Norman Mineta, who oversaw the Department of Transportation during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, died on Tuesday afternoon. He was 90.
“My dad passed away peacefully Tuesday afternoon at his home surrounded by his family,” David Mineta said in a statement provided by Mineta’s former chief of staff, John Flaherty.
Flaherty told CNN that the elder Mineta died in Edgewater, Maryland, of a heart ailment.
Mineta served in both the administrations of President Bill Clinton, as commerce secretary, and President George W. Bush, as transportation secretary, where he oversaw aviation security during 9/11 and its aftermath.
Bush described Mineta’s legacy on Tuesday as “a wonderful American story about someone who overcame hardship and prejudice.”
“As my Secretary of Transportation, he showed great leadership in helping prevent further attacks on and after 9/11,” Bush wrote. “As I said when presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Norm has given his country a lifetime of service, and he’s given his fellow citizens an example of leadership, devotion to duty, and personal character.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg remembered Mineta in a tweet as “a strong bipartisan voice for American infrastructure, Asian American trailblazer, and exemplary leader in both local and federal office.”
Mineta and his family were held at an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, according to his biography on the Bush administration’s official website. Mineta later graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, according to the Bush administration’s archives.
He started his political career by serving on the City Council of San Jose, California, before becoming the city’s mayor and then moving on to Congress, where he served for two decades, elected as a Democrat.
In the House of Representatives, he sponsored the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which was signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan and gave about $20,000 to each survivor of the Japanese internment camps. He also served on the Transportation Committee and eventually became its chair.
After Mineta left Congress, he worked for Lockheed Martin, and then was tapped by Clinton to replace William Daley in leading the Department of Commerce in 2000. At the time Clinton said, “I am proud to add to Norm’s string of firsts by naming him the first Asian Pacific American ever to hold a post in the president’s Cabinet.”
When Bush announced Mineta as his pick for transportation secretary in 2001, Mineta became one of few people to serve in both Democratic and Republican Cabinets.
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Mineta led the process of closing US airspace and grounding flights. He was then charged with creating the Transportation Security Administration.
Mineta resigned from the Bush administration in 2006 after serving for five and a half years.
The San Jose City Council voted to rename the city’s airport for him in 2001.
This story has been updated with additional details.