William Minoru Hohri (March 13, 1927 – November 12, 2010) was an American political activist, born to Japanese immigrants parents, who was sent to a concentration camp with his family after the Attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the US's entry into World War II. After leading a class action lawsuit seeking redress for the actions of the federal government in the Japanese American internment, which was dismissed, Hohri's advocacy helped convince Congress to pass legislation that provided compensation to each surviving internee. The legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan included an apology to those sent to the camps.
Hohri was born on March 13, 1927, in San Francisco to parents who had immigrated into the United States. He spent the first few years of his life in an orphanage after both of his parents were stricken with tuberculosis and when he was returned to his family was fluent only in English, a language that his parents were unable to speak. When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, Hohri was a student at North Hollywood High School. His father was detained the day after the attack and sent to an internment camp in Fort Missoula, Montana. Under the terms of Executive Order 9066 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in February 1942 and later upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, Hohri was sent to the Manzanar internment camp in a remote area of California together with the rest of his family and the more than 100,000 other Japanese Americans who had been swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment that was whipped up by the Japanese attack on the U.S. He completed high school in the camp and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago after he was released. By profession, Hohri worked as a computer programmer.
Calling the U.S. government's actions "consistent with the general pattern of discrimination already established" on a de facto basis before the war, Hohri became active in efforts to obtain compensation to those who had been interned and an official apology for the policy. As head of the National Council for Japanese American Redress, Hohri was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that sought $27 billion in damages for the class of individuals held in the internment camps, but the case was ultimately unsuccessful. In the wake of Hohri's efforts, the United States Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, under which an apology was offered and each surviving internee received $20,000 in compensation, which Hohri used to buy a Japanese-made car. The American Book Awards recognized him in 1989 for his book Repairing America: An Account of the Movement for Japanese American Redress.
A resident of Los Angeles, Hohri died at the age of 83 on November 12, 2010, due to complications of Alzheimer's disease at his home there in Pacific Palisades. He was survived by his wife, as well as by two daughters, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
- Woo, Elaine. "William Hohri, 83; led battle for redress after being interned at Manzanar: The civil rights leader who was sent to the Japanese American internment camp during World War II went on to file a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government.", Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2010. Accessed November 24, 2010.
- The Manzanar state historical plaque describes the camp as both a concentration camp and internment center. "The Manzanar Controversy", PBS, no date, accessed December 3, 2010
- Martin, Douglas. "William Hohri Dies at 83; Sought Money for Internees", The New York Times, November 24, 2010. Accessed November 25, 2010.
- Staff. "18 Authors Are Recipients Of American Book Awards", The New York Times, July 2, 1989. Accessed November 24, 2010.
- "Army Secretary Lionizes 22 World War II Heroes" at Defense.gov
- Bullinger, Lt. Col. James Bullinger, SETAF Public Affairs Officer (May 31, 2002). "SETAF honors WWII Asian-Pacific Medal of Honor recipients" (Press release). United States Army Southern European Task Force.