Northwest Asian Weekly
Martin “Mich” Matsudaira passed away on March 24, 2019.
Matsudaira was born in 1937 to parents Thomas and Theresa, and had 13 siblings.
Matsudaira and his family members were interned in Camp Minidoka, Ida., during World War II, because of their Japanese ancestry due to Executive Order 9066. This experience was pivotal to Matsudaira. He would spend the bulk of his life reconciling the pain and injustice of this action.
Matsudaira has a degree in economics and honorably served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1960 before he landed at Boeing. Among many responsibilities, Matsudaira conducted diversity seminars at Boeing. However, his experiences during the internment with his family left a mark on him and he wanted to do more, which is why Matsudaira took a leave of absence from Boeing in order to enter fully into activism and community organizing.
From 1972 to 1974, Matsudaira was executive director of the Governor’s Asian American Advisory Council.
Matsudaira was the first executive director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA, formerly called the Washington State Commission on Asian American Affairs during his tenure) from 1974 through 1978.
CAPAA is a state agency with an advisory board of 12 commissioners who are appointed by the governor to be a voice for Washington’s diverse Asian Pacific American communities.
“Mich understood the power of collective action and advocacy, and helped institutionalize a seat at the Governor’s table for our diverse communities,” said CAPAA Executive Director Toshiko Hasegawa. “We honor his love for people and passion for service as we continue the work of CAPAA, which is now in its 45th year.”
“As a driving force in CAPAA’s early history, Mich Matsudaira laid a strong foundation for the future success of the Commission in advocating for and empowering the diverse AAPI communities of Washington,” said State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, whose late husband Bob Santos helped establish the Commission and served with Mich in the 1970s.
“Through the lens of history, we are now able to understand that the pioneers of API civil rights issues in our state, such as Mich, enabled the doors of opportunity to be opened,” said Blaine Tamaki, former CAPAA commissioner. “These open doors have led the state of Washington to now be the proud home of one of most vibrant, socio-economically successful, and still growing API communities in the entire United States.”
“I was a young UW student, head of the Asian Student Coalition, when I was appointed to the first Commission group of esteemed APIA leaders,” said Mayumi Tsutakawa, a former CAPAA commissioner. “I learned so much from Mich, as he was not only good natured, but thoroughly knowledgeable of state government, and also civil rights issues.”
After CAPAA, Matsudaira was part of the National Council for Japanese American Redress, a group formed to organize a national effort to obtain redress for people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in U.S. internment camps during World War II. The group is perhaps best known for instituting a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government for wartime damages.
Matsudaira grew up in Seattle’s International District, where he opened Mich’s Mens’ Shop, and worked diligently to attract other young professionals and small businesses back to the area. He graduated from the University of Washington with an economics degree in 1965 and from Seattle University with a Master of Public Administration in 1977.
Matsudaira is survived by four children, Mark, David, Melissa, and Scott, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service is currently being planned. More information will be forthcoming.