Hawai‘i political icon Sen. Inouye, third in line of presidency, dies at 88

A PATRIOT — Sen. Daniel Inouye speaks at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, Nov. 2, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Kyodo News photo

A decorated World War II veteran, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, died Dec. 17. He was 88.

Hawai‘i’s most senior politician passed away from respiratory complications at 5:01 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in

Bethesda, Md., his office said in a statement issued Dec. 17.

According to the statement, Inouye’s wife Irene and his son Ken were at his side.

Inouye had been hospitalized since Dec. 6. He had also been hospitalized on Nov. 15, after falling and cutting the back of his head.

As president pro tempore of the Senate, Inouye was third in line to the presidency.

Inouye’s Last Wish
The nine-term U.S. senator’s “last wish” was for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to succeed him, numerous news outlets have reported. Inouye made this request in a letter to Hawai‘i Gov. Neil Abercrombie that was delivered just hours before the Nikkei’s death.

In accordance with state law, Hawai‘i’s Democratic party will submit three names of prospective appointees to Abercrombie. The interim appointee will serve until an election is held in 2014. Inouye’s term would have concluded in 2016.

Inouye’s interim replacement will join Sen.-elect Mazie Hirono, who in November was elected to replace Sen. Daniel Akaka, who has served in Congress since 1976. Akaka announced last year that he will not seek re-election.

Hanabusa was elected in 2010. Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard will replace Hirono’s House seat.

At age 17, Inouye, a Nisei, enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He served with “E” company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Inouye lost his arm while in battle in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945, the statement his office issued said.

His actions earned him the Medal of Honor, the nations highest award for military valor.

Following the war he returned to Hawai‘i and married Margaret “Maggie” Awamura. She passed away in 2006.

Inouye graduated from the University of Hawai‘i. After receiving his law degree from the George Washington University School of Law, Inouye, returned to Hawai‘i and worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the City and County of Honolulu.

After Hawai‘i became the 50th state in 1959, Inouye served as its first congressman. He ran for the Senate in 1962.

Inouye gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1968.

Inouye served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and was the first chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

A ‘Bipartisan Workhorse’
Inouye developed a reputation as a “bipartisan workhorse, who always would put country above party,” his office said. He was asked by the Senate leadership to chair the special committee investigating the Iran Contra Affair, and also served as a member of the Senate Watergate committee.

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation Dec. 18 ordering that the United States flag be flown at half-staff.

Obama said in a statement issued Dec. 17, that Inouye “worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve. But it was his incredible bravery during World War II — including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor — that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him.”

Rep. Michael Honda praised Inouye’s leadership, saying in a statement, that the “state of Hawai‘i, our nation, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and all champions of social justice and change lost our polaris — our guiding star — Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. … Serving the Aloha state in Congress since it achieved statehood and rising to become the highest-ranking AAPI politician in our nation’s history, his impact on our lives and our community is immeasurable and unparalleled.”

The Fight for Redress
Inouye was among a number of Japanese American politicians who played a key role in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which resulted in redress for the persons of Japanese decent who were incarcerated during World War II. Inouye suggested the creation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Bryan Yagi, board president of the National Japanese American Historical Society, said in a statement.

The commission, “its hearings, findings, and recommendations helped pave the way for the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Then in 1990, through an entitlement, he helped secure reparations for $20,000 for each surviving former camp” inmate, the NJAHS statement said.

NJAHS Executive Director Rosalyn Tonai said the nonprofit was “forever indebted” to Inouye’s “lasting support and acknowledgement of the Military Intelligence Service and our efforts to preserve and reconstruct Building 640 — the first Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center at the Presidio of San Francisco,” which is scheduled to open at the end of 2013.

In addition to long advocating for the rights of veterans, Inouye also represented his fellow World War II comrades in a prestigious ceremony in Washington, held last year.

Inouye received the Congressional Gold Medal on Nov. 2, 2011 on behalf of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, for their service during World War II.

“Seventy years ago we were enemy aliens, but today, this great nation honors us in this special ceremony,” Inouye said in his written remarks, which he delivered at the ceremony. “We, gathered here this morning, are all proud Americans, and grateful to our nation for giving us the opportunity to serve our nation as loyal, patriotic citizens.”

Inouye was “instrumental” in getting the medal awarded to the veterans “whose units showed exceptional bravery on the battlefield, and were composed almost entirely of persons of Japanese ancestry,” Rep. Doris Matsui said in a statement.

Inouye and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, helped to create the U.S.-Japan Council, a nonprofit educational organization that’s dedicated to strengthening the relations between the two countries.

U.S.-Japan Council Chairman of the Board Thomas Iino said in a statement that Inouye “dedicated his life to human understanding and relationships through dialogue within the public and private sectors of our domestic and international communities. In particular, he created a network of strong people-to-people relationships between the U.S. and Japan, which has helped overcome the walls of misunderstanding that evolved from the historical events of WWII.”

The government of Japan presented Inouye with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in 1999. In 2011, he received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, the highest award in the Order of the Rising Sun.

Abercrombie said in a statement that Inouye “gave everything. He knew the true meaning of ‘Go for Broke.’ He left us with a legacy of honor and service to the people of Hawai‘i, to the people of this nation, without parallel.”

Inouye was the second-longest-serving U.S. senator in history, behind the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

A Champion of the Underserved
Inouye spoke out against injustice against Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, among others.

When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Inouye said in the statement issued by his office, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”

His last words, according to his office, were, “Aloha.”

Inouye is survived by his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., Ken’s wife Jessica, granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano. He was preceded in death his first wife, Margaret.

Inouye’s body is expected to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for public viewing on Dec. 20. The rotunda is located at East Capitol Street, NE and 1st Street, NE, Washington, D.C. The visitation is scheduled to occur from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A memorial service is expected to be held at the Washington National Cathedral at 3101 Wisconsin Ave. Northwest Washington, on Friday, Dec. 21 at 10:30 a.m.

Inouye’s body is expected to be flown to Honolulu, where he is expected to lie in state at the State Capitol, located at 415 South Beretania St. in Honolulu, on Saturday, Dec. 23 from 5 p.m. to midnight. The final memorial service will be held Sunday, Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, located at 2177 Puowaina Drive in Honolulu.

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