Donald H. Estes (1936-2005) was a San Diego based historian and educator who wrote and taught about the Japanese American
experience in both Southern California and the nation. This collection contains many of the books and articles he wrote, as
well as his extensive research files. It also includes materials he collected from the Japanese American community in order
to document their internment during World War II.
Donald Hamilton Estes was born in Nebraska in 1936. He and his family moved to the San Diego’s North Park neighborhood in
1939. He entered San Diego City College in 1954, and completed BA and Master’s degrees from San Diego State University by
1966. In 1960, Estes began teaching Advanced History and Government at La Jolla High School, leaving the school in 1967 to
become Professor of History and Political Science at San Diego City College. From 1969 to 1973, he also served as Adjunct
Professor of Education at the University of California at San Diego, and held a similar position at San Diego State University
during 1974-1975. Also during the 1970s, Estes performed curriculum development work for the California Department Education
and served as a Fellowships Program Evaluator for the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1986, San Diego City College
awarded Estes the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching. He retired from San Diego City College in 2003.
Estes sat on the Board of the San Diego Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League from 1967 on, and served twice as
president. He was a founding member of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego (JAHSSD) and served that organization
as historian and curator. Estes was among the first historians to serve on the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Japanese American
National Museum beginning in 1989.
Estes' oral history interviews and research produced six books, published between 1971 and 1996. He also authored numerous
scholarly articles, many published in the Journal of San Diego History. Estes also curated exhibitions and served as adviser
or director of several films and video productions.
At the time of his death, Estes was working on an extensive history of the Japanese in America. According to Ben Segawa, founding
president and executive director of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego, “Estes was the acknowledged expert
on the history of our community, the heart and soul of our organization. He was known as an inspiring teacher and in his scholarly
pursuits, addressed what he called a natural void that was waiting to be
Estes both collected and generated significant materials that would otherwise not be available for research today. He died
on May 7, 2005 at the age of 68.