Harry Honda


Name Harry Honda
Born August 12 1919
Died July 3 2013
Birth Location Los Angeles
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Nisei journalist, editor of the Pacific Citizen. Harry Honda (1919-2013) is best known as the editor of the Pacific Citizen newspaper from 1952 to 1982 and as editor emeritus subsequently.

Harry Honda was born in Los Angeles on August 12, 1919, the eldest of three children and the only son of Senbei (1884–1978) and Shu Honda (1896–1997). Both of his parents were Japanese immigrants from Fukuoka prefecture. The family lived in Los Angeles near Temple and Figueroa, a diverse area that transitioned from being largely Jewish to largely Asian and Latino in the 1920s and 1930s. Honda graduated from Belmont High School and attended Los Angeles Junior College.

Introduced to journalism in a high school class, he began working for the Japanese American vernacular press while still in high school, covering sports for the Rafu Shimpo starting in 1936 before moving to the Sangyo Nippo as the English section editor. In 1941, he became English section editor of the Nichibei Shimbun in San Francisco. He also wrote columns for the Rafu Shimpo titled "Very Truly Yours" and for the Sangyo Nippo titled "After the Deadline."

After ten months with the Nichi Bei, Honda was drafted in October 1941, one of some 5,000 Nisei who were in the armed forces prior to World War II. He was in basic training at Fort Francis E. Warren, Wyoming, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Along with about eighty other Nisei at Fort Warren, he was sent to Camp Barkeley, Texas, in January 1942, where he served in the Quartermaster Corps. When the 442nd Regimental Combat Team formed a year later, he was initially on the list to join the unit, but was pulled of the list by his captain, who wanted him to remain in his role of training quartermaster officers for the various units that passed through Camp Barkeley. In the meantime, Honda's family were among Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the West Coast, first to Santa Anita Assembly Center, then to the Rohwer, Arkansas, concentration camp. Honda was able to visit his family at Rohwer while at Barkeley, but was never actually an inmate in any of the concentration camps himself.

After his discharge at the end of the 1945, he went to Chicago, where one of his sisters and many friends from Los Angeles had resettled. But unable to find a job in journalism, he returned to Los Angeles in March 1946. He subsequently used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend Loyola University, graduating with a degree in political science in 1950. Upon his graduation, he worked for the Shin Nichibei newspaper. In 1952, he was named editor of the Pacific Citizen newspaper (PC). Published out of Salt Lake City for a decade after moving there during World War II, longtime editor Larry Tajiri took the opportunity to step down from his post with the move. With his experience in journalism and prior connections to the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)—he had been the president of the downtown Los Angeles chapter—Honda took over with the first issue published in Los Angeles, October 4, 1952.

He served as editor of the PC for thirty years, balancing the PC's dual missions of covering the JACL and its many chapters and serving as a national newspaper covering Japanese American—and later Asian American—issues. Throughout his tenure, he wrote weekly columns, "Very Truly Yours" (1952–58) and "Ye Editor's Desk" (1958–82). In 1982, he stepped down as editor to become the general manager/operations, and later, editor emeritus. He continued to contribute regular pieces to the Pacific Citizen throughout his life, even into his nineties.

In addition to his work with the PC, he was active in Japanese American sports circles, serving as a original board member of the Nisei Athletic Union and as a devout Catholic, was active with the Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center. Later, he became an active member of the Pan American Nikkei Association, which linked Nikkei communities throughout the Western Hemisphere. He and his wife Misako married in 1957 and remained married for 56 years; they had two daughters and four grandchildren.

He passed away suddenly on July 3, 2013, at the age of 93.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Harry Honda oral history. Interviewed by Leslie Ito, April 1, 1998, and by Cynthia Togami, and Sojin Kim, June 17, 1999. In REgenerations Oral History Project: Rebuilding Japanese American Families, Communities, and Civil Rights in the Resettlement Era : Los Angeles Region: Volume II. Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum.

Johnson, George Toshio. "Into the Next Stage: So Long Harry Honda: Aug. 12, 1919-July 3, 2013." Rafu Shimpo, July 12, 2013.

Ko, Nalea J. "Remembering Pacific Citizen Editor Emeritus Harry Honda." Pacific Citizen, July 19, 2013.

Yamamoto, J. K. "Veteran Nisei Journalist Harry Honda Dies at 93." Rafu Shimpo, July 9, 2013.