TANAKA, HENRY T. (1922 - 2006) was a Japanese American psychiatric social worker. His achievements include being the founding director of Hill House – known today as MAGNOLIA CLUB HOUSE – and leading the successful movement for Japanese internment reparations.

Born in Salem, OR to an immigrant family, Tanaka’s family ran a sandwich restaurant. He was attending Willamette University when he was forcibly expelled to an internment camp at 19 years old. Like other Japanese Americans, Tanaka and his family were suspected of treason based on the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941. He spent eight months at Tule Lake Camp in Newell, CA.

While his parents were moved to another camp in Utah, Tanaka was released and allowed to enroll in Earlham College. After graduating in 1944, his classification as “enemy alien” was changed to 1-A, which allowed him to be drafted into the U.S. Army Medical Corp as an interpreter. The same year, the military assigned Tanaka to Cleveland, where he earned his master’s degree in social administration at WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. When he relocated to Cleveland, he negotiated the release of his parents and brought them to Ohio.

For his career in social work, Tanaka specialized in group work. His role as a supervisor at the CLEVELAND PSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTE led to his role as the founder and director of Hill House in 1961. Additionally, Tanaka was one of the thirteen founders of the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services. Created in 1974, he served as the president of the IAPRS from 1982 - 1984.

In addition to his contributions in the mental health field, Tanaka was an advocate for victims of Japanese internment camps. In addition to being the head of Cleveland’s Japanese American Citizens League, he served as the national JACL president from 1972 - 1974. In 1988, his advocacy led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1987 and an apology from President Bush for the U.S. government’s actions against Japanese Americans during WWII. 81,000 survivors of internment were granted $20,000 for reparations. Additionally, Tanaka helped fundraise $9 million for the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in Washington, D.C. in the late 1990’s.

In recognition of his work, the Emperor of Japan awarded Tanaka the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays – the highest decoration for a civilian. Consul General Takeshi Kagami bestowed this accolade to Tanaka at Glidden House on 8 December 1995. Through the Cleveland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens league, his legacy is also remembered through the Hank Tanaka Memorial Scholarship.

Tanaka spent the latter part of his life living in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS with his wife Sachi Fukiage and his four sons: David, a lawyer; Steven, a doctor; Robert, a veterinarian; and John, an environmental engineer.

Margaret Yuna Kim

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