In Memory of Jerry Enomoto
Enomoto’s dedication to civil rights began at the Tule Lake incarceration camp, where he and his family were among the more than 100,000 Japanese Americans in California sent to remote camps for the duration of World War II. He began his 28 year career with the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as a counselor t San Quentin, and was appointed as Warden by Governor Ronald Reagan. From 1975- 1980 he served as director of the Department of Corrections under Governor Jerry Brown, the first Asian American to run a state agency. In 1994, Enomoto broke another barrier when President Bill Clinton appointed him the first Asian American U.S. Marshal, overseeing 34 counties in the Eastern District of California. He and his staff managed the high profile Unabomber trial. He also served on the Greater Sacramento Hate Crimes Task Force.
Though he dealt with some of the nation’s worst criminal offenders, he was an advocate for incarcerated youths and supported the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act, which would have provided for a review of life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders in California.
He also served as a national chair of the Japanese American Redress movement, which in 1987 led to the Civil Liberties Act that authorizes reparations and a national apology for the imprisonment of Japanese American citizens during the war.
Enomoto, who had been a student at Lowell High School in San Francisco, graduated as valedictorian of his class in Tule Lake. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to become the two time president of the Japanese American Citizens League. He married an African American activist, Dorothy Stevens. As a high profile interracial couple, they helped launch the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in Sacramento in 1982. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, He stood up for Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian Americans.
Jerry Enomoto died January 17, 2016 at the age of 89 in Fontana, where he and his wife Dorothy, had moved from Sacramento’s Greenhaven neighborhood, several years ago.