ANNAPOLIS, Md. ( Associated Press) — Norman Minetta, who broke down racial barriers for Asian Americans serving in high-profile government positions and ordered commercial flights following the 9/11 terror attacks as the country’s federal transportation secretary, died on Tuesday. has expired. He was 90 years old.
Mineta’s former chief of staff John Flaherty said Mineta passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family in Edgewater, Maryland, east of the nation’s capital.
“The cause of his death was heart disease,” Flaherty said. “He was an extraordinary public servant and a very dear friend.”
Mineta broke down racial barriers for Asian Americans early in his political career to become mayor of San Jose, California. He later became the first Asian American to become a federal cabinet secretary, serving under both Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican George W.
Bush awarded Minetta the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour. In a statement, the former president said that Minetta was “a wonderful American story about a man who overcame hardship and prejudice to serve in the United States military, Congress, and the cabinet of two presidents.”
“As my Secretary of Transportation, he showed great leadership in helping to prevent further attacks on and after 9/11. As I said while awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Norm served his country for a lifetime. And he has set an example of leadership, devotion to duty and personal character to his fellow citizens,” the former president said.
The son of Japanese immigrants who spent two years of his childhood in a World War II internment camp, Mineta moved to his hometown before crossing party lines to join the Clinton administration as Secretary of Commerce and then serve in Bush’s cabinet. He began his political career while leading San Jose.
As Bush’s Secretary of Transportation, Minetta led the department during the crisis of September 11, 2001, when hijacked commercial aircraft were headed for American destinations. After a second plane crashed at the World Trade Center, Mineta ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all civilian aircraft—more than 4,500 in flight at the time. It was the first such order in American aviation history.
Minetta was later tasked with restoring confidence in air travel after the terrorist attacks. He oversaw the hasty construction of the Transportation Security Administration, which took over aviation security from the airlines.
Within a year, the TSA had hired thousands of airport screeners, placed air marshals on commercial flights, and installed high-tech equipment to check air travelers and their baggage for bombs.
The effort was ridiculed at the time due to the time spent and long lines at airports. But Mineta, widely liked and respected in Washington for her in-depth knowledge of transportation issues, managed to avoid the impact of that criticism.
In 2006, he resigned at age 74 after 5 and 1/2 years in his position, making him the longest-serving transport secretary since the agency was created in 1967.
Born on November 12, 1931, Norman Yoshio Mineta was 10 years old and wearing his Cub Scouts uniform when he and his parents were taken to prison in Wyoming after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor had gone.
He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and served as an army intelligence officer in Korea and Japan. After three years in the military, he returned to San Jose to run his father’s Mineta insurance agency.
Mineta’s entry into politics came in 1967, when the mayor of San Jose tapped her to fill a vacant seat on the city council. He won re-election and served four more years on the council before winning the city’s top seat in 1971, making him the first Asian-American mayor of a major city. It now has an airport named after him.
Minetta was elected to Congress in 1974 and served 10 times, representing Silicon Valley. During his tenure, he pushed for more funding for the FAA and co-authored a landmark law that gave state and local governments control over highway and mass transit decisions.
The co-founder of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus also scored a personal victory when he helped pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which required the US government to force 120,000 Japanese Americans to live in wartime internment camps . Former trainees also received revaluations of $20,000 each.
In 1993, Mineta became chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee—another first—but he quickly lost that job after Republicans regained control of the House in 1994.
Mineta resigned from Congress in 1995 and joined Lockheed Martin Corp as senior vice president for its Department of Transportation, which built and operated the electronic toll collection system.
But Washington called again five years later when Clinton appointed him to replace William Daly as commerce secretary in the final months of his presidency.
Minetta then became the first cabinet secretary to switch directly from a Democratic to a Republican administration. He was the only Democrat in Bush’s cabinet.
As Secretary of Transportation, Mineta successfully promoted private investment in roads and bridges such as the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road, and was able to safely pass a $286 billion highway spending plan after nearly two years of wrangling with Congress. helped.
After overseeing the TSA’s rapid launch, Mineta had reduced its department by about two-thirds when the TSA and Coast Guard were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the largest government restructuring in nearly six decades. Was.
After retiring from public service, he joined the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton as a vice president and settled with his wife, Danelia, in Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay.
Chi reported from San Francisco.