Wat Misaka and Arlene Inouye Named for 2019 National JACL President’s Award

June 13, 2019

For Immediate Release

David Inoue, Executive Director
dinoue@jacl.org, 202-223-1240

Sarah Baker, VP Public Affairs

Washington, DC – The National Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is pleased to announce its 2019 President’s awardees, Wat Misaka and Arlene Inouye. “The two honorees this year represent tremendous leadership that extends beyond the Japanese American community,” said Jeff Moy, JACL President.  

Wat Misaka is an Asian American trailblazer in sports as the first person of color to play in the NBA. Wat was born and raised in Ogden, Utah. He played basketball for Weber State University, then made the basketball team at the University of Utah when the war broke out. Although he was not a starter, he played when Utah went to the NIT and NCAA, ultimately winning the 1944 NCAA championship. Misaka’s college career was interrupted by two years of military service in the US Army during its occupation of Japan. He returned to play for the University of Utah and the team won the 1947 NIT tournament. In the championship game Misaka led the team by holding University of Kentucky’s leader and National Player of the Year to one point. Wat was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947 and played point guard for the team during the 1947-48 season. After his tenure with the Knicks, he returned to Utah to become an engineer and in 1999, he was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.

We also honor Arlene Inouye, Secretary of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), for her lifetime work as an educator and her more recent role as the UTLA Negotiations Team Co-Chair. In this capacity, she led the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers union, which represents more than 30,000 educators employed by LAUSD, through a strike to a settlement agreement, which included a pay increase, smaller class sizes, and more nurses, counselors, librarians, and mental health professionals in schools, thus ultimately affirming the importance of quality public education for all students. A lifelong community organizer and activist, Inouye has also served on the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) Executive Council, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Executive Board, the California Teachers Association (CTA) Pacific Asian American Caucus, and the National Education Association (NEA) Asian Pacific Islander Caucus as the California Director. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Inouye holds a BA and MA in communicative disorders from CSU Long Beach.

Moy praised Misaka’s place in sports history, “In this era of Linsanity, Naomi Osaka, and Colin Kaepernick, Wat Misaka led the way in breaking the color barrier in professional sports when he played for the Knicks.” Moy continued on to highlight Inouye’s leadership in public education, “Arlene Inouye’s role as the primary negotiator for the recent LA School District’s teacher contract negotiations won significant advancements for strengthening public education for all students served by the school district.”

Founded in 1929, JACL is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. JACL monitors and responds to issues that enhance or threaten the civil and human rights of all Americans and implements strategies to effect positive social change, particularly to the Asian Pacific American community. JACL has three chapters in Utah, where the 2019 convention will be held.

Wat Misaka and Arlene Inouye will be recognized at the Sayonara Banquet on Saturday, August 3 during the National JACL Convention held in Salt Lake City from July 31-August 4, 2019 at Little America Hotel. For more information on the convention, visit https://www.convention2019.jacl.org/

Convention sponsorship and program book advertisements are still available. Please visit https://www.convention2019.jacl.org/sponsorships for more information on how to support the convention.


The Japanese American Citizens League is a national organization whose ongoing mission is to secure and maintain the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and bigotry. The leaders and members of the JACL also work to promote cultural, educational and social values and preserve the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American community.

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