In honor of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who passed away on Monday at age 88, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas on Tuesday ordered flags at all county buildings to be flown at half-staff effective immediately until the day of the senator’s interment.

Noting that Inouye was a champion of racial equality throughout his life, Ridley-Thomas said, “We have lost a great patriot, a brave leader and a role model. My deepest sympathy goes to Sen. Inouye’s family and the people of Hawaii. We in Los Angeles also have a special connection to the senator through his widow and my long-time friend, Irene Hirano.”

Sen. Daniel Inouye and Irene Hirano Inouye (Photo by Dennis Taniguchi)

“Beginning with his childhood attending segregated schools in Honolulu, and continuing with his heroic World War II service with the 442nd Regimental Combat team, Sen. Inouye’s early years mirrored the experience of many African Americans who volunteered to do battle for their nation, even as their own rights as citizens were denied.

“In the Senate, Sen. Inouye was a key ally of President Lyndon Johnson in advancing civil rights legislation. As the keynote speaker at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, occurring in the era of the Watts riots and the civil rights movement, Sen. Inouye used his platform to speak movingly of the nation’s racial plight.”

The senator’s wife grew up in the Crenshaw District and devoted herself to serving Los Angeles, first through her work in community health care, as well as by leading the Japanese American National Museum. She was an important ally during Ridley-Thomas’ work for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and they have continued to this day to work together on projects to elevate the quality of life in various communities.

“I know Sen. Inouye’s legacy as a civil rights leader lives on through Irene,” Ridley-Thomas said. “And we shall all continue to be inspired by his example.”

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