William C. Carr and Friends of the American Way

William Charles Carr (1890-1978) was co-founder and chair of Pasadena's Friends of the American Way. He fought to support incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. The group sponsored the return of Esther Takei (Nishio) to Southern California from the Amache camp in September of 1944. A real estate agent, he also worked to break racial housing barriers in Pasadena.

General Biography

Born in Chicago into the hardware business, William C. Carr graduated from the University of Illinois in 1913. He married Beatrice M. Park in 1919. With their first baby, they came out to Southern California where Carr started a hardware business on North Figueroa. He became fascinated with the Poppy Peak hill behind his business. Poppy Peak is in the southwest corner of Pasadena, just bordering Eagle Rock.

In 1924, Carr purchased twelve acres of these San Rafael Hills and divided it into residential lots. He built a home at 1536 (now 1516) Poppy Peak Drive. Poppy Peak is known for its Midcentury Modernist architecture. [1]

The Carrs had two sons: William George Carr (1920-1957) and John Ross Carr (1926-2018). William George was with the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945. He then worked as a test pilot and flight instructor for Douglas Aircraft. His DC-7B had a fatal crash midair with a Scorpion fighter jet in Pacoima. John Carr served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In 1948, he joined his father in the real estate business.

World War II

By 1942, William Carr used the power of his pen to protest racial stereotyping and violation of American civil rights especially against Americans of Japanese ancestry. He wrote to Governor Earl Warren, District Attorney Fred Howser, State Assemblyman Lloyd Lowrey, Los Angeles County Supervisor Roger Jessup, Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron, and others. [2] In a letter to the editor against a political cartoon that slandered Japanese in the Los Angeles Times , Carr wrote in part "You are guilty, by promoting this persecution, of prolonging the war and helping prove to the world that we are unfit for neighbors." [3] The Times printed under this published letter, "For more than a year, The Times has been receiving letters such as the above from Mr. Carr, a real estate dealer at 1360 W. Colorado Street, Pasadena. This letter is published because of Mr. Carr's persistency not because of its merit." [4]

According to the 1940 census, Pasadena had a population of near 82,000. About 1,000 were Asian Americans (1.4%), mostly of Japanese American descent. By 1943, Carr was on the executive board of Pasadena's chapter of the Pacific Coast Committee of American Principles and Fair Play, aka the "Fair Play Committee." Formed in January of 1943, it was an outgrowth of the Committee on National Security and Fair Play established in October of 1941 by David Prescott Barrows, chair of the University of California's Political Science Department, and Galen Fisher, faculty at Berkeley's Pacific School of Religion. It was described as an "independent committee of influential individuals" focused on protecting the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans, and thus, all Americans. [5] When it was reformulated in 1943, University of California President Robert Gordon Sproul was the honorary chairperson. This 600-member Fair Play Committee was mostly composed of White academics, and civic and religious leaders. [6] The chair of the Pasadena chapter was Maynard Force Thayer, also of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Women's Civic League.

In 1944, Carr and about thirteen others established "Friends of the American Way." [7] The Friends of the American Way eventually built a roster of about 160 members, mostly living in Pasadena and Eagle Rock. In a 1944 letter, Carr wrote in his frank style, "our interest extends to all races for we know that the number one race problem of America and of the world is the white men with his thoughtlessness, intolerance, and hypocrisy." [8] Friends of the American Way printed and distributed thousands of bulletins in support of Japanese Americans and their constitutional rights, collected thousands of Christmas gifts for Gila River, wrote letters to Nisei servicemen, and helped returning Japanese Americans with jobs and housing opportunities. Carr traveled and spoke on behalf of Friends of the American Way extensively. Friends of the American Way also erected a bulletin board with a service flag at the Pasadena Japanese Union Church, a community center on Kensington Place, listing the 117 area Nisei serving the military. [9]

The secretary-treasurer of Friends of the American Way was Hugh Anderson, an accountant of the Quaker faith. Another member of note was Herbert Nicholson, a former missionary to Japan. In 1944, Friends of the American Way conspired to quietly bring back to Los Angeles one student from the concentration camps. They chose 19-year old Esther Takei from Amache to attend classes at Pasadena Junior College. Despite some negative community reaction, Takei's re-integration paved the way for other Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast. [10]

After World War II

After the war, William Carr—with his son, John—focused on breaking racial covenants in Pasadena housing. Professor Joan Takayama-Ogawa said, "Mr. Carr decides that my parents, Hideo and Sonoko Takayama, would be the ideal couple to break the color line in the exclusive neighborhood of the San Rafael hills." [11] Carr sold a home on Brixton Road to the Takayamas and then sold a home to Harry and Rei Osaki near 1956. [12] John Carr sold property to Jewish and African American families; he was denied membership into the Pasadena Realty Association in 1956 and 1957. [13]

Near 1960, the Carrs helped Yosh and Haru Kuromiya purchase an Altadena home to raise their daughters. Gail Kuromiya remembers, "Not only did John Carr facilitate the sale, but William Carr carried the mortgage. And, it was no ordinary house! It was designed by Alfred W. Day who collaborated with renowned landscape architect, Garrett Eckbo." Yosh was himself a landscape architect. Gail continues, "In my dad's memoirs, he wrote that the Carr generosity helped restore his faith in the 'goodness of humankind'." Yosh had been unjustly imprisoned for draft resistance in 1944.

