William Lindsay Young


Name William Lindsay Young
Born February 2 1893
Died July 21 1959
Birth Location Illinois

Wartime president of Missouri's Park College who bucked local opposition to admit Nisei students to the school. Born in Illinois in 1893, William Lindsay Young (1893–1959) was the son of a coal miner who grew up in poverty, forced into the mines himself by age thirteen. He became a pastor at the University of Montana and founded and directed their school of religion. After a stint with the National Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church, he was named the president of Park College, a small Christian college in Missouri, in 1937.

When visiting Southern California in 1942, he became aware of what was happening to Japanese Americans and visited the Santa Anita Assembly Center. Determined to do what he could to help, he worked with the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council (NJASRC) and his own board of trustees and faculty to arrange for the enrollment of six Nisei students for that fall. However the nearby town of Parkville hesitated to approve the students' arrival, a requirement for the War Relocation Authority to release students from confinement to attend college. When Young went around the city government to get a local sheriff to sign an approval letter instead, town leaders—along with local American Legion and American War Mothers chapters—were outraged. In what became dubbed the "Battle of Parkville," Mayor Herbert Dyer told the local newspaper that "If the FBI is so sure that these Japs are loyal citizens, why didn't it let them remain on the West Coast instead of sending them to a concentration camp?"[1] Young wrote a letter to 1,000 residents of Parkville and the surrounding areas and to Park alumni. The local and national press took notice. Eventually, a tense meeting of the college's board of directors resulted in a reaffirmation of Young's position, and the first Nisei students arrived. Relations with the local community remained tense for a while, with Nisei students being cautioned to minimize trips to town and to only go accompanied by white students in wake of threats. Eventually nine Nisei students would attend Park.

Young left Park in January of 1944 to become the regional director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, where he remained until his retirement in 1958.

In 2013, Park University's Campanella Gallery hosted an exhibition titled "Park University as a Beacon of Hope: Nisei Students Escape Internment Camps to Attend College," which told this wartime story using documents from the college's archive.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

"The Nisei Experience at Park College." Speech by Masaye Nagao Nakamura, September 25, 2002. Park University website.

Okihiro, Gary Y. Storied Lives: Japanese American Students and World War II. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999.

Popper, Joe. "Park College Kept Japanese-Americans Out of Detention Camps during War." Eyes Behind Belligerance blog, February 20, 1999.

Siegel, Shizue. In Good Conscience: Supporting Japanese Americans During the Internment. San Mateo, Calif.: AACP, Inc., 2006.

Footnotes

  1. Joe Popper, "Park College Kept Japanese-Americans Out of Detention Camps during War," Eyes Behind Belligerance blog, February 20, 1999, accessed on September 25, 2013 at http://eyesbehindbelligerence.blogspot.com/2012/06/embracing-persecuted.html.