Biographical / Historical
There is little information about George Masa's life prior to his arrival in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1915. It is known that he was a native of Japan and had been a mining engineer student prior to his immigration. After Masa came to the United States, he Americanized his name -- Masabara Izuka -- to George Masa.
In Asheville he found work as a valet at the Grove Park Inn. Later he opened a photographic studio, the Asheville Photo Service.
Masa was an active member and one of the founders of the Carolina Appalachian Trail Club. This group was instrumental in establishing the Appalachian Trail. Masa was credited with having a remarkable knowledge of the southern Appalachians and with solving many trail location problems.
Masa became a leader, along with his friend Horace Kephart (see MSS 80-24), in the movement for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He became so involved that he neglected his commercial work, preferring to go on photographic trips into the Smokies, sometimes waiting for days to get the right photographic effect. He hiked the woods with Kephart and with national park officials on their inspection trips and provided photographs to stir public interest in the park. Masa was also named to the Nomenclature Committee of the National Park Commission to complete a list of place names in the national park.
On June 21, 1933, George Masa died of influenza. He had no relatives in the United States, but it was believed he was survived by a brother in Japan. Like most of his early life, Masa's age at death was a mystery. His friends felt that Masa was in his forties at the time of his death.