"Bob was a relentless fighter against injustice and a strong advocate for seniors, working families and civil rights."- Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald

At the turn of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Japanese immigrants flooded into the Pacific coast of America, generating resentment and racist stereotyping. Robert Matsui, a Sansei, or a third-generation Japanese American, was born on September 17, 1941 in Sacramento, California. To say the least, he was born at the wrong place at the wrong time. Only three months after his birth, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, further intensifying anti-Japanese sentiment.

The attack became justification for anti-Japanese individuals to finally be able to rid of all those Japanese Americans; over 100,000 of these citizens were immediately forced into internment camps located throughout the western states. Matsui was barely six months old at the time Executive Order 9102 incarcerated them in an internment camp at Tule Lake. His parents, Yasuji and Alice Nagata, were forced to sell their family house for fifty dollars and abandon their small produce business upon their forced evacuation.

Although Matsui spent three and a half long, horrific years at Tule Lake, he had few memories of the experience. But three and a half years were enough to taint him forever; causing guilt and the questioning of his own loyalty towards the United States government whenever internment camps were mentioned. As a fourth grader sitting in his American History class, his teacher asked him to speak about his experience as a Japanese internee, but he could only shamefully and persistently deny ever being interned.

Matsui’s parents, along with other first and second generation Japanese Americans, were old enough to remember and were so devastated by the experience that they were unable to speak up for many years afterwards. Matsui's mother constantly hoarded foodstuffs and dry goods, characteristic of most civilian survivors of wars. Both parents were unable to speak to Matsui about their experiences until the 1980s. Matsui vowed to bring justice to his family and to his people.

Law and Public Service
“Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country”- J.F.K. 1961 Inaugural Speech

At the end of World War II, the Matsuis returned to their hometown Sacramento to rebuild their lives. Robert Matsui’s years at William Land Elementary and California Junior High soon went by. Entering the C.K. McClatchy High School, he dreamed of studying architecture. But this dream quickly dissipated after reading the autobiography of the famous trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, who believed that laws were created to protect the underdog. Inspired by Darrow’s belief, Matsui was determined to study law and someday be able to bring justice to the disadvantaged, namely his Japanese Americans.

After graduating from C.K. McClatchy High in 1959, Matsui enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. During his sophomore year in 1961, John F. Kennedy made his now famous inaugural speech calling young people to public service. This speech further inspired Matsui to dedicate his life in helping others.

In 1963, Matsui graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in political science and went on to earn his J.D. degree from the university's Hastings College of Law. After receiving his J.D. degree in 1967, he established a private law practice back in his hometown of Sacramento and became fairly successful. In 1971, Matsui saw his first opportunity to run for public office when the city council districts of Sacramento were redrawn, leaving an incumbent Republican's reelection in doubt. He jumped at this chance to enter public life, calling on all his networks of friends and business acquaintances and successfully winning a seat on the city council with 54 percent vote.

Matsui further established himself as a public figure in Sacramento when in 1977, his council colleagues elected him vice-mayor of the city. The following year, when he learned that the current Representative from Sacramento would be relinquishing his seat in Congress, Matsui decided to try to fill the post as underdog, and won by several votes. He was now able to serve the public both locally and nationally.

As a congressman, Matsui worked up from a spot on the Judiciary Committee, which was neither prestigious nor powerful, to becoming the third ranking member on the influential Ways and Means Committee. He was one of the main representatives to help push the Japanese Redress Act in 1988, requiring that a formal apology from the government and compensation be given to all the Japanese internees. He also worked on reforming social security, healthcare, welfare, and tax policies, as well as passing important laws on free trade. Unfortunately Matsui’s career came to an end as he came up with pneumonia caused by complications from Myelodyspastic Disorder and past away on January 1, 2005. However, after his January death, his wife Doris Matsui, a lobbyist and former Clinton administration official, easily won a March 2005 election to fill his seat. Hopefully, his legacy as a public serviceman will continue with this election.

Robert Matsui married Doris Okada on his September 17, 1966. The couple has a son, Brian Robert Matsui, who married Amy. Brian and Amy have a daughter named Anna.