Shirley Ann Higuchi, JD, Chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HMWF), is the daughter of former incarcerees, Dr. William I. Higuchi and the late Setsuko Saito Higuchi. Her American born parents were children when they were incarcerated at Heart Mountain during WWII. Shirley’s pursuit of law stemmed from her feelings of discomfort toward how the U.S. judicial system treated her parents. It was not until her mother was on her deathbed in 2005 that Shirley would inspire to take on her mother’s dream of “having something built there.” She was elected Chair of the Board in 2009 and her proudest moment was unveiling the Foundation’s world-class Interpretive Center in August, 2011 alongside journalist Tom Brokaw, the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Secretary Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K. Simpson.
In 2014, Shirley was profiled in the documentary, “The Legacy of Heart Mountain” a film that emphasized: “The more who know, hopefully, will rise to defend future attacks on civil liberties and personal freedom.” The film won four Emmy Awards, the Radio Television Digital News Association Unity Award, and two Edward R. Murrow Awards.
Shirley, an Advisory Board member of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts, recently spoke on the dangers of for-profit detention centers at the Consortium’s recent annual conference in Minneapolis, MN. Under her leadership, she led HMWF in the creation of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium which brought together more than 60 representatives from organizations interested in the incarceration including the 10 major WWII confinement sites that incarcerated over 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent. Furthermore, Shirley wrote a book on the history of the incarceration through the lens of several dynamic characters whose lives passed through Heart Mountain spanning pre-WWII to the present day. The book was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in October of 2020.
In addition to her work with Heart Mountain, Shirley currently leads the legal advocacy office of the American Psychological Association. Active in the District of Columbia Bar, Shirley served two elected terms on the Board of Governors from 1994 to 2000, served as Chair of the Bar’s Nominations Committee in 2001, and was elected President of the Bar for 2003. In 2008, Shirley was appointed to the Judicial Tenure and Disabilities Commission for a 6-year term where she was responsible for reviewing misconduct, evaluating reappointments, and conducting fitness reviews of the District’s judges. In 2014, Shirley was appointed to the Federal Law Enforcement Nominating Commission by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).