Fred Okrand, Legal Director Emeritus of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, passed away Monday night after a long illness.
Almost all of Fred's legal career was devoted to the ACLU. While practicing law in the private sector, he served as a volunteer attorney for the affiliate for 21 years. In 1972 he was appointed Legal Director, a position he held until his retirement in 1984. Fred continued as Legal Director Emeritus.
A graduate of UCLA in 1937, Fred received his law degree from USC in 1940. He was counsel for more than 500 reported civil liberties cases. He is best remembered, however, for his groundbreaking ? and highly courageous ? challenge to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Throughout his illness, Fred never stopped working. He was co-counsel on a class action lawsuit, Mochizuki et al v. U.S., on behalf of 2,264 persons of Japanese ancestry who were uprooted from their homes throughout Latin America and forcibly brought to and imprisoned in INS "enemy alien" internment camps in this country. The kidnapings were part of a U.S. government scheme during World War II to use Japanese Latin Americans ? most of whom had never been to Japan ? in civilian prisoner exchanges. Just recently, Fred spoke at a forum on "Civil Liberties and the Need for National Security: What Lessons Can We Learn from the Japanese American Experiences During World War II?"
Honored frequently for his work, Fred was the 1992 Constitutional Rights Foundation/ Los Angeles County Bar Association Lawyer of the Year, the holder of the 1993 "Share the Dream" (Justice) Award of the Japanese American Citizens League, recipient of the Los Angeles Harvard Club's 1979 John Harvard Community Service Award, and the subject of the UCLA oral history project, "Forty Years Defending the Constitution." The ACLU presented Fred with its Lifetime Achievement Award at last year's Law Luncheon; his wife, Mimi, accepted the award to a standing ovation.
Two years ago, Foundation Board member Alan Sieroty established a staff attorney position named in honor of Fred and his long-time partner and fellow-ACLU attorney, Al Wirin.
"I feel so privileged to have worked with Fred. He was always inspiring as well as always being upbeat. He was a fierce advocate who never sought personal glory. Fred was a legal giant. He argued at least four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the force behind some of the most significant constitutional challenges in our nation. He will be sorely missed," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.
Fred is survived by his wife, Mimi, and their two sons, Dean and Marc. The family has arranged for a private cremation, after which Fred's ashes will be scattered on the ocean. The ACLU will plan a memorial service after consultation with his family.