Helen Kawagoe, who served two terms as national president of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) from 1996-2000, has died. She was 92.
Kawagoe was only the second woman named to the JACL presidency (after Lillian Kimura), and she had already been the first Japanese American woman in the continental United States to hold a municipal office when elected as City Clerk in Carson, California in 1974, a position she would hold until 2011 when she retired due to declining health.
Kenneth Inouye, who was JACL’s national president from 2004-2006, called Kawagoe an inspiration.
“She always maintained a positive attitude and she encouraged many young people to become/stay involved with JACL. Her mentorship of… youth …helped to create a new generation of dedicated JACLers.”