Irvin R. Lai

Monday, July 26, 2010

I didn't know Irvin Lai, but I'm always a saddened to hear when a community leader passes away making me think about what I really do know - and what I should really care about.

Born in 1927 on a farm outside Locke, the historic Chinese settlement in the Sacramento River delta, Lai was a third-generation Chinese American who moved to Los Angeles in his teens, served in the U.S. military during World War II and the Korean War, went to college on the GI Bill and eventually worked in the family's restaurant, refrigeration and construction businesses.

But his heart and all his spare time were devoted to serving the community, a virtue he acquired from his mother, Effie Lai, a volunteer social worker who helped new immigrants from China adapt to life on California's old frontier.

"He was probably one of the greatest Southern California civil rights leaders I've ever known," said Democratic Assemblyman Mike Eng. "He was at the forefront of virtually every civil rights issue in Southern California."

As an active promoter of Chinese culture, history and civil rights, Lai took on numerous leadership positions, including national president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, head of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, commissioner of the Asian American Education Commission and director of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
Read it in full.