Norman Mineta, U.S. transportation secretary during 9/11 era, dies at 90

By BRIAN WITTE and TERENCE CHEA, The Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Norman Mineta, who as federal transportation secretary ordered commercial flights grounded after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, has died. He was 90.

John Flaherty, Mineta’s former chief of staff, said Mineta died on Tuesday at his home in Edgewater, Maryland, east of the nation’s capital.

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

Mineta broke racial barriers in becoming mayor of San Jose, California, earlier in his political career. He later became the first Asian-American to become a federal Cabinet secretary, serving under both Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W.

Bush.

As Bush’s transportation secretary, Mineta led the department during the 2001 attacks and was later charged with restoring confidence in air travel in the aftermath of 9/11.

Bush went on to award 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 Army, Congress, and the Cabinet of two presidents.”

The son of Japanese immigrants who spent two years of his childhood at a World War II internment camp, Mineta began his political career leading his hometown of San Jose before joining the Clinton administration as commerce secretary and then crossing party lines to serve in Bush’s Cabinet.

In 2006, he resigned at age 74 after 5 -1/2 years in his post, making him the longest-serving transportation secretary since the agency was created in 1967.

Born on Nov.

12, 1931, Norman Yoshio Mineta was 10 and wearing his Cub Scouts uniform when he and his parents were transported to be incarcerated in Wyoming after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

He went on to graduate 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 with the military, he returned to San Jose to run his father’s Mineta Insurance Agency.

Mineta’s foray into politics came in 1967, when San Jose’s mayor tapped him 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 that bears his name.

Mineta was elected to Congress in 1974 and served 10 terms 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.

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