Takashi Kitaoka
100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

Baylor Law School

Through Lloyd Killam, head of the YMCA’s Atherton House, Takashi receives a scholarship to Baylor Law School in 1937.

In Texas, Takashi witnesses segregation. He befriends a Native American dorm mate and becomes acquainted with Caucasian classmates and teachers. Seen as a novelty, he is treated well.

Takashi graduates in three years. Missing the bar examination by one point, he passes after his return from service in World War II.

[In 1937, I began law school at Baylor.]

Opportunities

[I was able to go to law school] through my friend, who was the head of the YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association]. He was instrumental in getting scholarships to different Pacific — especially in the Pacific Coast — universities, mostly private, for people who were connected with the Y[MCA].

Takashi Kitaoka and friend walking down the street.
Takashi Kitaoka and friend walking down the street.

During high school, I was in what we call the Hi-Y. I was in contact with this gentleman by the name of Lloyd Killam, who was the head of the YMCA at the University of Hawaii, [Charles H.] Atherton House. We got to know each other. He became interested in me and somehow he asked me if I would want to go to school, not necessarily law school, but to any school in the Pacific Coast.

There were, oh, maybe about a dozen of us who were privileged to go to schools on the Mainland because of the YMCA. This is how I got to Baylor.

Baylor Law School

Baylor is a private, religious school. Baptist. His contact was with mostly private schools, although I think there were a few state schools. I was interested in law even though I was in public education, health education. Somehow, since the opportunity arose, I took it and I went to Baylor Law School.

Takashi Kitaoka at Baylor University.
Takashi Kitaoka at Baylor University.

At that time, there was very little specialization, I guess that’s what you call that. You get a general course in law, with emphasis, perhaps, in certain fields, but then mostly the general law degree, which was LLB, bachelor of laws, which they later changed to juris doctor [JD, or doctor of jurisprudence].

Race Relations

[Moving to Waco, Texas] was a novel experience. It was something completely different from our way of life here. The first experience I had was on the train. We went to the Texas border and the train stopped. I was wondering what they stopped for. Well here, all of the blacks were required to go to another car, the back. Although up to then, we all sat together. So I asked the conductor, “Well, do I go back there, too?” He said, “No. You just stay there. You’re not black.”

Of course, it was absolute segregation throughout the state, throughout the South. In a railroad station, black and white. Then the toilets were black and white. Even the [drinking] fountains. So that there was complete segregation.

I wasn’t used to it, of course, being born [in Hawaii] and going to school over here. But it was something novel and even [at Baylor Law School], there was not a single black. All of the schools were like that. No blacks, all segregation.

There was one girl from Wahiawa who went to Baylor [University] to get an education in theology because Baylor was a Baptist school and she was a Baptist, I imagine. That’s the only one person that I knew who went, too. We had a few others from foreign countries. And we did meet occasionally as a group.

Experiences

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[My fellow students and teachers] treated me like a prince. I enjoyed that part of it. I was a novelty. In fact they couldn’t understand how — where did I learn to speak English? You know, simple questions like that. I got to know those people and they were very nice, very kind, very hospitable.

We got to be friendly, especially my classmates in law school. I would go to their homes during the vacation, Christmas vacation, Easter vacation. This is how I got to know the people in Texas.

I even went to Oklahoma and New Mexico during one Christmas because that was my first year. We were in the dormitory and one of my friends was a pure Cherokee Indian. So he asked me to go [with him] to the Indian reservation in Oklahoma and I did. I had a wonderful time. I learned about the Indians, how they lived, what they ate. It was very difficult for me because their food there is different from what we are used to.

Cherokee Indian classmate of Takashi Kitaoka.
Cherokee Indian classmate of Takashi Kitaoka.

One experience, I must tell you, we were in New Mexico, he wanted to have a drink so he asked me to go buy the drink. I say, “Why don’t you go?” Well, they didn’t sell liquor to the Indians. Those things you learn, very interesting. So I did, I went to buy the liquor. We had a good time.

[I could have been mistaken for Indian] but then that didn’t show up. I never had that experience. I went to East Texas. I went to West Texas. Lubbock, all those different places, and it was quite an experience for me, especially Hawaii boy, not being acquainted with haoles. You don’t deal with haoles [in Hawaii] at that time, anyway. I was completely exposed to that kind of life [in Texas].

I think, because I was a novelty, [my haole classmates and teachers] treated me as such. Not much difference [than my experiences] at Mid-Pacific [Institute] because, why, the teachers were 99 percent from the Mainland. So I was exposed to haole teachers and that was very good.

Graduation

[I was at Baylor for] three years.

We had to really study hard. To some of the better students, it seemed like law came natural to them. They were exposed to that kind of subject. But law was something completely different, extraneous. I had no particular preparation or education along those lines.

I had no particular plans [when I graduated from Baylor], except to come back and practice law.

Takashi Kitaoka and friend. Graduation, Baylor Law School.
Takashi Kitaoka and friend. Graduation, Baylor Law School.

Bar Exam

[Taking the bar] was difficult. It was difficult. In fact, to tell you the truth, I missed it by one point, the bar. I’m not proud of that but that’s life. To miss it by one point, that’s heartbreaking.

After the war, I took it [again and passed].

Takashi Kitaoka's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Takashi Kitaoka.

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