Former legislator, Seattle activist Tokuda dies at 66

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Kip Tokuda (Photo credit: KUOW/Deborah Wang)

Former state Rep. Kip Tokuda, D-Seattle, a community activist and son of Japanese American parents who were interned during World War II, died of a heart attack while fishing on Whidbey Island. He was 66.

Tokuda, a Seattle native, was fishing on Whidbey Island’s Deer Lake from a kayak Saturday when he called out for help, Island County authorities said Monday. CPR efforts failed to revive him.

In addition to his legislative service, Tokuda founded the Asian Community Leadership Foundation of Seattle and was past president (1993) of the Japanese American Citizens League.

Tokuda began working as a social worker with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services following his graduation from the University of Washington in 1969.

Tokuda served in the Washington state House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002, representing Seattle’s 37th District, which covers the Central District and southeast Seattle.

The brother of a developmentally disabled sibling,  Tokuda was a strong advocate for children, families and individuals with developmental disabilities.

More recently, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn named him to the Community Police Commission to oversee reforms in the Seattle Police Department.

“Yesterday the city of Seattle lost a true leader, Kip Tokuda,” McGinn said in statement Sunday. “For decades in Seattle and Olympia he was steadfast in his work for racial justice, for the disadvantaged, and for our youth. He was an inspiration and mentor to many in the community, including me.

“With his cheerful insistence on doing what was right, he pitched in to guide my transition to mayor, serve as interim Human Services Department director, develop new Seattle Police Department recruitment policies, and serve on our newly formed Community Police Commission. Seattle was enriched by him, and we will miss him deeply. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and the community that loved him.”

Gov. Jay Inslee issued the following statement Monday: “Trudi and I grieve today with Kip Tokuda’s family, friends and the many people he helped in a lifetime of selfless community service.

“Kip had a deep commitment to Washington’s Japanese-American community – a commitment to justice born from the injustice his family faced. He never wavered in his drive to bring fairness to all members of our society. That was his passion and his profession, whether as a state lawmaker, heading Seattle’s Family and Youth Services Division or as a member of Seattle’s Community Police Commission.

“Kip was a devoted dad and husband and on behalf of all Washingtonians I send our condolences to his family.”

In June 2012, Tokuda was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese emperor for his work strengthening relations between Japan and the United States.

Tokuda is survived by his wife, Barbara Lui, and two daughters.


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