William Marumoto; Nixon Aide, Businessman

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

William H. "Mo" Marumoto, 73, who grew up in a World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans and became a White House aide to President Richard M. Nixon and owner of an executive recruitment business, died Nov. 25 at Inova Fairfax Hospital after a heart attack.

Mr. Marumoto, a quiet, self-effacing man, founded his executive search firm in the mid-1970s and became known as the dean of Washington headhunters. Since 2005, he had been president and chief executive of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

Mr. Marumoto, a McLean resident, was born in Long Beach, Calif. As a child, he and his brothers arose every morning at sunrise to stack the shelves, sweep the sidewalks and get his parents' grocery store in Santa Ana ready to open. "We were called the Rising Sons by folks in town," he joked to friends later.

After the U.S. entry into World War II, he and his family were herded with other Nisei, or second-generation Japanese American families, into stables at the Santa Anita racetrack. He was later relocated by train, under the eye of an armed FBI agent, to an internment camp in Gila Bend, Ariz., where the family remained until the war ended.

"That was my first and most unforgettable experience with the federal government," he recalled.

After the war ended and the families were released, Mr. Marumoto graduated from Whittier College and worked for 10 years as director of alumni relations at Whittier. After that, he worked in planning and development positions with UCLA and the California Institute of the Arts.

He moved to Washington in 1969 as assistant to the secretary of the Department of Health Education and Welfare, responsible for recruiting senior executives for the Office of Education.

In 1970, Mr. Marumoto was appointed a presidential aide responsible for filling Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions. Mr. Marumoto, whose professional and social affiliations were often firsts for Japanese or Asian Americans, spent his three years at the White House recruiting minorities into senior-level government jobs.

After leaving government service, he formed the Interface Group, which sought out candidates for chief executive, senior executive and director positions and specialized in the placement of top-level women and minorities.

As a headhunter (for which the Japanese word is the sound-alike "heddahunta"), Mr. Marumoto warned job-seeking government officials during the presidential transition year of 1988 that they needed to be more realistic about what they were qualified to do and earn.

"One of the myths some folks have is an overestimation of their own worth," he told The Washington Post. "Many expect a big six-figure job. . . . When you're a [presidential aide such as] Jim Baker or Dick Darman, you can expect that, but those folks are the exception. Out of 5,000 political appointees, probably less than 2 percent get nice six-figure salaries" when they leave government.

He was founding chairman of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and served on the board of the Japanese American National Museum, among other organizations related to his heritage. In addition, he was a board member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

His memberships included Congressional Country Club in Bethesda and an advisory committee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Jean Marumoto of McLean; four children, Wendy Marumoto-Vlahos of Harrisburg, Pa., Lani Moore of Somerset, N.J., and Tamiko Marumoto-Smith and Todd Marumoto, both of Vienna; and eight grandchildren.

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