In 1998, Fred Korematsu was a fragile reed of a man. But in the East Room of the White House, the septuagenarian stood up straight and tall as he heard President Clinton say, "Plessy, Brown, Parks ... to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu."
Mr. Korematsu, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for courageously defying military orders calling for the World War II removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, died of respiratory failure Wednesday in San Rafael. He was 86.
Mr. Korematsu's death marks a milestone in the history of American civil liberties. By his simple act of defiance in 1942, for which he was arrested and convicted, the lifelong Bay Area resident became an icon of social justice, not just in his own Japanese American community, but beyond.
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