Rufus C. Holman


Name Rufus C. Holman
Born October 14 1877
Died November 27 1959
Birth Location Portland, Oregon

Wartime Republican U.S. senator from Oregon who proposed a constitutional amendment that would strip Nisei of their citizenship and legislation and that would put the army in charge of the Japanese American incarceration. Born in Portland on October 14, 1877, Holman was teacher, accountant, and businessman in Portland who was appointed state treasurer in 1931 and won reelection in 1932 and 1936. He was elected to the Senate in 1938. As a senator, he gained a reputation as a reactionary and an anti-Semite, described as "an isolationist, a party hack, a reactionary, a labor baiter" and as fitting "the worst 'Senator Bluster' archetype of the fatuous, speechifying member of the U.S. Senate."[1]

In the weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he approached California Senator Hiram Johnson to gather the senators from the West Coast states for a discussion of defense issues. At that February 2, 1942 meeting, the congressmen formed two committees, the Committee on Defense, chaired by Holman and the Committee on Alien Nationality and Sabotage, chaired by Washington Senator Monrad C. Wallgren. At a meeting of Holman's committee, the legislators heard testimony from military leaders including General Mark W. Clark and Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark downplaying the threat of Japanese invasion. Despite this testimony, the threat of invasion would continue to be cited as a rationale supporting the removal and continued exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

In September 1942, Holman proposed a constitutional amendment that would strip Nisei of their citizenship. The proposed amendment would provide that "persons who under the laws of any foreign nation are deemed to be citizens or subjects of such foreign nation shall not become citizens of the United States, whether born in the United States or not, except to the extent and subject to such terms and conditions as Congress may prescribe."[2] The proposal was one of many attempts to attack the citizenship of Nisei, but died quietly. Later, in early 1943, Holman and Wallgren introduced legislation that would shut down the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and transfer management of the concentration camps to the army. Holman subsequently was part of the subcommittee of the Senate Military Affairs Committee (popularly known as the Chandler Committee) that investigated the WRA.

Unpopular even within his own party, Holman faced a challenge from moderate Republican Wayne Morse in the 1944 Republican primary and was handily defeated. Already sixty-six years old, he ended his political career and returned to his box making business. He died on November 27, 1959.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Coombs, F. Alan. "Congressional Opinion and War Relocation." In Japanese Americans: From Relocation to Redress. Edited by Roger Daniels, Sandra C. Taylor, and Harry H. L. Kitano. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986. Revised edition. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991. 88-91.

Finding aid to Rufus Cecil Holman Papers. Oregon Historical Society.

Grodzins, Morton. Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

"Holman, Rufus Cecil." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Footnotes

  1. "Victory for Morse," Time, May 29, 1944, 23, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, accessed June 28, 2013; Jeff LaLande, "Oregon Voices: Oregon's Last Conservative U.S. Senator: Some Light upon the Little-Known Career of Guy Cordon," Oregon Historical Quarterly 110.2 (Summer 2009), 233, 258.
  2. Pacific Citizen, September 24, 1942, p. 1, accessed on June 28, 2013 at http://pacificcitizen.org/digitalarchives/assets/images/full/PCN_19420924_001.jpg.