About Us

History of the National JACL Credit Union

In 1943, the National JACL Credit Union was formed as a state chartered credit union in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It was started by a group of Japanese Americans who were members of a civil liberties organization called the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). This organization was primarily developed to help assimilate Japanese Americans back into society after World War II.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued an order to intern all people of Japanese decent that lived near coastal areas. More than 125,000 people were evacuated and interned at several relocation camps in various inland states. Utah was one of those states and in a small desert town called Topaz, a relocation camp was built.

Many Japanese Americans suffered physical, emotional and financial losses after internment. The JACL was one of the many groups formed to help them deal with those issues.

When the order was issued, most people were only given a short time to pack, store, sell, give away or dispose of everything they owned. Many lost everything, including family heirlooms, businesses, real estate, and personal property. They were only allowed to take what they could carry and leave behind everything else. Most would never recover or reclaim their belongings.

After the war ended, many Japanese Americans (JA) either moved back to where they lived before internment or stayed in the state where they were interned.

As internees tried to establish their lives, they ran into many obstacles – prejudice and discrimination being a couple of them and financial worries being another. Many people were unable to get jobs. Those who had money, could not use it to purchase things such as cars, homes, etc., and many financial institutions would not give them loans or let them deposit money.

So, a group of JACL members decided something needed to be done. A man named Hito Okada was determined to help, so he researched a concept called cooperatives. He decided that by forming a credit union, JAs could help fellow JAs.

He gathered a group of ten men to organize the credit union, and another fifteen JACL members to deposit enough money to establish the credit union with $2,435.00!