The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles issued the following statement on the death of James Hodgson on Nov. 28 at the age of 96 at his Malibu home. He was secretary of labor from 1970 to 1973 under President Richard Nixon and U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1974 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford.
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Ambassador James Day Hodgson, who was a dear friend, supporter and guiding light for the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.
Ambassador Hodgson’s association with the JACCC dates to the center’s earliest period, even before a site had been secured for its facilities in Little Tokyo. He recounted at the JACCC’s 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2005 that while serving as the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo in 1974, two unannounced visitors had come by his office seeking assistance. He met with them because they were Japanese American and from Los Angeles.
George J. Doizaki and Katsuma Mukaeda, the center’s founding president and chairman, as yet had not developed plans nor had raised any money. But at their meeting, they convinced him that they had a dream worth supporting. The ambassador provided them with a car and driver, and through his introduction the two were able to secure appointments with leading industrialists, politicians and government officials.
Nothing was more typical of Ambassador Hodgson than that large-hearted magnanimity and behind-the-scenes support.
Returning to Los Angeles in 1977, he became actively engaged in the JACCC, participating in the center’s groundbreaking, and attracting to the JACCC Board of Directors key business leaders, including Franklin D. Murphy, then publisher of The Los Angeles Times.
The Ambassadors Room at the Aratani Japan America Theatre was named for Ambassador Hodgson and Ambassador (Nobuhiko) Ushiba of Japan, for their effort in securing contributions from Japanese companies to help build the theater.
It was also through his leadership that the JACCC Ambassadors Council, a key support group where Japanese and American business leaders could meet in an informal setting, was established. He remained chairman emeritus of the Ambassadors Council until his passing. His lovely wife Maria served on the JACCC Board until 2006.
The JACCC owes so much of its existence to Ambassador James Day Hodgson, and we thank him for his quiet leadership throughout the years.
On behalf of the board and staff of the JACCC, we express our sincere condolences to Maria, the Hodgson family, and to the many friends he leaves behind.
Sandra Sakamoto, Chair, Board of Directors