Norman Y. Mineta, BS 53, a 10-term Democratic congressman from California and the first Asian American to become a federal cabinet secretary under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, died Tuesday at home in Edgewater, Md., at 90.
Mineta, who as a child was interned with his family and thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II, died of a heart ailment, according to the The New York Times.
After graduating from Haas in 1953 with an undergraduate degree in business administration, Mineta joined the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea.
Mineta broke racial barriers for Asian Americans in becoming mayor of San Jose, Calif. in 1971, according to his AP obituary. Elected to Congress in 1974, he became popular with voters by supporting transportation projects and fostering public-private partnerships that created explosive growth in Silicon Valley.
After 9/11, Mineta guided the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.
In an interview about the aftermath of 9/11, recorded by The Japanese American National Museum, Mineta discussed concerns over some public calls for “putting Arab Americans and Muslims in camps.” Recalling a Sept. 12 cabinet meeting, he said a Michigan congressman shared that his Arab American constituents were concerned about fallout from the attacks. President Bush responded that he was also concerned. “We want to make sure what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn’t happen today,” Mineta recalled in the interview, adding that after the meeting he told his staff that “one of things we have to make sure we do is no racial profiling.”
After leaving public service, Mineta became vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton. San Jose’s airport was renamed Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2001; in 2007, Mineta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a statement, President Bush called Mineta “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.”
Read Mineta’s New York Times obituary.
Listen to a 2008 NPR interview with Mineta, who talked about his road to White House leadership and leading the nation through acts of terror on Sept. 11.