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Minoru Yasui

Biographical Notes
Scope and Contents of the Yasui Collection

Auraria Library Archives and Special Collections Department, Denver, Colorado


1916    Born Minoru Yasui on October 19, 1916, in Hood River, Oregon.

1933    Graduated from Hood River High School.

1937    Graduated from University of Oregon.

1939    Graduated from the University of Oregon Law School.

1940    Employed at the Japanese Consulate in Chicago.

1941    Resigned from the Japanese Consulate on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  At this time returned to Hood River.

1942    His father, Masuo was arrested by FBI as an enemy alien.

1942    Minoru worked in Oregon as an attorney serving Japanese Americans.

1942    Curfew order issued, Military Proclamation No. 3, stating all German and Italian enemy aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry must conform to the curfew order from 8 P.M. to 6 A.M.

1942    March 28, 1942, Yasui walked the streets of Portland until 11 P.M. demanding to be arrested for violating the Curfew.

1942    May - September North Portland WCCA, September - November Minidoka WRA, Idaho.

1943    November 1942-August 1943 Multnomah County Jail, Portland, Oregon - Solitary confinement for nine months.

1943    August 1943 - June 1944 Minidoka WRA, Idaho.

1944    Released for employment in Chicago, Illinois the summer of 1944.

1944    In September relocated to Denver.

1944-45 Attended DU Law school for Bar exam review

1945    Passed Colorado bar examination admitted to Colorado Bar after appeal to Colorado Supreme Court.

1946    Married True Shibata.

1948-67 Journalist- Regional newspapers-Nisei View, Chicago; Rocky Mountain Shimpo; Colorado Times; Mountain Plains AJA News. 

1946-83 Active on the Commission on Community Relations. Under the administrations of Mayors Stapleton, Batterton, Nicholson, Currigan, and McNichols.  Executive Director 1967-83.

1974    Creation of Minoru Yasui community Service Award, honoring outstanding volunteers in the community.

1983    Filed writ of error coram nobis Feb 1, 1983.

1984    Donated papers to Metropolitan State College and Auraria Library Archives and Special Collections.

1986    Died November 12, 1986.  Buried in Hood River, Oregon.


Minoru Yasui was born on October 19, 1916 in Hood River Oregon. He was the third son of Masuo and Shidzuyo Yasui. He attended school in Hood River and graduated from high school in 1933. He received his B.A. in 1937 from the University of Oregon, and in 1939 he received his LL.B. from the University of Oregon Law School.

He was admitted to the Oregon Bar in September 1939 and practiced law in Portland until 1940 when he became Consular attaché, for the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. In Chicago he was active in community activities and led a Boy Scout troop.

On December 8, 1941, the day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Yasui resigned from this position. He returned to Oregon to report for active military duty but was never allowed to serve. On December 13, 1941, Masuo was arrested by the FBI, he was accused of being an "Enemy Alien." Masuo had been a prominent member of the Hood River Community, a successful businessman, a member of civic organizations and active in the Methodist church. With the arrest, his personal assets were frozen.

Yasui opened a law practice in Portland, during this turbulent time attempting to assist those of Japanese ancestry, who faced various problems. On February 19, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066. This empowered the U.S. military to take measures to protect the security of the United States and contained anti-Japanese racist sentiments. On March 23, 1942, General John DeWitt issued a Public Proclamation #3, which was a curfew order prohibiting persons of Japanese ancestry to move more than five miles from their usual place of abode. Minoru purposefully violated the Curfew Order to initiate a test case. He was arrested and released after a short time to the WCCA (Civilian Control Authority) and later the Minidaka War Relocation Authority center. 

On November 16, 1942, Minoru was found guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, by Judge James Alger Fee. Fee also ruled that Minoru was not a citizen of the United States. Fee levied a fine of $5,000 and sentenced Minoru to 1 year in Multnomah County Jail, in Portland. In August 1943, Minoru returned to Minidaka, WRA in Idaho and during the summer of 1944 he was released for employment in Chicago. He relocated to Denver in September 1944, here he attended the University of Denver law school for bar exam review. In June 1945 he passed the Colorado Bar examinations and was admitted to the Colorado Bar after an appeal to Colorado Supreme Court.

