Norman Mineta, Transportation Secretary at the time of 9/11, dies | Oklahoma News

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Norman Mineta, who broke racial barriers for Asian Americans in top government positions and ordered the grounding of commercial flights after the September 11 terrorist attacks as the country’s federal transport secretary, died on Tuesday. He was 90 years old.

John Flaherty, Mineta’s former chief of staff, said Mineta passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his family in Edgewater, Maryland, east of the nation’s capital.

“His cause of death was heart disease,” Flaherty added. “He was an extraordinary public servant and a very dear friend.”

Mineta broke racial barriers for Asian Americans by becoming mayor of San Jose, California early in his political career. He went on to become the first Asian American to serve as Federal Cabinet Secretary, serving under both Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush.

Bush then awarded Mineta the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a statement, the former president said Mineta was “a wonderful American story about someone 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 9/11 and after. As I said when presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Norm gave to his country a life of service and he gave his fellow citizens an example of leadership, devotion to duty and personal character,” the former president said.

The son of Japanese immigrants who spent two years of his childhood in a World War II internment camp, Mineta began his political career as leader of his hometown of San Jose before joining the Clinton administration as as Commerce Secretary and then to cross party lines to serve in Bush’s cabinet.

As Bush’s transportation secretary, Mineta led the department during the crisis of September 11, 2001, as hijacked commercial jets headed for US landmarks. After a second plane crashed into the World Trade Center, Mineta ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all civilian planes – more than 4,500 in flight at the time. It was the first such order issued in American aviation history.

Mineta was later tasked with restoring confidence in air travel following the terrorist attacks. He oversaw the hasty creation of the Transportation Security Administration, which took over responsibility for aviation security from the airlines.

Within a year, the TSA had hired tens of thousands of airport screeners, put airline security guards on commercial flights, and installed high-tech equipment to screen air travelers and their baggage at the airport. search for bombs.

The effort was ridiculed at the time for wasteful expense and causing long lines at airports. But Mineta, widely appreciated and respected in Washington for his in-depth knowledge of transportation issues, managed to escape the brunt of that criticism.

In 2006, he resigned at 74 after 5½ years in his post, making him the longest-serving transport secretary since the agency was established in 1967.

Born on November 12, 1931, Norman Yoshio Mineta was 10 years old and was wearing his Cub Scout uniform when he and his parents were transported to incarceration in Wyoming after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley 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 foray into politics came in 1967, when the mayor of San Jose approached him to fill a vacant seat on the city council. He was re-elected and served four more years on council before winning the city’s first seat in 1971, making him the first Asian-American mayor of a major city. She now has an airport that bears her name.

Mineta was elected to Congress in 1974 and served 10 terms representing Silicon Valley. During his tenure, he lobbied for more funding for the FAA and co-authored landmark legislation that gave state and local governments control over decisions about highways and public transportation.

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 apologize to the 120,000 Native Americans Japanese forced to live in wartime internment camps. Former internees also received reparations of $20,000 each.

In 1993, Mineta became chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee — another first — but he quickly lost that position after Republicans took control of the House in 1994.

Mineta resigned from Congress in 1995 to join Lockheed Martin Corp. as senior vice president of its transportation division, which built and operated electronic toll systems.

But Washington recalled five years later when Clinton, in the final months of his presidency, nominated him to replace William Daley as Commerce Secretary.

Mineta then became the first cabinet secretary to move directly from a Democratic to a Republican administration. He was the only Democrat in the Bush cabinet.

As Secretary of Transportation, Mineta successfully promoted private investment in roads and bridges such as the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road and helped secure passage of a $286 billion highway spending plan. dollars after nearly two years of wrangling with Congress.

After overseeing the rapid launch of the TSA, Mineta saw his department cut by nearly two-thirds when the TSA and Coast Guard were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 in the largest government reorganization in nearly six months. decades.

After retiring from public service, he joined the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton as vice president and settled with his wife, Danealia, in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay.

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Chea reported from San Francisco.

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