By Yasaman Hosseni
Late Gov. Ralph Carr, whose fierce opposition to interning Japanese-Americans during World War II led to him being named Colorado’s “Person of the Century,” has been recognized for another honor.
Carr is one of three finalists for the Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award given by the National Association of Secretaries of State. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams nominated Carr for the award, which recognizes acts of “political courage, uncommon character and selfless action in the realm of public service.”
Carr was first elected Colorado governor in 1938, and again in 1940. He stood up to those threatening violence against Japanese interned at the state’s interment camp on the Eastern Plains.
“If you harm them,” the Republican said in 1942, “you must first harm me.”
The winner will be announced during the National Association of Secretaries of State’s 2018 summer conference that kicks off next week in Philadelphia.
Members of the Little Rock Nine received the last Margaret Chase Smith award, which is is named for the Maine senator who jeopardized her career by speaking out against the tactics of Sen. Joseph P. McCarthy in the 1950s.
The other finalists this year are Eva Mozes Kor, nominated for her work as a human rights advocate, educator, and founder of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center; and former Gov. Dan Evans and his intern, Ralph Munro, nominated for their efforts to settle approximately 30,000 Vietnamese refugees in Washington state following the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Mozes Kor was nominated by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson. Evans and Munro were nominated by Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Carr was born in 1887 in Rosita, Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado Boulder for his undergraduate and law degree.
After receiving his law degree, Carr moved to the San Luis Valley, and got to know the Japanese-American communities there. Carr served as county attorney of Conejos County from 1922-1929. He also served as the first assistant attorney general of Colorado from 1927-1929 and later as U.S. district attorney for Colorado from 1929-1933, according to a 2016 story in The Denver Post. He served two terms as Colorado governor.
“America is made up of men and women from the four corners of the earth, of every racial origin and nationality,” Carr wrote in an editorial published in the Japanese-American Citizens League newspaper. “It is truly the melting pot of the world. There is no place here for the man who thinks that his people or those who speak his language are in turn entitled to preference over any others.”
Carr’s ran for the U.S. Senate in 1942 but lost. Historians believed his stance cost him his political career.
Carr died in 1950. Sixty-six years later, The Denver Post name him Colorado’s person of the century. Colorado’s new justice center, housing the state courts, is named for the courageous governor.
Yasaman Hosseni is a graduate of the University of Denver Law School and is interning for Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert.