Former Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Democrat from Hawaii who served in Congress for more than three decades, died Friday, according to local media reports and lawmakers from Hawaii. He was 93.
The first Hawaiian of native descent to represent the Senate, Akaka was first elected to the US House of Representatives in 1976. He was appointed to a vacant Senate seat in 1990 and won a special election to remain in that seat. He went on to win re-election three more times until he retired after the 2012 elections.
He served as the junior senator to the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, a giant in the Senate who held his seat for nearly four decades as well as the chairmanship of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
With Akaka’s retirement in January 2013 and Inouye’s death in December 2012, Hawaii quickly went from having one of the most senior Senate delegations to having one of the most junior.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation tweeted tributes to Akaka on Friday, with Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono and Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard both saying that Akaka “embodied the Aloha spirit” and Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa describing him as a passionate advocate for Native Hawaiians.
“Daniel K. Akaka was beloved by everyone in Hawaii, and his colleagues of both parties in Washington DC,” Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted. “A pure heart, a determined warrior for native Hawaiians, and a true public servant.”