JACL Mourns Passing of Redress Leader Grayce Uyehara

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WASHINGTON — During her tenure as the executive director of the JACL Legislative Education Committee (JACL-LEC), Grayce Uyehara was known for her “Action Alerts” sent to JACL chapters and others, which provided updates on the status of the redress campaign, and more importantly, imparted upbeat inspiration to continuously motivate all who participated in the effort to successfully seek remedies for the injustice of the wartime incarceration.

Uyehara, 94, passed away on June 22, following a brief illness at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly, N.J.

Grayce Uyehara

Grayce Uyehara

Born Grayce Kaneda on July 4, 1919, in Stockton, she and her family were incarcerated at the Stockton Assembly Center and the Rohwer concentration camp in Arkansas during World War II.

A lifelong member of the JACL, Uyehara served in leadership positions at all levels of the organization, including president of the Philadelphia chapter and governor of the Eastern District Council, in addition to service on national JACL committees.

In 1985, she was appointed as the director of the JACL-LEC, which was established to lobby Congress and government officials for the final phases of the redress campaign. Upon her appointment, Uyehara said, “You have my commitment to redress and willingness to do the best I can. I ask for your support and patience … I do think that if the JACL wants redress … we have a good chance of reaching our goal.”

Uyehara became a catalyzing force in organizing the JACL effort by encouraging participation at all levels of the organization, including the LEC Board of Directors, JACL governors, JACL redress coordinators, JACL staff, and the JACL membership.

During the final phase of the campaign to get President Ronald Reagan to sign the redress bill, HR 442, Uyehara devised a plan to mobilize grassroots support by issuing her Action Alerts to inundate the White House with a letter-writing campaign. She declared, “The time has come to mount a massive campaign.” In her usual manner, she set high expectations, requesting 50,000 letters and 5,000 mailgrams.

Following Reagan’s signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Uyehara became the chairperson of the JACL Legacy Fund campaign, which raised over $5 million to be used to support JACL programs.

“The JACL will remember Grayce Uyehara for her dedication and persistence in pursuing issues of social justice for all Americans,” the organization said in a statement. “During a critical time for the Japanese American community, Grayce responded by using her enthusiasm and tenacity to successfully guide a campaign to secure redress legislation. And, as a fixture at JACL events, she served as a model of leadership for succeeding generations of Japanese Americans.”

Uyehara is survived by her husband Hiroshi; sons Paul, Christopher, and Laurence; daughter Lisa; a brother, a sister, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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