From Westwood to Washington


A portrait of Liily and Patrick Okura. (K. Patrick and Lily A. Okura Collection at UCLA/Toyo Miyatake Studios)

Kiyoshi Patrick Okura (1911-2005) was a varsity athlete before World War II. But afterwards, he became a civil rights leader.

With a number of laws put in place to create anti-Japanese and anti-Asian American sentiment at the time, Okura struggled with both professional and athletic opportunities throughout his lifetime – the beginning of World War II only put him at a further disadvantage.

Okura was born in Los Angeles in 1911 and graduated from UCLA in 1933 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Two years later, he became the first Asian American to graduate with a master’s degree in psychology at UCLA.

Okura faced adversity in school and sports even before anti-Japanese sentiment reached its peak in the U.S.

In a book titled “Victory Without Swords,” Robert B. Kugel wrote that while Okura was attending UCLA, the school’s residential restrictions made it so that Japanese American students could not live in close proximity to the school.

“Okura was not allowed to live in the area where the university was located,” Kugel wrote. “He had to live elsewhere and to hitchhike eight miles to school every day.”

During Okura’s time at UCLA, he founded the Japanese American Bruins Club along with several other Japanese Americans. The club pulled together the few Japanese American students on campus and provided them the opportunity to be around a group of peopl