LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Remembering Sen. Spark Matsunaga


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on August 24, 2011.)


Dear Editor,

In the run-up to the Heart Mountain opening, former Sen. Alan Simpson said some embarrassingly good things about me and my role in redress to a Wyoming newspaper.

Sen. Spark Matsunaga

This was all very nice, but on the Senate floor in the spring of 1988, Simpson voted for an amendment offered by Sen. Jesse Helms to strip all of the money out of our bill. Had that amendment passed, and it had more support than anyone suspected, redress would have meant nothing. Simpson later voted for the final bill with the money in it.

The only real Senate redress hero is the now forgotten Sen. Spark Matsunaga (1916-1990), who after three years of intense work, nailed down 71 of the 72 co-sponsors of the Senate bill—an achievement celebrated by Sen. Dan Inouye in a floor speech on the day of passage. The 72nd co-sponsor was Alan Simpson, whose assent was obtained by someone who was not a member of Congress.

Japanese Americans should remember what Spark Matsunaga did for our community and our place in American history. That great and gentle man should not be someone forgotten among us nor among scholars of redress to come.


Grant Ujifusa
JACL-LEC (Legislative Education Committee) Strategy Chair, 1983-93
Chappaqua, N.Y.



  1. Shortly before his death, Senator Daniel Inouye said this in
    the Hawaii Herald:

    “The man who should take nearly all of the credit for the
    passage of the redress bill is Sen. Sparky Matsunaga. He
    is the one who sponsored the bill and organized the vote on
    that in the Senate. If Sen. Matsunaga’s efforts were to be
    weighted at 10, mine would be one.”

    This means, as I more than suggested in my letter, that the
    the Cub Scout (Norman Mineta)-Boy Scout (Alan Simpson)
    story of how redress got through the House and Senate has
    no factual basis.

    Grant Ujifusa
    JACL Legislative Strategy Chair
    Chappaqua, New York

  2. Thank you Grant for remembering Sparky who was one of the greatest men I have met in my life. I give him a special treatment in my books American Samurais in Europe and in the Pacific. Again Mahalo.
    Pierre Moulin

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