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LI cable pioneer James Nishimura dies

James Nishimura, who once owned Huntington TV Cable

James Nishimura, who once owned Huntington TV Cable -- which competed with Cablevision for Long Island viewers -- died at Glen Cove Hospital after battling a long illness. Photo Credit: Handout

To his family, James Y. Nishimura of Laurel Hollow was the "typical capitalist entrepreneur," a Seattle native who got into the cable television industry early, launched his own firm on Long Island and sold it to retire and tour the world.

Nishimura, who once owned Huntington TV Cable -- which competed with Cablevision for Long Island viewers -- died Sunday at Glen Cove Hospital after battling a long illness.

He was 82.

"Being a pioneer, being a minority, being an entrepreneur, he was very hard-driven," said son James Robert Nishimura of Basking Ridge, N.J. "He still grew up in the post-Depression era and he always watched his money. That's the way that age lived, pinching pennies."

But Nishimura would go on to become a local titan in the burgeoning cable television industry.

He was born Feb. 6, 1930, in Seattle and was just 11 years old when he and his family were rounded up, forced to relocate and held at the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho during World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were among 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were held under President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, according to the National Park Service.

The country later paid symbolic reparations to survivors of the internment camps.

After the family was released in 1944, they relocated to Philadelphia, where James Nishimura graduated from Central High School and then attended Swarthmore College for about a year, Robert Nishimura said.

He met his wife, Susan Kubota of New York City, a seamstress, through the relatively small Japanese-American circles of the day. They married in 1953 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

Trained as an engineer, James Nishimura began his career working for Jerrold Electronic Corp. in Philadelphia.

He later joined Intercontinental Electronics Corp. there and became an executive before he branched out on his own.

He formed Communications Systems Corporation in 1963, a few years after moving to Lloyd Harbor, and was awarded franchises to run Huntington TV Cable in Huntington, another in Savannah, Ga., and one in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Nishimura challenged Cablevision to a legal duel after it won approval to wire homes in Huntington Town.

Cablevision won the years-long battle that ended with Nishimura selling his firm in 1986 to Cablevision, Robert Nishimura said, which allowed his father to retire at the age of 56.

"He got the money and he was like, 'I'm done with working,' " his son said. "After that, he pretty much traveled with my mother around the world on cruises and spent time with his family and played golf."

Several years ago, James Nishimura joined the board of governors for the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

He also served on the zoning board of appeal for Laurel Hollow, where he had lived since 1980.

Survivors also include another son, John of Wheatley Heights, and two sisters, Lil Welch of Huntington and Jessie Matthews of Evergreen, Colo. His wife died in 2004.

Visitation will be Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at A.L. Jacobsen Funeral Home in Huntington Station. The funeral service will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church in Huntington. Burial will be private.

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