By CBSLA Staff

LITTLE TOKYO (CBSLA) — The intersection of First and Judge John Aiso streets in Little Tokyo Tuesday was renamed Rose Ochi Square in honor of the pioneering Japanese American civil rights leader.

The intersection of First and Judge John Aiso streets in Little Tokyo Tuesday was renamed Rose Ochi Square in honor of the pioneering Japanese American civil rights leader. (CBSLA)

“Rose Ochi, without a doubt, was an Angeleno and Japanese-American civil rights champion,” City Councilman Kevin de León said. “While she passed away last year on December 13, 2020, her legacy is embedded in the history of our city as well as our state and our nation.”

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The councilman was joined by Ochi’s widower, Tom Ochi, and lobbyist Darlene Kuba, who requested the intersection be dedicated in Ochi’s honor.

Ochi was born in Boyle Heights Dec. 15, 1938. At the age of 3, she and her family were sent to the Santa Anita Detention Center following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order authorizing the detention of more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent. The family lived at Santa Anita for six months before being sent to the Rohwer camp in Arkansas.

After the war, the family returned to Los Angeles where Ochi graduated from UCLA in 1959 and became a secondary school teacher. Ochi then graduated from Loyola Law School in 1972, a career path inspired by the civil rights efforts of the 1960s.

She accepted a fellowship at USC’s Western Center on Law and Poverty, where she was co-counsel on the landmark Serrano vs. Priest case of the 1970s, which forced the state of California to adopt an education funding system that was more equitable.

Ochi then joined Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration as director of the city’s Criminal Justice Office, where she developed the Los Angeles Police Department’s policy regarding use of force and advised the mayor on the Blake consent decree.

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She also played pivotal roles in the efforts to win passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and have the Manzanar camp in the Owens Valley declared a national historic site.

During the Carter administration, Ochi was a member of the Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy and associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. During the Clinton administration, Ochi served as an assistant U.S. attorney general.

More recently, Ochi served as a member of the Los Angeles Police Commission from 2001 to 2005 and was subsequently named the first executive director of the California Forensic Science Institute at Cal State University Los Angeles.

“Our nation is better for her sacrifices and her contributions,” de León said. “And the City of Angels is proud to call her a cherished daughter.”

Ochi died Dec. 13, just two days before what would have been her 82nd birthday.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)