From The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1980 (Vol. 16, No. 1)
(Slightly revised, August 2010)1
A liberal Republican, Earl Warren was elected California Attorney General in 1938. 3 As Attorney General of California, he cultivated the popular racist feeling in an apparent effort to further his political career. He was an outstanding member of the xenophobia "Native Sons of the Golden West," an organization dedicated to keeping California "as it has always been and God Himself intended it shall always be -- the White Man's Paradise." The "Native Sons" worked "to save California from the yellow-Jap peaceful invaders and their White-Jap co-conspirators."1
In February 1942, Earl Warren testified before a special Congressional committee on the Japanese question. He would be running for Governor of California that year, and would be elected. Warren testified, falsely, that the Japanese had "infiltrated themselves into every strategic spot in our coastal and valley counties." In one of the most amazing feats of logic ever performed by a lawyer, Warren next claimed that the very fact that no Japanese had so far committed any disloyal act was proof that they intended to do so in the future.1 Earl Warren played to popular racism to further his political career. 2
|California Governor Earl Warren|
Though he helped to modernize the office during his term as Governor of California, Warren's record was tarnished by the fact that he was a key player in the demand that people of Japanese ancestry be removed from the West Coast during World War II. Warren and others justified their actions by insisting that it was a matter of national security, and that California was vulnerable to Japanese spies. 1 Later, when the government began to release Japanese whose loyalty was above suspicion, Governor Warren protested that every citizen so released had to be kept out of California as a potential saboteur.1
Thousands of Japanese Americans lost their property and businesses, and were moved to concentration camps for the remainder of the war. Warren defended his actions throughout his public career, but in retirement, he admitted the relocation was a terrible mistake based on unsubstantiated fears.2,3
The Unacknowledged Lesson: Earl Warren and the Japanese Relocation Controversy 4
The Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 1979.
Essay by G. Edward White
... In 1971 Earl Warren , having retired as chief justice of the Supreme Court two years earlier, began writing his memoirs. I was a law clerk to Warren at the time, and he asked for my reactions to drafts of the memoirs as they were prepared. Warren's memoirs, anonymously edited, eventually were published in 1977, three years after his death. For the most part, they were the conventional reminiscences of a public figure. Warren revealed almost no information that was not already available, and in some instances, such as his account of the Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the famous 1954 case invalidating racial segregation in the public schools, he gave a less than full description of events....
...One episode of Warren's career, however, received significant, although sparse, attention in his memoirs—the Japanese relocation decision. Warren said that he had "since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it, because it was not in keeping with our American concept of freedom and the rights of citizens." He then articulated his guilt feelings in terms that, for a father of six and a devoted family man, were vividly personal: "Whenever I thought of the innocent little children who were torn from home, school friends, and congenial surroundings, I was conscience stricken." On reflection, Warren believed that "[i]t was wrong to react so impulsively, without positive evidence of disloyalty. . . ." 4