Loren Miller

Name Loren Miller
Born January 20 1903
Died July 14 1967
Birth Location Nebraska
More information...

Loren Miller (1903-67), an African American attorney and newspaperman from Los Angeles, was a major legal defender of Japanese Americans.

Aiding Japanese Americans

In the years during and after World War II, Loren Miller established himself as a stalwart defender of Japanese Americans, both in print and before the courts. His first major contact with Japanese Americans came through the 1943 federal court case Regan v. King , in which the Native Sons of the Golden West sued to strip Americans of Japanese ancestry of suffrage rights. Miller signed the American Civil Liberties Union 's friend of the court brief defending the rights of the Nisei. In the years following the war, Miller served as counsel on People v. Oyama , the JACL challenge to California's Alien Land Act . The case resulted in the notable 1948 Supreme Court case Oyama v. California , which froze all enforcement of alien land laws. Miller also served as counsel in the case of Takahashi v. California Fish and Game Commission , which challenged California's denial of fishing licenses to Issei as "aliens ineligible to citizenship." Meanwhile, Miller joined Japanese American Citizens League counsel A.L. Wirin in bringing Amer v. Superior Court and Yin Kim v. Superior Court , two California court cases that challenged restrictive covenants against Asian Americans (with, respectively, a Chinese-American and Korean-American plaintiff). Miller's most direct contribution to civil rights for Japanese Americans came in January 1951, when he again joined Wirin in arguing the California Supreme Court case Masaoka v. California . The Court's 1952 decision led to the final demise of the Alien land laws. Although he initially agreed to serve on the Masaoka case without fee, Miller was ultimately offered an honorarium by a Joint Conference on the Alien land Law.

After the victory in Shelley , Miller continued his work with the NAACP's West Coast Regional Legal Committee, where he continued to fight housing segregation and employment discrimination cases. He served as counsel in the landmark 1948 Perez v. Sharp case, which struck down California's laws against interracial marriage. In 1958, after a four-year struggle, he won a victory in the California Superior Court case of Ming v. Horgan , which ended racial discrimination in housing built with FHA loan insurance or VA loan guarantees. In 1956, he was appointed to the National NAACP Board of Directors, rising to the rank of national vice president by the early 1960s. He also served on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union. In later years, he also undertook a historical study of the Supreme Court and civil rights, which was published in 1966 as The Petitioners .

During these years, Miller retained his connection with Japanese American communities. In 1955, he addressed a meeting of the Southwest JACL in Los Angeles. He collaborated with JACL activists on various panels addressing racial discrimination in employment, while in 1957, the JACL furnished an amicus brief supporting his position in Ming v. Horgan . Miller also kept social contacts within the community—his children attended the Nisei church school of the Hollywood (Japanese) Independent Church. When in 1963, editor Howard Imazeki published an editorial in Hokubei Mainichi opposing civil rights legislation and suggesting that African Americans organize to improve conditions in their own communities, Miller issued a strong protest. In an editorial in the California Eagle , Miller deplored Imazeki's comments as "brainwashed" and offensive, especially coming from Japanese Americans who had been sent to "concentration camps" during the war. "There was no merit in the racial frenzy that wound up with Japanese of all ages and outlooks herded behind barbed wire; there is as little merit in the San Francisco Nisei's advice to the Negroes to 'go slow.' Negroes have been going slow for a hundred years and the need of our time is for impatience with all barriers to first-class citizenship." [1] Miller reminded Japanese Americans that many blacks had defended them in their time of trouble and had fought for civil rights.

In 1964 Miller was appointed by California governor Edmund "Pat" Brown as a California Superior Court Judge. Saburo Kido editorialized in favor of the appointment in Shin Nichi Bei : "[W]e owe a great deal to him, too, for the support he gave us as consultant in cases, such as the Oyama alien land litigation." [2] There was talk of him being touted for higher office, but it was stilled by his untimely death. In 1977 the California Bar Association created the Loren Miller Legal Services Award to honor attorneys who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to public service. The Loren Miller Homes, a housing development in San Francisco, was named in his honor.

Authored by Greg Robinson , Université du Québec À Montréal

For More Information

Hassan, Amina. Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist . Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015.

Gordon III, Walter L. The Saga of Loren Miller: From Colored Communist to Civil Rights Champion . Amazon, 2019.

Robinson, Greg. The Unsung Great: Stories of Extraordinary Japanese Americans . Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020.


  1. Loren Miller, "Wrong Side of the Mouth," cited in Saburo Kido, "Observation," Shin Nichi Bei , July 16, 1963.
  2. Saburo Kido, "Observation," Shin Nichi Bei , June 2, 1964.

Last updated Sept. 4, 2020, 2:46 a.m..