Former Transportation Secretary Mineta Dies

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta died of heart failure on Tuesday at his home in Maryland. He was 90.

A former congressman from California and the mayor of San Jose, California, Mineta was appointed as secretary of commerce during the final month of the Clinton administration.

After the election of George W. Bush as president, Mineta was named secretary of transportation and was the only Democrat to serve in Bush’s cabinet.

He went on to become the longest serving secretary of transportation in the history of the position. When he stepped down in 2006, he had served as secretary of transportation for five and a half years.

During his time as head of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Mineta promoted private investment in roads and bridges, and pushed for passage of a $286 billion highway spending plan after almost two years of wrangling with Congress.

During his time at USDOT, Mineta supervised the launch of the Transportation Security Administration, which in 2003 was moved to the Department of Homeland Security.

The first Japanese-American to serve in a federal cabinet position, Mineta during his time in Congress was a co-founder of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

He also helped to win passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which required the U.S. government to apologize to and compensate the 120,000 Japanese Americans forced to live in wartime internment camps. Mineta himself spent two years of his childhood in one of those camps.

Bush awarded Mineta the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

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