Dr. Tom Tamaki

It is sad to see our early leaders of the JACL, our Nisei pioneers, leave this life. Dr. Tom Tamaki of the Philadelphia Chapter passed away at his home in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He served the JACL well and is credited with establishing the Mike M. Masaoka Fellowship. He deserves a huge thank you.

Mike Masaoka was the Washington, D.C. Rep for the JACL for many years. He was the only administrative staff member of the JACL when World War II began, and he served in the 442 during the war. Mike is credited with most of the civil rights achievements of the JACL in its earliest years and after the war was over. He worked tirelessly to change laws and gain rights for his fellow Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents.

Being a close friend and supporter of Mike Masaoka and realizing his great contributions to the JACL and the Japanese American community, Dr. Tamaki had a vision for the JACL to provide a fellowship named for Mike Masaoka to a deserving college graduate to provide the experience of working on Capitol Hill. He and other friends of Mike were able to establish the longest running fellowship of the JACL in honor of their friend. They donated and collected funds to begin offering a young person the unique opportunity to work in the Washington, D.C. office of a member of Congress.

The description of the Fellowship reads on the JACL website:  The Mike M. Masaoka Fellowship Fund was established in 1988 to honor Mike M. Masaoka (1915-1991) for a lifetime of outstanding public service in promoting justice, civil rights, and human dignity. The purpose of the Fund is to develop leaders for public service by providing opportunities for recently graduated students (of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs) and young professionals to work for a member of Congress. The Fellows’ assignments include a variety of tasks where they will be exposed to all facets of the work of the Representative or Senator and his/her staff.

After the Masaoka Fellowship Fund was established, Dr. Tamaki ran the program (with the help of a committee to select the recipients of the Fellowships) for twenty years. He was regularly seen at JACL Conventions announcing and introducing the Masaoka Fellows. At about the age of ninety, he turned the operation of the Masaoka Fellowship over to the JACL DC Office. His service and dedication to the Masaoka Fellowship and to the development of young leaders within the JACL are commendable and should be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Tamaki was born in Eatonville, WA on October 7, 1917. He was 97 when he passed on July 3, 2015. He is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Marion Miyazaki Tamaki, four children, nine grandchildren, and a brother and a sister.  Condolences to the family.

by S. Floyd Mori
JACL, Executive Director Emeritus

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