Newsman Bill Hosokawa defeated bias, his own anger
Forget about journalism, an adviser at the University of Washington once urged young Bill Hosokawa in the 1930s. No newspaper would hire...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Forget about journalism, an adviser at the University of Washington once urged young Bill Hosokawa in the 1930s. No newspaper would hire a reporter of Japanese background, the adviser predicted.
"It only made him more determined," said Mr. Hosokawa's daughter, Christie Harveson, of Sequim. "Writing was what he loved to do, and he would stick with it."
And despite plenty of such obstacles, the Seattle native went on to forge a career that included editing a newspaper while held in a World War II relocation camp, writing 10 books, working 38 years at The Denver Post, teaching at four universities and receiving many awards for his journalism and his advocacy for Japanese Americans.
Mr. Hosokawa, 92, died Friday at his daughter's home in Sequim, where he had lived the past four months.
William Kumpai Hosokawa was born Jan. 30, 1915, in Seattle to parents who had emigrated from Japan. He graduated from Garfield High School, then earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the UW in 1937.
It turns out his college adviser was right — at least at the time. Unable to land work at any metropolitan newspaper in the country, Mr. Hosokawa and his wife, Alice, moved in 1938 to Asia, where he worked for an English-language newspaper in Singapore and later a magazine in Shanghai, China.
Just weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he returned to Seattle amid growing prejudice against those of Japanese descent.
The 1942 federal order sending thousands of Japanese Americans to camps "was something they anticipated might happen," Harveson said. "But still, it came as a shock that they actually would have to go and give up everything and go."
Mr. Hosokawa was 27 when he, his wife and their infant son were sent to Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, where he organized and edited a weekly newspaper. In 1943, he was released from camp to work on the copy desk at The Des Moines Register in Iowa.
After the war he went to work for The Denver Post, serving as a war correspondent in Korea and Vietnam, columnist, assistant managing editor, editorial-page editor, associate editor and, for 25 years, editor of the paper's Sunday magazine.
After leaving the Post in 1984, he worked for eight years as a reader ombudsman at the rival Rocky Mountain News.
From 1974 to 1999, he served as Honorary Consul General of Japan for Colorado, encouraging better relations between the U.S. and Japan.
The injustice Japanese Americans had suffered during the war, and a desire that it never be repeated, was a frequent topic of his writing and was discussed in his 1969 book "Nisei: The Quiet Americans."
He reflected on his sentiments in an online interview published in 2001 by the Chips Quinn Scholars, a national program for young journalists of color: "Of course, there was disappointment in me, anger in me. But I don't think I was ever consumed by anger. ... There are a lot of other things to do in life, and if I remained angry for 50 years I would go crazy."
In 1990 Mr. Hosokawa received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Denver, and in 2003 he was presented a lifetime achievement award by the Asian American Journalists Association.
Away from work, he was an avid football fan and a longtime Denver Broncos season-ticket holder. He also hunted mushrooms and played in a weekly press-club poker game in Denver.
Mr. Hosokawa's wife, Alice, died in 1998. In addition to his daughter in Sequim, survivors include daughter Susan Boatright, of Littleton, Colo.; son Michael Hosokawa, of Columbia, Mo.; and a brother, Robert Hosokawa, of Orlando, Fla.
A private service is planned.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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