Journalist witnessed key historical events
LARRY NAKATSUKA / STAR-BULLETIN REPORTER
Former Star-Bulletin reporter Larry Nakatsuka often described his assignment on Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
At first his editor "thought it might not be safe for a reporter with a Japanese face to go outside the city room searching for news," Nakatsuka recalled in a December 1999 newspaper column.
But he was soon sent to the Japanese Consulate and took along the newspaper's extra edition with a headline proclaiming "War." As he attempted to interview Consul Nagao Kita, Honolulu police officers arrived to detain the ranking Japanese official.
Nakatsuka, later an aide to two Hawaii governors and U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong, died Sunday in Straub Hospital. He was 85.
He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Asian American Journalists Association at its August 2000 national convention.
Nakatsuka joined the Star-Bulletin after graduating from St. Louis School in 1939, the first Japanese-American reporter on the staff. He was the first Japanese American to win a Harvard University Nieman Fellowship, leaving Hawaii for a year of study in 1951-52.
"That wasn't easy to come by," said former reporter Lyle Nelson. "I remember him as a good writer. He was a nice guy, very modest."
Nakatsuka covered the labor beat and was promoted to assistant city editor.
He became press secretary to the late territorial Gov. Samuel Wilder King in 1953 and continued in the position for Gov. William Quinn during Hawaii's statehood admission. Quinn appointed him deputy director of the former Department of Social Services. In 1955, he went on a speaking tour for the U.S. Information Agency to Burma (Myanmar), Pakistan, India and the Philippines.
He moved his family to Washington, D.C., in 1963 to serve as legislative assistant, and later executive assistant, to Fong and remained through history-making legislation, including the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act and Immigration Reform Act, until Fong's retirement.
Nakatsuka was vice president for legislative affairs for the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii from 1976 until his retirement in 1983.
Nakatsuka last wrote a viewpoint column for the Star-Bulletin for the 2004 Admission Day holiday.
He reminded readers, "There were tens of thousands of Hawaii residents, like myself, who were second-class citizens. Those were the years before statehood; before we became first-class citizens."
Born in Hanalei, Kauai, he was named Kaoru Nakatsuka. The faculty at St. Louis School called him Lawrence, a name that stuck for life.
He is survived by sons Roy and Paul, daughter Laura, brother James, and sisters Audrey Oyama and Leslie Miyashiro.
Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Honpa Hongwanji Betsuin. Inurnment will be private. The family asks that casual attire be worn. Borthwick Mortuary handled arrangements.