Tsuguo “Ike” Ikeda was born 1924 in Portland, Oregon. Like many Japanese Americans in Oregon, he was incarcerated at the North Portland Assembly Center and later, the Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho. At the age of 17, Tsuguo walked into the Minidoka Concentration Camp & vowed to spend the rest of his life working for those without a voice. After he graduated from high school and left Minidoka on indefinite work leave, he was drafted in 1944. Tsuguo graduated from United States Military Intelligence Service Language School and after he was discharged, returned to Portland, Oregon, and graduated from Lewis Clark College in 1949. He became one of the first Nisei to obtain Master of Social Work degree from University of Washington in 1951, when he got married, and ultimately had four children.
Incarceration led Ikeda to resolve to work for social justice for the rest of his life. He worked to reduce racial discrimination, and promoted multi-racial, cross-cultural cooperation, equal opportunity and affirmative action in community, church, nonprofit, government and other arenas. In 1953, he was one of the first Nisei hired as executive director of a nonprofit organization in the United States (outside the Japanese American community), and served at the Atlantic Street Center in Seattle for 33 years, until he retired in 1986. He lead its transformation from settlement house to social service agency, focused on providing services for at-risk youth.
The center developed the first computerized system for case records in the US with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH study lasted seven years and produced “Effectiveness of Social Work with Acting Out Youth,” which at the time was ranked as one of the top ten studies of its kind in the nation.
In the late 1960s, when Tsuguo allowed the Seattle Black Panthers to use the Atlantic Street Center facilities to provide a breakfast program for local underprivileged children, it was a controversial decision. But the benefit to the children was clear and the leader of the Black Panthers and Tsuguo ended up developing a mutually respectful and constructive relationship. Tsuguo also organized and facilitated a minority inmate coalition at the Washington State Department of Corrections Monroe Reformatory (now Correctional Complex). The coalition was successful at decreasing the incidents of violence between the groups of minority inmates and was the first of its kind in the state. Tsuguo mentored and advised community members, including sharing a set of principles he developed based on values from his cultural heritage, until he passed away in 2015, at the age of 91, surrounded by his family. He is the recipient of numerous awards, recognitions of service, and honors for his professional and volunteer contributions to society.
Learn more: https://ddr.densho.org/narrators/121/