In a day and age where anger too often separates and divides, it’s important to remember someone who used anger for good.
Bob Fletcher was a California agriculture inspector, working in Florin, California (in Sacramento County) in 1942 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order forcing 120,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast into relocation camps. These families, many of whom had farmed the area since the 1890’s had no choice but to abandon their farms. One of these farmers, Al Tsukamoto, approached Fletcher, who had earned the trust of the farming community because of his integrity and kindness. Would this agriculture inspector, an employee of the State, become the steward of two large farms owned by soon-to-be relocated families? Tsukamoto told Fletcher he could keep all the profits and live in the main house in exchange for paying the mortgages and taxes, and managing the work.
Accepting this responsibility, meant that Fletcher not only had to quit his secure job in the middle of a world war, he’d need to face the long-standing bigotry in the region toward Japanese-Americans—deeply entrenched enough that Japanese-American children for decades had been required to attend segregated schools.
Fletcher disagreed with the President’s decision, and was angered to see injustice and fear institutionalized. So he not only agreed to save the two farms, and risk personal loss by leaving his job and becoming a target of the bigotry in his community, he only took half the profits. The other half he deposited in accounts he set up for the families so they’d have working capital when they returned. Further, he and his wife lived in the bunk house, instead of the main house, out of respect for the rightful owners.
For three years, Fletcher worked 90 acres and averaged 18 hour work-days. And when the families were finally allowed to return to their farms, and store owners would refuse to fill their orders, Fletcher would make the purchases for them.
Mr. Fletcher would eventually buy his own parcel of land in Florin, raised cattle, worked as a volunteer fire fighter, helped start the Florin Water District, eventually became the Fire Chief, and lived to the ripe old age of 101. Like so many heroes, Fletcher never considered himself to be one. “I don’t know about courage…it took a devil of a lot of work.”
Yes, I imagine propping up humanity does take a lot of work.
Bob Fletcher is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.