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OBITUARY: Michael Wong, Civil Rights Attorney Who Worked on Korematsu Case

Michael Wong

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael “Mike” Jerald Wong of San Francisco passed away on June 26 at the age of 67.

He was a loving and devoted partner, father and grandfather who was also a dedicated social justice activist and a good friend to many in the community.

Wong was born and raised in Seattle. After graduating from the University of Washington with a major in mathematics, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend Hastings Law School. He spent the rest of his life in the Bay Area.

From 1977 to 1988, Wong was a staff attorney/managing attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, a civil rights organization serving the Asian Pacific American community. His caseload focused on civil rights, criminal justice and employment. He was a member of the coram nobis legal team representing Fred Korematsu, whose wartime Supreme Court case — which upheld the government’s exclusion and detention of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast — was reopened on the basis of new evidence.

As a result of the legal team’s efforts, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel vacated Korematsu’s conviction for remaining in the Bay Area while other Japanese Americans were incarcerated, and ruled that the government had presented the Supreme Court with false information in order to obtain a favorable ruling.

Wong later served as an aide to Alameda County Supervisor Don Perata and then worked as the affirmative action officer with the San Francisco Housing Authority.

From the mid-’80s through the ’90s, Wong was involved in anti-hate violence efforts, including co-authoring a hate violence prevention plan for Alameda County that became a model statewide. He helped to develop hate crime reporting systems and educational materials and provided training on hate violence prevention in the Bay Area and statewide.

In 1996, Wong shifted to organizational-development consulting, focusing on strategic planning, facilitation and process work, and management and board development. He was a master facilitator and worked almost exclusively with nonprofit organizations and government agencies for over 20 years in the areas of civil rights, violence prevention, community health, children and families, and social justice.

Wong was a Renaissance man, knowledgeable about politics, literature, art, philosophy, sports, technology, trivia, and cooking. And yet, if he did not know something, he was humble enough to ask questions. Ever the political junkie, he campaigned for Barack Obama in Cleveland in 2008 and 2012.

He loved watching TV, golfing, and playing his guitar in a garage band. He also had a very special place in his heart for his three grandchildren. He loved a good dim sum meal with his grandsons, Zack and Noah, and adored smearing pastels for art projects with his granddaughter, Lana.

Wong also leaves behind two sons, Dennis and Gary; daughters-in-law, An and Sara; and the love of his life, Sue.

A Celebration of Life memorial will be held on Saturday, July 28, at 2 p.m. at Lake Park United Methodist Church: 281 Santa Clara Ave. in Oakland. In lieu of flowers, consider donating to a social justice organization.

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