Fred Korematsu Google Doodle by artist Sophie Diao

Fred Korematsu Google Doodle by artist Sophie Diao

In honor of a new day of remembrance in Arizona, all are invited to an event in one week celebrating the life and achievements of Fred T. Korematsu.

On Tuesday, January 30, the Arizona Asian American Bar Association hosts a reception honoring the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” It will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at District American Kitchen in the Sheraton Grand Hotel, 340 N. 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004.

The event is free and open to all, but an RSVP is requested. Write to Thomas Chiang at

The honor and event are possible because Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed Tuesday, January 30, 2018 to be Fred T. Korematsu Day in Arizona. At the reception, the AAABA board will present the proclamation to Fred’s son, Ken – a well-known speaker on the Supreme Court case United States v. Korematsu.

According to the Fred Korematsu Institute, Arizona is the seventh state to declare this day of commemoration by proclamation. Four others – the first being California – established the day in perpetuity via legislation.

In case you know little about the matters that underlie that case, here is information from event organizers and those who advocated for the commemoration:

The following gives a short background on Fred T. Korematsu and the Japanese Internment Camps in Arizona. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. EO 9066 authorized internment camps for people, including American-born citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry. Approximately 3,200 resident aliens of Italian descent were arrested and more than 300 were interned. Approximately 11,000 persons of German descent were arrested and more than 5,000 were interned. Some of the persons of German descent were American citizens.

Japanese Americans in the Western Defense Area were ordered to report in much larger numbers. More than 121,000 people of Japanese descent were interned. Two-thirds were American born citizens. One fourth of those interned – more than 30,000 of the Japanese Americans – were moved from California and interned in Arizona. More than 13,000 were interned near Phoenix on the Gila River Indian Reservation, and more than 17,000 were interned at the Poston Relocation Center on the Colorado River Indian Tribe Reservation. The camps were opened in 1942 and closed in 1946.

Fred T. Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fred T. Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fred T. Korematsu was one of the many American-born citizens ordered to report to internment camps. He refused – and was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for his refusal. In a landmark decision, six of President Roosevelt’s eight appointees to the United States Supreme Court upheld Mr. Korematsu’s conviction, which stood until 1983. See Korematsu v. U.S., 324 U.S. 885 (1945). Almost 40 years later, a federal judge ruled that in 1945, the government’s lawyers knowingly gave false information to the Supreme Court. Because the false information had a material impact on the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, Mr. Korematsu’s conviction was vacated by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco. See Korematsu v. U.S., 584 F. Supp. 1406 (N.D. Cal. 1984).

Judge Patel’s ruling cleared Korematsu’s name, but was incapable of overturning the Supreme Court’s decision.

Fred Korematsu was able to testify at that hearing:

“I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color. … If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.”

Peter Irons described Korematsu’s ending statement during the case as the most powerful statement he’d ever heard from anyone. He found the statement as empowering as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to Korematsu in 1998.

You may recall that Google recognized Fred Korematsu Day in 2017 with its “Google Doodle” by artist Sophie Diao. It featured Korematsu wearing his Presidential Medal of Freedom, internment camps at his back, while surrounded by cherry blossoms – flowers that have come to be symbols of peace and friendship between the US and Japan.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. And what better day to bring news of a nascent annual event: Social Media Day.

This nationwide phenomenon had its Phoenix interpretation occur in the downtown Sheraton Hotel. There, at least 500 gathered to exchange ideas and Twitter handles. And there were snacks.

I attended, expecting to gather some information on the topic and maybe the names of some experts and companies who might lend advice to Arizona Attorney Magazine’s social media efforts.

It turns out, though, that social media people really enjoy a good party. And that’s what it was. Yes, there was exchanging of information, but the lines for the bar and the photo-booth were the longest. Interest was high in garnering a gift bag at the registration desk, and the wandering waiters with the snazzy canapés were the most popular moguls in the place.

None of that is a critique, though. It was a great event, exactly what a Thursday evening called for, and I look forward to attending again in the future.

Here are a few more photos from the shindig. Want to see more? Search Twitter; they’re all over the place. Have a great weekend.

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Sahara Inn, Phoenix

Let’s get the disclosure bit out of the way right up front:

I sit on the board of an organization—the Downtown Voices Coalition—that seeks to improve downtown Phoenix. Among the many things we have done is to advocate with the City on historic preservation issues—including on a building that the City itself owns—and right now is demolishing.

On May 5, I received my occasional missive from the City of Phoenix Public Information Office. It included a list of story pitches. One in particular, the last on the list, caught my eye.

“New Businesses in Old Buildings”

“The city of Phoenix Adaptive Reuse Program is one of the most comprehensive programs in the country to encourage turning older buildings into new businesses. This process is the ultimate in recycling and sustainability, and it helps our economy and offers new amenities for residents. Recent projects include The Parlor, St. Francis Place, America’s Tacos and many others.”

“Contact: Michael Hammett, at 602-495-5405 or”

Demolition, May 12, 2010

All of the examples, of course, are private ventures spread across the City. But what happens when the property is actually City-owned?

Well, we found out about four hours ago. That’s when the heavy equipment moved in and began demolishing the vintage Ramada Hotel, originally known as the Sahara.

Demolition, May 12, 2010

The City gave some reasons for this irreversible action, but it really came down to the short-term need for more parking downtown (for the, you guessed it, City-owned Sheraton Hotel). And the long-term plan? A downtown site for the Arizona State University law school.

Having the law school downtown may be a great idea. But if there is one thing downtown already has plenty of, it’s a wealth of empty lots. Once again, a plan only made sense to powerful interests if it could be sited exactly on the spot where something cool already sits.

Cool? Well, yes. Marilyn Monroe stayed there, among many others. It was built by none other than Del Webb. And the structure itself is—was—a remarkable example of mid-century modern architecture. Hidden beneath some stucco was a change-inducing building, which could have contributed greatly to a bustling downtown, including ASU’s own students.

Phoenix Sheraton: Tall but underparked

This afternoon, though, we’ve got another empty lot, part of an enduring and painful legacy left behind by the City’s current leaders.

Adaptive reuse? Historic preservation? It remains dead last on this City’s list.

For some background—coming too late—here is an article from the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

And here is a great history of a downtown gem.