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County Council Memorializes Gordon Hirabayashi’s Act of Courage and Resistance


Plaque near Hirabayashi’s jail cell recognizes his refusal to comply with unjust order


 Jay Hirabayashi with Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski
standing next to the plaque of Jay’s Father, Gordon Hirabayashi

Along with the family of the late Gordon Hirabayashi, Metropolitan King County Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski unveiled a plaque honoring Hirabayashi in the County Council’s lobby, just steps away from where Hirabayashi was imprisoned for refusing to comply with Executive Order 9066, 75 years ago.

On May 16, 1942, Hirabayashi was arrested and confined in the King County Jail for defying Executive Order 9066, which ordered the forced removal of Japanese-Americans. Hirabayashi was imprisoned for nine months on the 12th floor of the King County Courthouse. While part of the floor is still used by the jail, another part currently houses the King County Council.

“Today is really significant for our family, to have my dad’s sojourn recognized as a significant stand for the rights of all Americans,” said Jay Hirabayashi, son of Gordon Hirabayashi.

“As Mr. Hirabayashi reminded us, his case was ’an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans,’” said Dembowski. “By commemorating Mr. Hirabayashi’s noble stand and personal sacrifice of liberty, we keep alive his courage and faith in the Constitution, and we remind ourselves of the importance of protecting our principles.”

Executive Order 9066 forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This included 9,600 Japanese-American residents of King County.

“When Gordon decided to take his principled stand – his belief was always that ancestry was not a crime, and he was willing to pay the price,” Tom Ikeda, Executive Director of Densho: the Japanese American Legacy Project. “I thank the King County Council for acknowledging and paying tribute to Gordon and his life, as it is now more important than ever to recognize his fight.”

Also in attendance at today’s ceremony were members of Hirabayashi’s legal team, who successfully fought to overturn his conviction in the 1980s.

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