Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Remembering Our Fresno State Faculty and Friends

Portrait

In Memory of Rev. Saburo Masada (1930 – 2020)

Rev. Saburo Masada was born in Fresno, CA; he grew up in Caruthers, CA. When he was twelve years old, he and his family became part of the over 120,000 loyal and innocent Americans of Japanese ancestry who were removed from their homes and incarcerated in America’s concentration camps during WWII. This Executive Order was driven by racism, greed, and fear. His family was sent to the Fresno Assembly Center (at the Fresno Fairgrounds), and then they were sent to the Jerome concentration camp in Arkansas. His father died of pneumonia only a few weeks after they arrived. (Jerome was quite cold when they arrived, and there was no heat in the barracks.) This left his mother (only 43 years old) to raise their seven children.

The family returned to Caruthers after the war, and Saburo graduated from Caruthers High School. He then earned his degree from San Francisco State. He attended the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He graduated from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He went on to become a Presbyterian minister. His first church was the Westview Presbyterian Church in Watsonville, CA. He married Marion Nakamura, also a camp survivor. They had three daughters. Altogether, Rev. Masada served for 41 years as a pastor of Presbyterian churches in Watsonville and Stockton, CA and in Ogden, Utah, becoming well-known for his ministry and his spirit of justice, love, and inclusion. Sab and Marion retired to Fresno, members of the United Japanese Christian Church.

Saburo and Marion never forgot the trauma that they experienced during their WW II incarceration, and they have served the ministry by addressing this injustice. They worked on the Committee for Redress. Since the mid-1970s, they gave numerous presentations, speaking to many thousands of people across the country to shed light on this little-known piece of American history, a time when the U.S. Constitution and rights of U.S. citizens and residents were violated by the government. They provided presentations during the Special Collections Research Center’s exhibition at the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Executive Order in 2017, entitled: 9066: Japanese American, Voices from the Inside. They published oral histories of Japanese Americans and articles about the Japanese American experience during WWII. For all of this work, they have been recognized with high praise and awards. They received the JACL (Japanese American Citizen’s League) Distinguished American Award for the Spirit of Education in February, 2015. They also received the HandsOn Central California Award for Volunteerism in April 2015.

They often end their presentations with George Santayana’s quote: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Saburo and Marion have also served the ministry by visiting innocent prisoners on death row, shedding light in a very dark place. Let us continue to pass on the hope of Saburo’s legacy and ministry of justice, love, and inclusion that has touched so many, and find the courage within ourselves to stand up for that which is right.

Presentation on Japanese American Internment

Oral Histories

Masada Family