Descendants of Takuji Yamashita yesterday donated $65,000 to endow a University of Washington School of Law scholarship in international law and human rights, a century after the start of Yamashita’s own quest for justice.
Yamashita graduated from the law school in 1902 and became an early champion of Asian-American civil rights after Washington state refused to let him practice law because of his Japanese origins. He challenged that denial — one of his two major court battles against the anti-Asian laws of the era — but died in 1959 without being able to practice his profession.
Amid growing recognition of Yamashita’s pioneering role, the UW School of Law, Washington State Bar Association and Asian Bar Association of Washington successfully petitioned for Yamashita’s posthumous admission to the state bar. The March 1 state Supreme Court action was witnessed by hundreds, shown on statewide television and reported by more than 60 newspapers on both sides of the Pacific.
Twenty-three of Yamashita’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, mostly in Japan, endowed the memorial scholarship, which next year will begin supporting UW law students interested in international law and human rights.
“Our ancestor could keep his beliefs with such determination partly because of the excellent education he received at the University of Washington,” said his great-granddaughter, Tazuko Kobayashi, who came to Seattle from Tokyo this week to present the donation to UW Law Dean W.H. “Joe” Knight Jr.
The fund includes $500 donated by residents of Maine, where Kobayashi’s brother Naoto, a secondary-school teacher in the Hallowell-Farmingdale School District, has made many public appearances to discuss his great-grandfather’s struggle as a lesson in civil rights and democracy.
The Asian Bar Association of Washington also recently dedicated a scholarship in Yamashita’s name.
Knight called America’s recognition of Yamashita a step that is long overdue, and expressed gratitude to the family.
“This generous family scholarship,” he said, “marks the beginning of a new era in our efforts to attract and support students and serves as a lasting example of the need to work tirelessly for human and civil rights.”
Donations may be made to the Takuji Yamashita Memorial Scholarship, University of Washington School of Law, 1100 N.E. Campus Parkway, Seattle, WA 98195-6617.
For more information, assistant Dean Paula Littlewood: (206) 685-1998 or www.washington.edu/newsroom/news/images/yamashita.
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