Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta puts his hand on his heart during the playing of the national anthem before President George W. Bush addresses the graduating class of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., on June 19, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

The Manzanar Committee, sponsors of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, Manzanar At Dusk, and other programs, extends it deepest sympathies to the family and friends of former U.S. secretary of transportation, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-San Jose), Norman Mineta, who passed away on May 3, 2022, at the age of 90.

Mineta entered the political arena in 1967, when he was elected to the City Council of San Jose, where he would also serve as mayor from 1971-73.

Mineta would go on to a distinguished career representing San Jose in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving ten terms in Congress, beginning in 1974.

After serving in Congress, Mineta went on to serve as secretary of commerce for President Bill Clinton and secretary of transportation for President George W. Bush.

At every level of government, Mineta broke racial barriers, as he was San Jose’s first Asian American mayor. He was also the first Asian American Cabinet member.

During his time as secretary of transportation, Mineta was credited with restoring faith in the U.S. transportation system after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

After he left the Cabinet in 2006, President George W. Bush awarded Mineta the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

As a member of Congress, Mineta was a fighter for equality and civil rights. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was being one of the authors of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided a public apology from the U.S. government and monetary compensation for the 120,000 Japanese/Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and communities, and were unjustly incarcerated in American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, during World War II. That included Mineta and his family, who were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming.

“Norm Mineta will be remembered for many things from his long career in public service,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “But for us, we especially remember and take note of his leadership role in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, as one of only four Japanese American representatives. He stood with many in the community, and was in favor of monetary reparations. As he said at the time, ‘We lost our homes, we lost our businesses, we lost our farms, but worst of all, we lost our most basic human rights.’

“Equally significant, to his leadership role in the long fight for redress and reparations, as secretary of transportation during the 9/11 attacks, Norm Mineta prevented the airlines from systemic and widespread racial profiling against Middle Eastern or Muslim passengers. By drawing on his experience of being incarcerated at Heart Mountain, he made it clear that racial profiling is, in fact, racist and violates our constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. He was instrumental in pushing back against the rampant and vicious anti-Muslim attacks as were many in our community.

“Our community has lost one of its giants. We join everyone in sending our condolences and best wishes to his wife, Danealia, his sons, David and Stuart, and stepsons Robert and Mark Brantner.”

The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A nonprofit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information, check out our website at https://manzanarcommittee.org, call us at (323) 662-5102, and email us at info@manzanarcommittee.org.

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