Denver Civil Rights Activist Minoru Yasui To Receive Presidential Honor

November 17, 2015
Photo: Minoru Yasui in court (1964)
Minoru Yasui (at the table with a pipe) pictured in a Denver courtroom in 1964.

Denver civil rights activist Minoru Yasui is among the 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients named by President Barack Obama. The awards will be presented on Nov. 24 at the White House in Washington D.C.

Yasui, who passed away in 1986, was one of a handful of Japanese-Americans leading the U.S. Supreme Court battle against World War II exclusion and internment. Fighting for equality was his lifelong mission.

"This was never about him,” his niece, Robin Yasui, told CPR News. “This was always about asking the government that he loved -- the U.S. government -- to uphold its ideals, to do the right thing. This was, in his mind, a way to ask our government to be accountable, to protect the constitutional rights of its people."

President Obama calls this award the “nation’s highest civilian honor.” Other 2015 recipients include professional baseball player Willie Mays, world-famous performer Barbra Streisand and Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress.