The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is proud to announce that William T. Fujioka has been named the JANM Board of Trustees chair.
Fujioka is a third-generation Japanese American who started his 44-year career in public service working for the county of Santa Cruz while attending UC Santa Cruz in the early 1970s. After graduating in 1974, he interned with the Los Angeles Police Department.
In 1978, he left the city and spent the next 19 years working for Los Angeles County in various administrative and management positions across five different departments. In 1999, he was appointed city administrative officer for the city of Los Angeles, the first person of color to hold that office.
He initially retired in February 2007, but returned to public service in July when he was appointed the first chief executive officer for Los Angeles County. He again was the first person of color to hold the top position in the county. He managed 30 of the county’s 37 departments, oversaw the county’s $27 billion budget, and navigated the county through the Great Recession in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors.
He retired from public service on Nov. 30, 2014.
Fujioka’s paternal grandfather, Fred Jiro Fujioka, was a prominent pioneer in the Little Tokyo community. Prior to World War II, he owned and operated the largest Oldsmobile dealership in the western U.S. and sold cars, trucks, and tractors to Japanese farmers, business owners, and families. He was wrongly accused of being a war criminal at the onset of the war and lost everything.
When the U.S. entered the war, Fujioka’s father was a freshman at UC Berkeley. After enlisting in the Army on April 1, 1942, he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s Cannon Company. Upon returning home from the war as a decorated veteran, he married Fujioka’s mother, Linda.
Linda Fujioka participated in the initial fundraising effort for JANM and was a longtime volunteer and docent. While raising two sons, she worked in a flower shop and later, as a teacher’s aide. She eventually returned to school in her forties and earned her BA degree and teaching credential from CSU Los Angeles. She taught full-time in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 17 years and was a substitute teacher into her late eighties.
She was a positive influence on many young lives and instilled her passion for helping others in her two sons.
Fujioka is married to Darlene Kuba and has a son, Jason. His brother Fred recently retired as a judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Fujioka succeeds the late Norman Y. Mineta, former U.S. secretary of transporation, who served as chair of the Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2022. Mineta served on the Board of Governors from 1988 to 1995 and was chair of the Board of Governors from 2010 to 2015. A trustee since 1996, he passed away on May 3 at his home in Edgewater, Md. In honor of Mineta’s exceptional leadership, he has been appointed chair emeritus.
“It is my great honor to follow Secretary Norm Mineta as JANM’s board chair,” said Fujioka. “Secretary Mineta was a strong champion for social justice and it’s my goal to continue this important effort. JANM’s mission is to preserve the story, struggles, and accomplishments of the Japanese American community.
“It’s also our responsibility to be a strong voice and advocate against not only anti-Asian hate but any form of hate directed against all communities regardless of race, color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. We will continue and increase our efforts to stand for social justice and equality for all.
“It’s also an amazing honor to work with Ann Burroughs and all the amazing staff at JANM.”
“Bill brings a depth of leadership and a record of exceptional professional experience at the highest levels of public service to his role as chair,” said Burroughs, president and CEO of JANM. “He is also a true visionary with a deep commitment to JANM’s mission and to the importance of elevating our presence on the local and national stage. His collaborative spirit, sage counsel, and boundless energy will be invaluable as we advance our core mission and work towards a more just future for all.
“We are indeed fortunate to have a chair of Bill’s caliber following in Norm’s footsteps and it will be my privilege to work closely with him in the future.”