Editor’s note: Karen Korematsu is the daughter of Fred Korematsu (1919-2005) and co-founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. Following is her reaction to the death of Gordon Hirabayashi on Jan. 2 at age 93.

Karen Korematsu

With Gordon’s passing, I’m sad for many reasons with the realization that three great champions of civil rights, including Min Yasui and my father, are no longer with us.

Gordon, Min and my father lived their lives by the principles they stood up for in the face of adversity, and their contribution to social justice will live on in perpetuity.

The picture that stays in my mind is the day of the national press conference on Jan. 19, 1983 at the Press Club in San Francisco introducing Gordon, Min and my father as the petitioners for writ of coram nobis and announcing to the world the reopening of their original U.S. Supreme Court cases. I realized at that time these three men were as different in personality as the sun, the moon and the stars.

Gordon was the professor and philosophical, Min was the attorney and his comments were of a legal nature, and my father was your typical working man whose beliefs were simple but profound. These three men may have come from different walks of life, but their common thread was their unwavering fight for civil rights, not just for themselves and the Japanese Americans that were interned during World War II, but for the future of all Americans.

In later years, as I heard Gordon, Min and my father speak at different times and to various audiences around the country, I could see how their stories and messages were inspiring to all who listened. They all are American civil rights heroes, and at times like these it is important to remind America of the great people in history who have made a difference by “standing up for what is right.”

I fondly will remember Gordon for his determination, philosophy and peaceful manner. I miss my father every day and my heart goes out to Gordon’s family at this sad time. Also, I was sorry to learn that Gordon’s children had lost their mother the same day of Gordon’s passing.

For those of us who actually knew Gordon, Min and my father, they will live in our hearts forever and we can continue to honor them by ensuring their spirit and legacy is passed on to future generations. We will miss them all. A chapter has been closed and the torch has been passed …

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