Where Past National JACL Conventions Have Been

By Harry Honda
Published April 18, 2008

A topic that has been aired in the past is on the table for consideration at the forthcoming national JACL convention in Salt Lake City: annual conventions. It might be of interest to ponder a problem raised 60 years ago by the late Tom Hayashi, New York delegate at Salt Lake City-1948, who called for a system to equalize expenses to send two chapter delegates to a national convention.

The council adopted the concept, referred it to the national board for study and approval at the next convention. The board proposed a JACL Convention Travel Pool — each chapter would pay a flat sum with distribution apportioned by the distance traveled.

For the first time West Coast chapters faced what East and Midwest chapters still face. Those chapters came west three times in a row: San Francisco-1952, Los Angeles-1954, San Francisco-1956, but not as far to Salt Lake City-1958, and then Sacramento-1960.

After Sacramento came Seattle-1962, conveniently combined with the World's Fair, and drew 400 delegates. Detroit-1964, perhaps the smallest membership-wise to host a national convention, registered 500 delegates. By now payoffs, so slight to West Coast chapters going east, doomed the travel pool plan.  

JACL conventions continued to favor the West Coast: San Diego-1966, San Jose-1968 with 900 delegates present and where Mayor Norman Mineta was declared Nisei of the Biennium to the surprise of old-timers who had favored then Rotary Club International president (in Tokyo) George Togasaki, a 1919 pre-JACL co-founder in San Francisco.

Chicago-1970 at the Palmer House was national JACL convention's darkest hour in history. As Jr. JACL and JACL convened together for the first time, on July 16 Evelynn Okubo, 18, of Stockton Jr. JACL was slain in her hotel room on the sixth floor by an apparent rapist. Her 17-year-old roommate, who got her throat slashed, survived. This case has never been solved by Chicago police.

Convention venues found us in Washington, D.C.-1972; Portland-1974; Sacramento-1976; and Salt Lake City-1978 to observe JACL's 50th anniversary. Keynoter Sen. S.I. Hayakawa, who knew about JACL's Redress campaign, told the press the next day that the national council's resolution asking for $25,000 per evacuee was "ridiculous" and that JACL "had no right to ask the U.S. government for reparations."

Delegates from the Japan and Hawaii chapters attended their first convention at San Francisco-1980.  The "red-eye" flight to Washington was special to witness President Carter sign the JACL bill to establish the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens.

After Gardena-1982, JACL held its first off-mainland convention: Honolulu-1984. Then Chicago-1986 and Seattle-1988 for another "red-eye" flight to Washington to witness President Reagan sign HR 442, JACL's Redress bill.

At San Diego-1990, JACL adopted its first million-dollar budget with "no dues increase." At Denver-1992, Lillian Kimura was elected the first woman national president. Over 800 registered at Salt Lake City-1994 with a record high 100 of 113 chapters present and voting. A $2 dues increase was attached to the new budget but passage required cuts in programs.

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