Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi (平林潔), 2012 recipient of the Medal of Freedom. The medal was awarded posthumously Tuesday, May 29, five months after Hirabayashi’s passing.
In a remarkable show of personal courage, Auburn native Gordon Hirabayashi was one of handful of Japanese Americans nationwide to defy U.S. government curfew and “evacuation” orders issued in 1942 (in the context of World War II) to persons of Japanese ancestry who lived on the West Coast. Hirabayashi considered the orders to be a gross violation of Constitutional rights. He was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned, and eventually appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court upheld his conviction at the time, the fight to overturn it resumed in the 1980s, culminating in his judicial vindication. After the war, Gordon Hirabayashi became a sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada. He died on January 2, 2012. [historylink.org]