Harvey M. Coverley

Name Harvey M. Coverley
Born April 25 1903
Died February 7 1994
Birth Location California

Director of Tule Lake (December 30, 1942 to August 1, 1943) and briefly of Manzanar (September 22 to November 5, 1942).

Harvey Mills Coverley was born in California on April 25, 1903, to John and Flossy Coverley and was the eldest of five children. He attended Stanford University, graduating cum laude in 1924, where he ran track and also took classes from pioneering Issei professor Yamato Ichihashi , who would later be one of his inmates at Tule Lake. In the same year, he married Georgia Mamie Barnes, a woman nearly a decade his senior, and the couple had a daughter later that year. The couple divorced soon after. Upon graduation, he became a mortgage banker. In 1934, he began working for the federal government, first for the Voluntary Farm Debt Adjustment Bureau in the Department of Agriculture, then for the Farm Security Administration as assistant director of the Rural Rehabilitation Program. In this position, he ran migrant labor camps and a relief program for migrant families. [1]

With the formation of the War Relocation Authority (WRA), its first director, Milton Eisenhower , brought Coverley in to head the community services division, based in San Francisco. When the embattled Roy Nash left as director of Manzanar in September 1942, Coverley filled in for a little over a month, returning to the San Francisco office afterwards. But when another troubled director—Tule Lake's Elmer Shirrell —was reassigned just over a month later, Coverley was again tapped to fill in, arriving at Tule Lake at the end of December 1942. [2]

WRA officials considered Shirrell to be too lenient with inmates and at least implicitly blamed him for the near constant unrest at Tule Lake that began in the fall of 1942. Though the unrest had seemingly faded by the end of the year, Coverley took a harder line stance. James Sakoda , an inmate and researcher for the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS), wrote in a 1945 report that Coverley "came to the project with a policy which laid emphasis on the maintenance of strict administrative procedure" and that his "attitude agreed more with the reactionary elements within the administration than with the liberal elements." Harold S. Jacoby, the director of internal security under Coverley and a member of the "liberal" bloc of WRA staffers, wrote in his memoir that Coverley seemed to be "under instruction to strengthen the control of the center..., a task which suited quite well his personality and temperament." In a March 1943 memo, another JERS researcher, Robert Billigmeier , wrote that Coverley kept aloof from both other WRA staffers and inmates, quoting a WRA colleague as saying "I do not think that we will be calling Mr. Coverley, 'Harvey.'" This combination of a by-the-books approach with lack of communication turned the February 1943 registration into a full-blown crisis as mass resistance to registration saw nearly 30% of inmates required to register refuse to do so and nearly 16% of those who did register answer "no" to question 28. He also sent armed soldiers to one block to remove thirty-four resistance leaders to a separate detention camp. This mass resistance to registration was the major factor in Tule Lake later being designated the WRA's "segregation center" that fall. Criticized by colleagues and inmates alike and blamed for the disappointing results of registration by WRA higher-ups, he resigned as Tule Lake director at the end of July. [3]

Upon leaving Tule Lake, Coverley attended the U.S. Army School of Military Government at the University of Virginia. He later saw active duty in the army and took part in the invasion of Normandy. [4]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Cates, Rita Takahashi. "Comparative Administration and Management of Five War Relocation Authority Camps: America's Incarceration of Persons of Japanese Descent during World War II." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1980.

Jacoby, Harold S. Tule Lake: From Relocation to Segregation . Grass Valley, Calif.: Comstock Bonanza Press, 1996.


  1. "Harvey Mills Coverley," FamilySearch , accessed on July 21, 2020 at https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/LRKK-X7Z ; "Introducing... Harvey Coverley," Manzanar Free Press , Sept. 28, 1942, 2; Letter, Yamato Ichihashi to Payson Treat, Feb. 26, 1943, in Gordon E. Chang, Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and His Internment Writings, 1942-1945 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997), 188; Pacific Citizen , Dec. 31, 1942, 8.
  2. "Introducing... Harvey Coverley"; Manzanar Free Press , Sept. 24 and Nov. 5, 1942; Harvey M. Coverley, Weekly Report, Week Ending Jan. 1, 1943, Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records (JAERR), Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder R1.15:1, accessed on July 21, 2020 at https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/k6bz6d80/?brand=oac4 .
  3. Diary, Mrs. Elmer Shirrell [Eleanor Jones Shirrell], Dec. 4, 1942, Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive (JAERDA), Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder R 25.10:2**, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b268r25_0010_2.pdf ; Robert Henry Billigmeier, "The Caucasian Staff at Tule Lake," Feb. 3, 1944, p. 11, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder R 20.01, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b256r20_0001.pdf ; Shotaro Frank Miyamoto, "Chapter VIII: The Ebb of Rebellion," The Tule Lake Report, Nov. 30, 1944, pp. 43–45, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder R 20.65:4, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b259r20_0065_4.pdf ; James M. Sakoda, "The Segregation Program in Tule Lake," Dec. 1, 1945, pp. 46–47, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder R 20.90:1, https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/k6xw4jhm/?brand=oac4 ; Harold S. Jacoby, Tule Lake: From Relocation to Segregation (Grass Valley, Calif.: Comstock Bonanza Press, 1996), 74; Memo, Henny and Bob Billigmeier, March 20, 1943, p. 5, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder R 20.03:2 http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b257r20_0003_2.pdf ; The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, [1946]), 128, 165; Shotaro Frank Miyamoto, Chapter X. The Registration Crisis Tule Lake, pp. 181–92, JAERDA 20.36:2, https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/k6x929zx/?brand=oac4 ; Rita Takahashi Cates, "Comparative Administration and Management of Five War Relocation Authority Camps: America's Incarceration of Persons of Japanese Descent during World War II" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1980), 557, 564; Eileen H. Tamura, In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013), 97.
  4. Pacific Citizen , Sept. 7, 1943, 7; Chang, Morning Glory , 500n51.

Last updated Dec. 18, 2023, 7:10 p.m..