WASHINGTON: Norman Mineta, the first Japanese-American appointed to a US cabinet position, died Tuesday of heart failure at his home in Maryland. He was 90.
Born in San Jose, California, on Nov. 12, 1931, Mineta was forced to live in a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming for about three years during World War II.
After his university graduation, he served in the Army and was elected to the San Jose City Council in 1967. He then became the city’s mayor, serving for four years from 1971.
As a member of the US House of Representatives from 1975 to 1995, Mineta worked to restore the honor of Japanese-Americans, who were sent to internment camps during the war.
His efforts led to the signing by then President Ronald Reagan of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the US government’s apology and compensation for them.
Mineta was appointed as secretary of commerce in the late administration of Democratic President Bill Clinton and as secretary of transportation in the subsequent administration of Republican President George W. Bush.
In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Mineta ordered the immediate grounding of approximately 4,600 commercial aircraft in US airspace. On the other hand, he was firmly opposed to discriminatory policies against Muslims.
In December 2006, after leaving office, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.