San Jose's Norm Mineta, 1st Asian-American Cabinet secretary, dies at age 90
EDGEWATER, Md. - Norman Y. Mineta, who was born in San Jose, Calif., to Japanese immigrant parents, held in an internment camp during WWII and held high national government posts, has died at age 90, officials said Tuesday.
John Flaherty, Mineta’s former chief of staff, said Mineta died "peacefullly at his home surrounded by family" in Edgewater, Maryland.
"His cause of death was a heart ailment," Flaherty added. "He was an extraordinary public servant and a very dear friend."
His colleagues in Silicon Valley and beyond took to social media to mourn him and the country's loss.
California Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who also used to be a San Jose city councilman, tweeted a photo of himself and Mineta, shortly after the news was announced.
"Rest in Power and thank you for your lifetime of service Secretary Norm Mineta."
California Assemblyman Evan Low also noted that Mineta's death came during AAPI Heritage Month, and his legacy of service should be honored.
Mineta was considered among the nation's most high-profile Asian Americans and had many accomplishments under his belt.
FLASHBACK: Politician, Japanese internment survivor Norman Mineta honored in documentary
He was the mayor of San Jose and a 10-term congressman representing Silicon Valley from 1975 to 1995, when championed civil liberties and played a key role in obtaining an official apology and compensation for Japanese Americans who were forced from their homes.
He was also the first Asian-American to become a Cabinet secretary, serving under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
President Bill Clinton tapped him to be Commerce Secretary and President George W. Bush also named him in 2001 as U.S. Secretary of Transportation. He left that post in 2006 and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
San Jose's airport is named after him as well.
"Norm was a champion for aviation from his time leading the City of San José, to his 20 years representing Silicon Valley in Congress, to his service in two Presidential administrations," said Mineta San José International Airport Director John Aitken. He credited Mineta with keeping air travelers safe after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Mineta had many ties to the Bay Area as well, graduating from UC Berkeley in 1953 with a degree in business administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.