Auburn man who refused Japanese internment to receive Medal of Freedom

White HouseUniversity of WashingtonWorld War II (1939-1945)FBI

A Washington man and Auburn High School graduate is among 13 Americans due to receive the 2012 Medal of Freedom.

The late Gordon Hirabayashi refused to report to an internment camp along with his fellow Japanese-Americans when he was an undergraduate at the University of Washington during WW II. He instead surrendered to the FBI in order to argue Japanese internment was racially discriminatory, the White House said in a statement.

A U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle later convicted Hirabayashi of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew— a conviction he appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The high court ruled against him in 1943 but an appeals court overturned his conviction in 1987. In the intervening years, Hirabayashi obtained his doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor.

He died January 2, 2012.

President Barack Obama will grant the medal to Hirabayashi’s representative and the 12 other recipients in late spring.

 “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation,” President Obama said. “They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

Click here for more on the 2012 Medal of Freedom recipients.

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