Sumi Sevilla Haru, who served as the interim Screen Actors Guild president in 1995, died Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 75.
The New Jersey native joined SAG in 1968 and AFTRA in 1972 and served as a national board member for both organizations for multiple terms since 1974, often addressing the lack of opportunities and roles for Asians.
“It is with great sadness that our SAG-AFTRA family says goodbye to Sumi Haru,” said SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard. “Sumi notably represented SAG-AFTRA and its predecessor unions for decades on our local and national boards, and as Screen Actors Guild recording secretary and interim president. Sumi served our members through her lifelong dedication to actors, the labor movement, and civil rights and equal employment. She did that with conviction, passion and grace. Our deepest condolences go out to her loved ones. We will miss her.”
She served as interim president of SAG in 1995 after Barry Gordon resigned to run for Congress and remains the only woman of color to hold the position. Her acting credits included “Krakatoa, East of Java,” “MASH,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Hill Street Blues.”
Haru was a co-founder of SAG’s Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee in 1971 and helped negotiate affirmative action clauses into contracts.
Haru became a national vice president of the AFL-CIO in 1995. Her six-year term as a national vice president marked the first time an Asian American has served on the AFL-CIO’s executive council.
In 2013, she was elected for a two-year term as a member of the first elected national board of the merged SAG-AFTRA.
In 2009, Haru was honored with SAG’s Ralph Morgan Award for distinguished service to SAG’s Hollywood Division. She published “Iron Lotus: Memoirs of Sumi Sevilla Haru” in 2012.
Funeral services are pending.