Irvin R. Lai born in Locke, California in 1927, served in both WWII and the Korean War. Through his passionate dedication to service, he became a civil rights leader of the Los Angeles Chinese community. In 1982 he testified before California state legislature against the ban of Peking duck, that led to the passage of the "Roast Duck Bill." In 2006, he gathered local support to protect Chinese graves during the construction of the Metro Gold Line. Lai was an outspoken, thoughtful, and deeply respected advocate and member of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles.
On July 16th, 2010, he succumbed to his fight against cancer. The Chinese American Citizens Alliance & Chinese Historical Society of Southern California are holding a community memorial tribute and celebration honoring Irvin R. Lai.
More on Irvin Lai:
" CHSSC Board Member Irvin Lai remembers, 'I started my business in 1958. I had my license to repair refrigerators and air conditioners. I had $500 and bought a pick-up truck with some equipment. Other Chinese small businesses had to depend on friends or family associations to lend them some funds. I didn't even have a family association in Los Angeles. There was hardly any financing available. I rented a place for $50 per month. I had to make that $500 stretch for six months.' "
IMDiversity.com: A History of Chinese American Banking in Los Angeles
"Chinese were not permitted to be buried in Evergreen Cemetery, where some of the city's most prominent early families were interred. Chinese were given a corner of the city's potter field next to the indigents. But unlike the white indigents, who were buried at no charge, the Chinese had to pay $10 to be buried, a substantial fee for that era, Lai said."
LJWorld.com, March 21, 2006: Historic cemetery unearthed near L.A.
" 'We know the names of (many of) those who were interred (at the site), but all the grave markers are gone,' Lai states. 'We've known for some time that there was a graveyard somewhere (near Evergreen) but could never find it.' "
Chinese Historical Society of Southern California: MTA Defends Handling of Chinese Graves
" 'He was probably one of the greatest Southern California civil rights leaders I've ever known,' said Assemblyman Mike Eng (D- Monterey Park). 'He was at the forefront of virtually every civil rights issue in Southern California.' "
Los Angeles Times: Irvin R. Lai dies at 83; Chinese American community leader in Los Angeles