"Some of my friends, and some who are not my friends, also call me Moses. Moses Masaoka. They say that like the Biblical prophet, I have led my people on a long journey through the wilderness of discrimination and travail."
-- from "They Call Me Moses Masaoka"
Mike Masaru Masaoka was born on October 15, 1915 in Fresno, California. The family moved to Salt Lake City where Masaoka legally changed his first name to "Mike." He became a champion debater and graduated in 1937 from the University of Utah in economics and political science. At the age of 25, Masaoka was named National Secretary and Field Executive of the JACL just before the outbreak of WWII.
Masaoka was a key player in JACL's decision to cooperate with the forced expulsion, and in his position as a national spokesman he opposed legal challenges to the government, advised the government on how to run the camps, and advocated the segregation of so-called "troublemakers." The government used him as their liaison with the entire Japanese American population in the camps, although he himself was never imprisoned in a camp. Masaoka led the call for drafting the Nisei out of the camps, and when the government agreed at first to create a segregated volunteer unit, Masaoka served as the unitıs publicist.
In 1952 Masaoka successfully lobbied for naturalized citizenship for the Issei as part of a bill otherwise opposed by civil libertarians. He represented JACL as a founding member of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, and joined Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington. With his own consulting firm, Mike Masaoka Associates, he also lobbied on behalf of American and Japanese commercial interests. In 1972 he left JACL to become a full-time lobbyist. His autobiography, THEY CALL ME MOSES MASAOKA, written with Bill Hosokawa, was published in 1987. Masaoka passed away in Washington, DC in 1991.