In Memory of Angus Macbeth

March 10, 2017 • Columnists

By Gerald Yamada, Contributor

On March 6, 2017, I, together with Michelle Amano, JACL vp for general operations; Grant Ujifusa, the chief strategist for the JACL Redress Committee that secured passage of the Civil Liberties Act (aka “Redress”) and co-author of the “Almanac of American Politics”; John Tobe, former president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of JACL; and Nancy Yamada joined about 200 guests to celebrate the life of Angus Macbeth in the main nave of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The majestic setting of the National Cathedral matched the importance of Angus’ significant contributions to the environmental movement and his drafting of the 1982 report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, chaired by the Hon. Jodie Bernstein. Angus was special counsel to the Redress Commission.

The four tributes given at the ceremony made mention of how deeply touched and offended Angus was by Executive Order 9066 and the unfair treatment of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II. The speakers spoke about how intent Angus was in drafting the Redress Report entitled “Personal Justice Denied” so that the readers would clearly understand the facts behind Executive Order 9066.

In addition to drafting the whole report, Angus is specially credited with formulating two important findings in the report.

The first finding was that Executive Order 9066 and the actions taken under its authority were motivated by “prejudice, war hysteria and lack of political leadership.”

The second finding was that “not a single documented act of espionage, sabotage or fifth column activity was committed by an American citizen of Japanese ancestry or by a resident Japanese alien on the West Coast.”

The Redress Report and those findings provided the foundation that resulted in Congress passing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

I am fortunate to have known Angus for many years. Angus was the chief of the environmental enforcement section at the Justice Department when I was hired in 1977 by Jodie Bernstein, who was then general counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Later, when Angus and I were partners with different private law firms, Angus asked me to collaborate on one of his client matters involving the EPA.

Through my personal dealings with him over the years, I found Angus to have a powerful intellect, compassion and a tremendous sense of humor.

The Japanese American community owes Angus a huge debt of gratitude for his work on the Redress Report that must not be forgotten. At age 74, he was taken from us far too soon, and he will be missed.

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