Jeff Adachi with Fred and Kathryn Korematsu in 2001. (Hokubei Mainichi)
SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese American Citizens League supports an effort to rename a street in San Francisco after Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who died in February at the age of 59.
The street is located near the Public Defender’s Office, where Adachi worked for more than 30 years.
In a May 24 letter to San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney, JACL Vice President for Public Affairs Sarah Haney wrote: “I write today on behalf of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in support of your resolution that has been put before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to rename Gilbert Street to ‘Jeff Adachi Way.’
“Established in 1929, JACL is the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization. We have a long history of striving to promote a world that honors diversity by respecting values of fairness, equity, and social justice. These same values were exemplified by Public Defender Jeff Adachi throughout his life and work. For your reference, I have enclosed a copy of our statement following his passing.
“Jeff Adachi was the most highly visible Japanese American elected official in San Francisco and was the only elected public defender in the State of California. It is further notable that he was re-elected four times by the citizens of San Francisco.
“John Hayashi, president of our San Francisco Chapter, offered the following praise following Jeff’s passing. ‘Jeff was tenacious and passionate in his belief that all people, regardless of their economic or social status, deserved full and equal representation in the criminal justice system. He refused to play politics with his principles, remain unmoved in his convictions, and was not intimidated by the powerful and connected.’
“Jeff was not only a voice for Japanese Americans, but for people across the nation in his fight for social and racial equality. He was an inspiration to generations of lawyers, his community, and beyond. It is for these reasons, amongst innumerable reasons, that the JACL would like to support the renaming of Gilbert Street to ‘Jeff Adachi Way.’
“The JACL joins our local San Francisco chapter in thanking you for your leadership on the board of supervisors to recognize Jeff. Please feel free to contact me if the national JACL can be of any assistance in ensuring that ‘Jeff Adachi Way’ may serve as a memorial to a great public servant.”
In a May 8 letter to Haney, Hayashi wrote, “During his time at the Office of the Public Defender, Jeff worked diligently to defend those in need, believing teach individual deserved a fair trial.
“During his time on the Chapter Board, Jeff supported the redress effort seeking an apology from the United States government for the wrongful incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry. When President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Jeff worked with Sox Kitashima, who was also a board member, in seeing every eligible individual registered for the letter of apology and redress.
“Jeff did not hesitate to assist Sox when she learned of a Japanese Ameircan who was incarcerated in jail, accompanying her to where the individual was being held. [The individual] completed the necessary paperwork, [was]determined to be eligible by the federal Office of Redress Administration, and received both the letter of apology and redress check.
“We thank you for your proposal to recognize Jeff with the renaming of Gilbert Street. Please keep us apprised of the progress of this effort and let us know what we can do to assist in this endeavor.”