effort to expel the Japanese.

"You folks are making history here tonight," he was quoted in The Oregonian as declaring.

The anti-Japanese agitators called for a constitutional amendment to revoke the citizenship of all people of Japanese ancestry. A local paper defended Hughes and other group leaders as "able, clear thinking, sound businessmen, farmers and community leaders," the kind of people who wouldn't "foster a program that smacks in any way of un-Americanism."

Not everyone was swept up in that sentiment, however.

Gresham minister John L. Magoon began telling what he called the "other side" of the issue. Working with former Gov. Charles Sprague and an influential Portland banker, E.B. MacNaughton, they called on residents to support the rights of all Americans, "irrespective of ancestry or extraction." The safety of business and institutions depended on citizens refusing to ostracize Japanese Americans, they said at a March 1945 meeting in Gresham, attended by about 1,000 residents.

"That's exactly what happened in Germany," said MacNaughton, president of First National Bank of Portland, "and it can happen here."

The depth of Hughes' involvement at the time is unclear. He does not appear to have been quoted about his feelings about Japanese Americans, leading some to conclude he might have quietly dropped out of the group after deciding it was wrong.

For many local residents, Hughes has remained a beloved figure. Today, some call the small-town doctor a "humanitarian." He delivered more than 5,000 babies, often making house calls. When people couldn't afford his services, he was known to barter or extend credit. He grew prized roses and chrysanthemums. When he retired as mayor, the city declared "Dr. Hughes' Day," and when he died in 1964, the business district closed out of respect.

But Hughes hadn't been officially recognized since, and that, in retrospect, should have raised red flags, Councilor Shane Bemis said Wednesday.

"It seemed odd that nothing was done," Bemis said. "Was there more involvement (in the anti-Japanese movement) than we know about?"

Bemis said he'd raised the question every time a Hughes monument was discussed at public meetings and had been assured "they didn't think there was anything there."
Only last week did 87-year-old Jim Onchi learn that Hughes was identified as a director with Oregon Anti-Japanese Inc. Onchi grew up in Gresham and enlisted in the Army's 442nd regimental combat team when war broke out. His family was shuttled off to an internment camp.

"If he was that way, I would oppose him getting a monument," said Onchi, who now lives in Portland. "I can't help it."

A flawed investigation

The idea to honor Hughes had been kicked around by various citizen committees since 2003 but had languished, partly because of concerns about his membership in the anti-Japanese group. Then in fall 2005, two city councilors directed parks division manager Robb Courtney to get the issue before the City Council for a vote.
Courtney asked an employee in a Jan. 6 e-mail to write a report for the council agenda, which is available to the public, "sans any reference" to the former mayor's "possible discriminatory behavior." In an earlier e-mail, he had suggested calling it a "historic monument" rather than a "memorial" to possibly "make it less contentious."

The employee was also instructed to write a separate memo recapping the allegations against Hughes and efforts to investigate his past. That memo, dated Feb. 7 and distributed to the council, referred to the allegations against Hughes as "rumors."

The report the public saw at Tuesday's council meeting contained only a footnote to the controversy -- indicating it had been "satisfactorily resolved." And the item was on the consent agenda, which is reserved for issues not warranting council debate or public testimony.

Courtney said he now agrees the city should have done better, but says he didn't seek to downplay concerns about Hughes. Elected officials, he said, had expressed no lingering doubts about Hughes after receiving the Feb. 7 memo, so he felt, "if they are OK with it, I'm going to move this forward."

Courtney said he hadn't personally supervised the investigation of Hughes -- that had been handled by a city employee laid off during budget cuts last year. And he said that the project had the backing of a historic resources volunteer, David Lindstrom, who had done some of the early research and was convinced all the good the former mayor had done tipped the balance in his favor.

"Our feeling was, Dr. Hughes' work and life was so overwhelmingly positive," Lindstrom said.

The council says it is committed to making sure nothing like this happens again. It's creating a task force to set criteria for honoring community leaders or citizens.
Bruce Robnett, a Sam Barlow High School history teacher whose classes cover the local impact of internment, agrees more discussion is warranted.

"I think there needs to be more awareness of the people who had this happen to them," Robnett said. "Before we honor the mayor."

(BainbridgeHistorians note: Agreed Mr. Robnett. There needs to be an entire overhaul of your current curriculum so students get the full story of why the evacuation happened, who it happened to, and including those who resisted ethnic Japanese returning to their pre-Pearl Harbor properties and businesses.)

6 Comments:

At April 14, 2006 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like downplay to me. The memo was absolutely disgusting and favored a man who on all accounts appears to be racist. Call it a memorial or a historic statue, why put it up at all? Can't the city council think of a more suitable person to commemorate? Why are they stuck on Hughes? People know who is and what he stood for. These are the same people who fought for our country while at the same time their families were behind barbed wire fences. When the Americans came home, they were treated with disdain. These people are Americans and their dignity is stripped with the consideration of a monument to Hughes. Let's not sugar coat this issue here. It would be like putting a statue up of Lenin in the midst of the Russians in Portland. Someone who the Russians are trying to forget. Or how about a statue of Hitler among the Jewish community there. This Hughes thing is going to go over real well.

 
At April 14, 2006 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like downplay to me. The memo was absolutely disgusting and favored a man who on all accounts appears to be racist. That memo sounds like the council and the person who wrote it are saying this sort of treatment and bigotry never existed. Isn't that what's happening with the Halocaust? Those who hate the Jews say it never existed. Call it a memorial or a historic statue, why put it up at all? Can't the city council think of a more suitable person to commemorate? Why are they stuck on Hughes? People know who is and what he stood for. These are the same people who fought for our country while at the same time their families were behind barbed wire fences. When the Americans came home, they were treated with disdain. These people are Americans and their dignity is stripped with the consideration of a monument to Hughes. Let's not sugar coat this issue here. It would be like putting a statue up of Lenin in the midst of the Russians in Portland. Someone who the Russians are trying to forget. Or how about a statue of Hitler among the Jewish community there. This Hughes thing is going to go over real well. How humiliating to the Japanese American community.

 
At April 14, 2006 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, had some after-thoughts here and re-posted.

 
At April 18, 2006 9:58 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

On the contrary, it sounds like overkill on the part of the JACL and their lackies...

Just what evidence was there that the fomer mayor was involved? Two newspaper articles and then hearsay from JACL activists that he refused to assist a pregant ethnic Japanese woman?

That's all it took for the spineless Gresham City Council to back down and permanently sully the reputation of a beloved city father.

As for the "same people who fought for our country while behind barbed wire" comment, the fact are that only 3-5% of Japanese American men of fighting age initially enlisted while the other 95-97% chose to sit the war out or openly support the enemy.

Now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon with the 3-5%, another not very pretty example of the hypocrasy and deceit surrounding this history.

 
At April 27, 2006 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People were not sitting down with paper and pen writing down every account of what this man was doing. People remember though. The hurt they felt was and is real. Just because it's not on paper or stone doesn't mean it didn't happen. How many times have you been hurt in your life and have written down every time it happened? So, the JACL is an organization like the ACLU? They just want attention and go too far to get things their way?

 
At May 20, 2006 10:13 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

Too bad the JACL activists think they're the only people who suffered during World War 2.

The Gresham City Council made the wrong decisions based on unsubstantiated claims from an ethnic political pressure group and in the process sullied the reputation of a beloved city father.

Shame on them and shame on the JACL and their lackies...

 

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