Frank Emi was born September 23, 1916 in Los Angeles. From the age of 14 he practiced judo and was studying to be a pharmacist at Los Angeles City College when he left to run the family's produce business on Beverly near Vermont. By 1940 the family had expanded the business with a $25,000 investment into a full-service grocery with a meat department. Emi got married that year; their daughter was born 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor. With expulsion he was forced to sell the profitable business for six cents on the dollar. A son was born inside Heart Mountain.
As a married man with children Emi was not eligible for the draft, yet he stepped forward as a leader of the Fair Play Committee and was one of the prime forces behind the group's crossing the line from protest to open civil disobedience. He spent 18 months in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.
After prison Emi worked as a gardener, then a produce clerk, then took a civil service exam and went to work for the U.S. post office. He retired from the post office and began a new career with the California state unemployment office. He retired from the state in 1982, then joined the successful campaign for government redress for the incarceration. He reached the sixth rank in judo and continues to teach well into his 80s at the Hollywood Judo Dojo.