Wayne Kimio Horiuchi of Sacramento, who was instrumental in the appointment of a presidential commission to look into the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, died Jan. 23. He was 71.
The cause of death was acute liver failure, possibly idiopathic, related to prescription medication.
Horiuchi, whose life was driven by his passion for politics, sports and his family, was a state and national debate champion in high school in Salt Lake City. He graduated from the University of Utah, where he also worked in the campaigns of Utah Gov. Calvin Rampton, U.S. Sen. Ted Moss, and other Democrats. When federal law lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, Horiuchi was featured as the progressive youth voting bloc activist in contrast to his conservative college antagonist, the young Karl Rove.
He directed Union Pacific’s political activity and headed the Union Pacific Foundation in California, which funded community projects along thousands of miles of railroad right of way.
In 1975, Horiuchi joined the Japanese American Citizens League as its Washington representative, lobbying Congress and the White House. He played a key role in the creation of the presidential commission to investigate the internment of Japanese Americans, and he contributed to President Gerald Ford’s historic rescission of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment.
It was a personal victory as well: Horiuchi’s father and family were forcibly removed from Seattle when he was a high school student and interned at Minidoka, Idaho.
In 1978 Horiuchi returned to Utah. After three years with the Weber County Corporation, he accepted a position with Union Pacific Railroad, and in 1984 he relocated to Sacramento, where he directed the company’s political activity and headed the Union Pacific Foundation in California, which funded community projects along thousands of miles of railroad right of way.
As a boy, Horiuchi developed a lifelong love for the Los Angeles Dodgers, listening on the radio to games broadcast by Vin Scully. He also was so devoted to University of Utah teams that he always referred to them as “we.” He even taught his family the words to “Hail to the Redskins,” so they could sing along in case Washington’s NFL team scored.
In 2008, in what he referred to as “his finest hour,” Horiuchi set aside his dreams of retirement to rescue three of his grandchildren from foster care, eventually becoming their adoptive father.
His political perspective shifted over the years, from being a passionate Utah Democrat to becoming a passionate California Republican, although he periodically returned to Utah to help his high-profile brother Randy in his campaigns and in campaigns of other Democrats mentored by Randy and Wayne.
The political highlight of Wayne’s post-retirement years came in 2016, when he was appointed an alternate delegate from California for Donald Trump and attended the Republican National Convention and later the inauguration.
Horiuchi was born Dec. 11, 1947, the eldest of four sons, to Tsutomo (“Tube”) Harry Horiuchi and May Kiyoko (Hakata) Horiuchi.
He is survived by his wife Catherine and grandchildren Arielle, Bessa, and Francis; daughter Angela Yvkoff (Greg) and granddaughter London; stepson Walt Miller (Crystal); his two brothers Vincent and Sherman. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother Randy.
A celebration of his life will be held Feb. 4 at 10 a.m. at the George L. Klumpp Chapel of Flowers, 2691 Riverside Boulevard, Sacramento.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, the California Center for Civic Participation, or a similar organization that promotes youth engagement in civic and political life.