In November 1946, he married True Shibata, formerly of Mill Valley, California. She had relocated to Denver from the Amache Relocation Center in Granada, Colorado. They had three daughters Iris A. Moinat, Laurel Hawkins, and Holly Yasui. During his early years in Denver, Yasui practiced law, wrote columns for Japanese American Newspapers, and became active in community affairs. In 1946 he served as a member of a Mayor's committee which would become the Commission on Community Relations. He was a member from 1959 to 1967. In 1967 became Executive Director, serving in this position until 1983. 

During the 1960s, when many large cities were hurt badly by racial violence, the Commission on Community Relations under Yasui, worked closely with Black and Hispanic leadership in Denver so that racial problems would not erupt into violence. Denver had no major Race riots in the 1960s. The CCR was involved with other topics including, Human Services, Senior Citizen issues, mental health centers, unemployment, and police and fire fighter concerns.

As early as 1931 Yasui began his activities with the Japanese American Citizens' League. He was a charter member of the Mid-Columbia JACL in Hood River. In 1944 he was involved with the Tri-State JACL serving Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. In 1954 he served as District Chairman of the Mountain-Plains JACL this chapter includes Montana, New Mexico, and Texas in addition to the states of the Tri-State JACL. From 1976 to 1984 he worked with the National JACL Committee for Redress, serving as Chairman from 1981. The efforts of this committee eventually led to reparations payments to the survivors of the War Relocation Centers.

In 1983 Yasui filed a writ of error coram nobis in U.S. District Court of Oregon. The fact that the United States government in the 1940s had used inaccurate evidence against Yasui and other Japanese Americans was the basis for this case. A video production Unfinished Business details the evolution of three of these cases: Yasui, Fred Korematsu, and Gordon Hirabayashi.

After Yasui retired from the CCR he remained active in several community service organizations. Even before he retired, his dedication to the community was recognized by Denver civic leaders, and in 1974 the Minoru Yasui Community Service Award was created to honor other volunteers in the Denver area. The final years of his life were spent working on the case for Japanese American Redress. Minoru Yasui died November 12, 1986 in Denver, Colorado. He was buried in Hood River, Oregon.


The Minoru Yasui Collection was donated to the Auraria Library Archives and Special Collections Department by Mr. Yasui in 1984. After his death in 1986, additional materials were donated by Yasui's family. The collection spans the years 1927-1986 with the bulk of the material falling into the period of 1960-1986. The collection consists of personal, professional, and organizational records which document Yasui's many civic activities and interests as well as his involvement in the Japanese American community.

The personal material spans the period of 1927-1986 with the bulk of the information falling into the period of 1942-1986. This material includes correspondence and limited family records as well as material relating to Yasui's Coram Nobis case. There are a number of well organized folders relating to family vacations and business trips between 1959 and 1986.

The organizational and professional materials relate primarily to Yasui's involvement as Director of the Commission on Community Relations from 1967-1983, and as a member of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) from the 1940s through 1986. There are also significant materials which document Yasui's involvement in the Japanese American fight for Redress from the 1970s and 1980s. Additional materials pertain to Yasui's many contributions to numerous community and human rights organizations, most notably Denver Public Schools and People to People Corporation.

There are also several cartons of memorabilia such as photographs, Japanese American newspapers and newsletters, news clippings about Yasui, his Coram Nobis case, the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the fight for redress during the 1970s and 1980s. 

A substantial amount of material, approximately 50 cartons, relates to Yasui's legal practice. This material has been restricted due to its confidential nature.

Further information about Yasui can be found in the Auraria Library. The video, "Unfinished Business" and an audio recording, "Colorado Reflections" are available in the Media Center. John Tateishi's book, And Justice for All contains oral histories of Japanese Americans who were sent to relocation centers during World War II. It includes a chapter on Yasui. Stubborn Twig by Lauren Kessler is a biographical account of the Yasui family from its early days in Hood River, Oregon.

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