LA Loses Rose Ochi, Civil Rights Chief and Metropolis Corridor Insider

The Los Angeles civil rights community mourns attorney Rose Ochi, who died earlier this month at the age of 81.

She was the first Asian-American woman to serve as the U.S. Assistant Attorney General Advisor to the Clinton White House on Racial Relations.

Ochi was also instrumental in the federal government’s 1992 designation of the Owens Valley Manzanar Camp as a National Historic Site.

Naomi Hirahara followed Ochi as Rafu Shimpo over the years Newspaper reporter and editor. She noted how Ochi could span the civil rights world and the City Hall, where she worked closely with Mayor Tom Bradley as director of the city’s criminal justice office.

“She was a very special person because she could hold onto both worlds and was respected in both circles,” said Hirahara.

Ochi’s path to fight for civil rights was set as a child. Her East LA-born family was shipped to Arkansas during World War II and locked in a warehouse because of their Japanese ancestry. Ochi, then called Takayo, got its western name from a school teacher.

“Even as a small child you believe that you are not a real American and an outsider,” Ochi said in a 2013 interview with the Discover the Nikkei project. “T.This has enabled me to challenge institutions all my life. “

In addition to making history as the assistant attorney general, she was also the first Asian American in LA to serve on the police commission.

Hirahara said people couldn’t help but pay attention to Ochi when she walked into a room because of her confidence and the noticeable gray hair she didn’t want to dye.

She was very direct and intimidating, and used her legal skills to tackle issues like criminal justice.

“She was kind of a Wonder Woman character,” said Hirahara. “There was no one like her.”

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