Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta dies at age 90

Mineta was the first Asian American Cabinet secretary

May 04, 2022 / 2 minute read
Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta dies at age 90
Photo credit: US Department of Transportation

Norman Mineta, federal commerce secretary for Bill Clinton and transportation secretary for George W. Bush, died Tuesday at the age of 90. Mineta was the first Asian American to become a federal Cabinet secretary.

John Flaherty, Mineta’s former chief of staff, said Mineta died peacefully 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."

Bush, who awarded Mineta the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said in a statement that Mineta was "a wonderful American story about someone who overcame hardship and prejudice to serve in the United States Army, Congress, and the Cabinet of two Presidents.”

“As my Secretary of Transportation, he showed great leadership in helping prevent further attacks on and after 9/11. 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,” Bush added.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation issued a statement regarding the passing of Secretary Mineta.

“The transportation community lost a leader, a trailblazer, and a friend with the passing of former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. Secretary Mineta was a champion for transportation and understood its impact on the quality of life of our communities and its ability to enable economic growth,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director. “His guidance in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks—both immediately and in long-term response—is just one example of his strong and consistent leadership in a time of great need. Secretary Mineta’s lifetime service to his country, his ability to work with people across the political divide, his far-reaching knowledge, and his reputation as a leader who would get the job done are all part of his profound legacy. We are grateful for all he gave to make our communities better and safer and know his impact on the transportation industry will live on for decades to come.”

As Bush’s transportation secretary, Mineta led the department during September 11, 2001. After a second plane crashed into the World Trade Center, Mineta ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all civilian aircraft, equalling more than 4,500 in flight. It was the first such order given in the history of U.S. aviation.

Mineta also successfully promoted private investment in roads and bridges such as the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road and helped secure passage of a $286 billion highway spending plan after nearly two years negotiating with Congress.

After retiring from public service, he joined the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton as vice chairman and settled with his wife, Danealia, in Maryland.

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Source: USA Today

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