|Born||July 26 1911|
|Died||May 23 2013|
|Birth Location||San Francisco|
Farmer, fireman, and community historian best known for safeguarding the farms of expelled Japanese Americans in Florin, California, during World War II. Robert Emmett Fletcher, Jr. (1911–2013) was born in San Francisco and grew up as an only child on a farm in Brentwood, California, a farming community in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco. He attended the what would become the University of California at Davis, graduating with an agriculture degree in 1933. He managed a peach orchard in Red Bluff after college and subsequently worked as a state and county agricultural inspector, in which capacity he got to know Japanese American farmers throughout the state.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the eviction of West Coast Japanese Americans looming, the Tsukamoto family of Florin approached Fletcher with a proposal: would he manage the flame tokay grape farms of two of their friends, paying taxes and mortgages while there were excluded? He could keep any profits. Single at the time, Fletcher agreed, quitting his job, and eventually took over the farms of the Okamoto, Nitta, and Tsukamoto families, a total of ninety acres. In doing so, he bucked popular opinion that largely supported the exclusion of Japanese Americans and opposed their return. He was in fact fired on while in the Tsukamotos' barn. Despite having no experience with grapes, he worked the farms for the next three years, assisted by his new wife, Teresa Cassieri. As agreed upon, he paid down the mortgages and taxes, but only kept half the profits, banking the rest. When the families returned from their incarceration in the fall of 1945, their farms and homes were intact—the Tsukamotos' home had even been cleaned by Teresa—and their half of the profits was waiting for them. Fletcher continued to help the families after the war, sometimes buying supplies and equipment for them when local businesses would not sell to them.
After the war, the Fletchers bought their own land in Florin and grew hay and raised cattle. Bob had joined the volunteer Florin Fire Department at its founding in 1942 and served as the volunteer assistant chief for twenty years. This led to a paid position as fire chief, a position he held for twelve years before retiring in 1974. He was also active in starting the local water district and served on that board for some fifty years. He was involved in community history efforts, including the Florin Historical Society and East Contra Contra Costa Historical Society and later donated five acres of land for a history center that became the Fletcher Farm Community Center. With changing attitudes towards the wartime incarceration, he began to receive acclaim for his wartime actions late in his life. He died at the age of 101, his actions celebrated in obituaries in the New York Times and other newspapers.
For More Information
Daniels, Roger. The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2013.
Dávila, Robert D. "Obituary: Bob Fletcher Saved Farms of Interned Japanese Americans During WWII." Sacramento Bee, June 3, 2013. http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/31/5460559/obituary-bob-fletcher-saved-farms.html.
Lewis, Mary. "Florin Icon Bob Fletcher Dies." Elk Grove Citizen, May 30, 2013. http://www.egcitizen.com/articles/2013/05/30/news/doc51a792c46957c811193188.txt.
Tsukamoto, Mary, and Elizabeth Pinkerton. We the People: A Story of Internment in America. San Jose: Laguna Publishers, 1987.
Yamada, Gerald. "In Memory of Bob Fletcher, A Friend of the JA Community." Rafu Shimpo, June 7, 2013. http://www.rafu.com/2013/06/in-memory-of-bob-fletcher-a-friend-of-the-ja-community/.
Yardley, William. "Bob Fletcher Dies at 101; Helped Japanese-Americans." New York Times, June 6, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/us/bob-fletcher-dies-at-101-saved-farms-of-interned-japanese-americans.html?_r=0.