Former National JACL President Murakami Dies at 85

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SAN FRANCISCO — Leaders and members of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) were saddened by the passing of James Fumio Murakami, past JACL national president, on April 28. He was 85.

James Murakami

Murakami, a Nisei, was born in Santa Rosa on Sept. 7, 1926 and grew up in Sonoma County.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he and his family were incarcerated for three years, first in Merced and then in Amache, Colo. After serving in the U.S. military, He entered and later graduated from UC Berkeley.

Murakami owned his own electrical/mechanical engineering business in Santa Rosa for over 40 years. He designed and installed heating and air conditioning systems in public schools, Catholic churches, and commercial buildings.

In addition to his business and helping to raise a family, he was active in giving back to his community. He served as national president of JACL from 1976 to 1978, an important period for redress. There was disagreement within the organization over whether to pursue monetary compensation for the unjust incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese heritage during World War II. In 1978, JACL passed a resolution calling for redress.

Over the next decade, Murakami was instrumental in working for the passage of the redress legislation, which provided an apology from the U.S. government to former internees as well as $20,000 payments. He continued to be active in his local JACL chapter and regularly attended National JACL conventions.

Murakami was a charter member and past president of the East Rotary organization. He loved to participate in activities that helped others. In addition to attending Enman No Tomo gatherings, where he visited with friends and played poker, he also enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, family and friends, as well as striper fishing, reading, gardening, and watching the Giants on TV with his wife.

Floyd Mori, national executive director of JACL, stated, “Jim was a great friend who served the JACL well. It was my privilege to know him for many years, and I have valued his ideals and views. I would like to express the deepest condolences to the family from myself and the JACL as an organization. He will be greatly missed.”

National JACL President David Kawamoto added, “We are grateful for the service that Jim gave to the JACL and his support of redress. We will miss his presence at JACL functions.”

Murakami leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Margarette; son, Alan (Renee); daughter, Kimiye; grandchildren, Michael, Mark, Danny and Ray; sister, Fuji Kamatani; and many relatives and friends.

A memorial service is planned for Sunday, May 20, at 3 p.m. at Sebastopol Community Church, 1000 Gravenstein Hwy. North, Sebastopol. Donations may be made to the organization of one’s choice.

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