By Deborah Schoch, Times Staff Writer
October 8, 2006
While Lane Ryo Hirabayashi was growing up, he heard family stories of how his uncle Gordon defied the World War II internment of Japanese Americans in a case that decades later helped prompt a historic congressional apology.
At a UCLA celebration Saturday, Hirabayashi took his own place in Japanese American cultural history as the first professor in the nation to hold an academic chair dedicated to the study of the internment.
To me, I feel that this is a family obligation,” the 53-year-old anthropologist said.
On hand to salute the new Aratani chair and Hirabayashi was a large group of prominent Japanese American scholars, artists and political and business leaders.
Some were former internees. Some knew Gordon Hirabayashi, who went to prison in 1942 for refusing to obey a curfew. Their stories and his family’s will be studied in his nephew’s courses by undergraduates born too late to hear stories from relatives who were adults during World War II.
On a sun-dappled campus patio, well-wishers greeted longtime friends and praised George and Sakaye Aratani, among the largest donors to Japanese American educational and cultural causes. The Los Angeles couple gave $500,000 to fund the Aratani chair and strengthen the study of the relocation of 120,000 Japanese Americans, as well as postwar efforts to redress that wrong, and the Japanese American community. (more…)