Wayne M. Collins

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Wayne M. Collins
Born (1899-11-23)November 23, 1899[1]
Sacramento, California
Died July 16, 1974(1974-07-16) (aged 74)
Nationality American
Occupation Civil Rights Attorney

Wayne Mortimer Collins (November 23, 1899 – July 16, 1974) was a civil rights attorney who worked on cases related to the Japanese American evacuation and internment.


Collins was born in Sacramento, California, and was raised and educated in San Francisco.[2] He earned his law degree from San Francisco Law School.[3]

Politically liberal, Collins was one of the founders of the Northern California ACLU and served as its director.[1] He became a leader in the legal fight against persecution of Japanese Americans, during and after World War II, even enlisting a number of conservative colleagues (such as attorney Ted Tamba) to work with him.

With Ernest Besig of the Northern California ACLU, Collins led Fred Korematsu's constitutional challenge to the Internment beginning in 1942, and culminating before the U.S. Supreme Court (Korematsu v. United States) in 1944.[4]

In August 1945, Collins began advising Japanese American internees deceived or coerced into renouncing their American citizenship under the Renunciation Act of 1944 of their legal rights. On November 13, 1945, Collins filed two mass class equity suits (Abo v. Clark, No. 25294 and Furuya v. Clark, No. 25295) and two mass class habeas corpus proceedings (Abo v. Williams, No. 25296 and Furuya v. Williams, No. 25297) in the U.S. District Court of San Francisco. These cases sought to determine nationality, prevent removal to Japan, end internment, and cancel renunciation.[5] Adopting Collins' arguments, Federal Judge Louis E. Goodman found the mass renunciations unconstitutional, stating: "It is shocking to the conscience that an American citizen be confined without authority and while so under duress and restraint for this government to accept from him a surrender of his constitutional heritage."[6] "Not even the hysterics and exigencies of war", Goodman had warned in his opinion, "excused the government for the egregious constitutional wrongs it had committed by imprisoning citizens not charged with a crime".[7]

When the federal appeals court decided that each renunciant's case had to be individually decided, Collins embarked on a 20-year campaign, filing thousands of court cases to successfully recover the renunciants' citizenships.[6][8]

Collins also represented some 3,000 Japanese Latin Americans kidnapped by the U.S. during the war to be bartered for American prisoners of war.[9] While most were deported after the war as "undesirable aliens", Collins successfully enabled hundreds to remain and make their homes in America.[6]

Collins, with Besig and Tomba, also defended Iva Toguri D'Aquino. She was convicted of being "Tokyo Rose"[6] (who actually never existed), through the use of perjured testimony and falsified evidence, having been prosecuted by the FDR Administration in the most expensive trial in American history (as of that time). Even following her release from prison a decade later, Collins continued his efforts to get her name cleared.

Collins died on July 16, 1974 on a plane bound to Honolulu, Hawaii.[10] Collins' son, Wayne Merrill Collins, took on some of the cases his father was actively working on at the time of his death.[11] This included the filing of a presidential pardon petition for Iva Toguri D'Aquino, which President Gerald R. Ford granted during his final days in office.[12]


Although largely unknown to the general public, Collins' relentless efforts on behalf of the Japanese American renunciants have been recognized in various posthumous honors and dedications.[13] For example, the poet Hiroshi Kashiwagi dedicated his book Swimming in the American: a Memoir and Selected Writings to Collins, saying that he "rescued me as an American and restored my faith in America".[14] In the dedication for her influential book Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps, former internee Michi Nishiura Weglyn[15] wrote that Collins "... did more to correct a democracy's mistake than any other one person".


  1. ^ a b McClain, Charles (1994). The Mass Internment of Japanese Americans and the Quest for Legal Redress. Taylor & Francis. p. 482. ISBN 9780815318668. 
  2. ^ Ng, Wendy (2002). Japanese American internment during World War II: a history and reference guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 132. ISBN 0-313-31375-X. 
  3. ^ Collins, Donald E. (1985). Native American Aliens: Disloyalty and the Renunciation of Citizenship by Japanese Americans during World War II. Praeger. p. 4. ISBN 9780313247118. 
  4. ^ Maki, Mitchell T.; Kitano, Harry H. L.; Berthold, S. Megan (1999). Achieving the impossible dream: how Japanese Americans obtained redress. University of Illinois Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-252-06764-8. 
  5. ^ "Guide to the Wayne M. Collins Papers, 1918-1974 (bulk 1945-1960): Tule Lake Defense Committee History". Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Japanese Americans, the Civil Rights Movement and Beyond" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-10. 
  7. ^ Christgau, John (February 1985). "Collins versus the World: The Fight to Restore Citizenship to Japanese American Renunciants of World War II". Pacific Historical Review. University of California Press. 54 (1): 1–31. JSTOR 3638863. 
  8. ^ O'Brien, David J.; Fugita, Stephen (1991). The Japanese American experience. Indiana University Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-253-20656-1. 
  9. ^ "Japanese Latin Americans" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  10. ^ Niiya, Brian (1993). Japanese American history: an A-to-Z reference from 1868 to the present. Verlag für die Deutsche Wirtschaft AG. p. 120. ISBN 0-8160-2680-7. 
  11. ^ Yamato, Sharon (October 21, 2014). "Carrying the Torch: Wayne Collins Jr. on His Father's Defense of the Renunciants". Discover Nikkei. 
  12. ^ Hirai, Tomo (May 14, 2015), "JA org honors those who paved a path home", Nichi Bei Weekly 
  13. ^ Nao, Gunji (2005). "Loyalty Redefined on Day of Remembrance". 
  14. ^ Nakao, Annie (April 26, 2005). "Pioneering poet, playwright and actor focuses on his life in his first book -- at age 82". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  15. ^ Nash, Phil Tajitsu (April 29, 1999). "Michi Weglyn, 1926-1999". 

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