William Carr then sold a home to an African American family in the Hastings Ranch area of east Pasadena; this created "tremendous upheaval." Other realtors and neighbors had a "big meeting" at Gwinn's Magnolia Room, a local restaurant, to discuss buying out the African American family or other means to stop the "destruction and ruin" that was expected to ensue. The Carrs continued to sell homes to other African Americans. [14]

In August of 1945, Carr was called as a witness in front of the U.S. House Immigration and Naturalization Committee. His testimony is recorded on p. 410 of the resulting "Study of Problems Relating to Immigration and Deportation". In 1970, William and John Carr testified forcefully in front of U.S. federal court judge Manuel Real on Pasadena's realty practices and racial covenants. Judge Real presided over the U.S. Justice Department's suit of Pasadena Unified School District on the racial segregation of Pasadena's public schools.

Christopher Carr, John's son, said, "When I was a cop [in Pasadena], Nisei often asked me if was related to William C. Carr when they saw my name on the badge. When I said that William was my grandfather, they would thank me or invite me into their homes."

In 1954, William Carr was specially honored at the JACL 13th National Convention in Los Angeles. A 1965 Pasadena Chapter JACL "Certificate of Appreciation" to William C. Carr reads, "In grateful recognition of special meritorious services to the Chapter and contributions to the welfare of Japanese Americans. For activating his firm convictions to assist evacuees, Nisei servicemen, and resettlers, despite personal pressures and economic risks, and helping to remove discriminatory legislation in the state of California."

Authored by Susie Ling

For More Information

Finding Aid for William C. Carr Papers, 1941–1962 . Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

Ling, Susie. " Thank You, Carr Family. " Rafu Shimpo , Nov. 21, 2014.


  1. Barbara Lamprecht and Paul Daniel, "Application to Office of Historic Preservation, California Office of Parks and Recreation," April 2, 2008, accessed on January 22, 2020 at http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/pages/1067/files/poppy%20peak%20historic%20district_final_092308.pdf .
  2. William C. Carr Papers, Box 53, Japanese American Research Project Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
  3. William C. Carr, "Persecution of Japs {sic)?" letter to editor, Los Angeles Times , April 21, 1944, A-1.
  4. Carr, "Persecution of Japs {sic)?"
  5. Charles Wollenberg, "The Fair Play Committee, Earl Warren, and Japanese Internment," California History 89.4 (2012), 26.
  6. Wollenberg, "The Fair Play Committee," 38.
  7. These fourteen members included William Carr, Beatrice Carr, Katherine Walker Fanning (former missionary and a "real estate bookkeeper" living in E. Pasadena), Gertrude Ellsworth Klause (college graduate living in Pasadena and wife of a probation officer), Jerome Willis MacNair (Stanford graduate and president of MacNair-Wallace Company with a son in U.S. Army), Mary Tower MacNair (graduate of Stanford), Margaret S. Moritz, Mrs. A. D. Nance, Herbert Victor Nicholson, Leonard Oeshisli or Oechali (clergyman in Alhambra), Alice L. Pearson (widow in Pasadena), Esther I. Rhoads (married to Otis Rhoads, an engraver), Gale Seaman (YMCA Secretary coordinating religious activities amongst university students), and Gladys Weaver (married to Vernon Weaver, a salesperson in Pasadena).
  8. Letter, William Carr to Dr. Harold Kingsley, December 18, 1944, William C. Carr Papers, Folder 5, Box 53.
  9. Ted Tajima, "FPCA 75 Year History – First Presbyterian Church Altadena," accessed on Dec. 20, 2019 at https://firstpresbyterianchurchaltadena.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/HISTORY.pdf .
  10. Joe Mozingo, "She was a Test Case for Resettling Detainees of Japanese Descent — and Unaware of the Risk," Los Angeles Times , Nov. 30, 2019, A1.
  11. Susie Ling, "Thank you, Carr Family," Rafu Shimpo , Nov. 21, 2014, 1. Nisei Hideo Takayama was born in Pasadena in 1914. His father, Shiichitaro Takayama (1883-1953) was one of the original partners of Pasadena's Meiji Laundry. Hideo graduated from USC's School of Architecture in 1941 and then served in the Military Intelligence Service. His wife, Sonoko (1920-2012), was a ward secretary at Huntington Hospital. Joan, their daughter, is a renowned ceramicist teaching at the Otis College of Art and Design. From an interview by Susie Ling with Joan Takayama-Ogawa on July 25, 2012 in Pasadena, California. Transcript available with the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration project.
  12. Rei Osaki was one of the first woman to be admitted to the Idaho State Bar (1943) and Washington State Bar. She married Harry, a silver and goldsmith and sculptor, and moved to Pasadena in 1947. Harry studied art at USC on the G.I. Bill. Rei was very active in Pasadena civic affairs, including with the American Friends Services Committee (AFSC).
  13. Lucie Lowery, "School, Housing Bias Told Court," Pasadena Star News , Jan. 9, 1970, 1, 3.
  14. Lowery, "School, Housing Bias Told Court."

Last updated Feb. 16, 2021, 5:45 p.m..