Norman Mineta (1931-2022)

Former San Jose Mayor Norman Mineta, who was a key player in the nation’s response to the September 11th attacks, passed away on Tuesday. He was 90 years old.

Mineta first joined the San Jose City Council in 1967. In 1971, he was elected mayor, becoming the first Japanese-American mayor of a large U.S. city. It was a groundbreaking moment for the U.S. and Mineta, who had been held in an American internment camp as a youth during World War II.

Mineta went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives where he chaired the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. He served as Secretary of Commerce under Bill Clinton, becoming the first Asian-American to hold a White House Cabinet position. In 2001, George W. Bush selected him as Secretary of Transportation.

Mineta was serving as transportation secretary on September 11, 2001 when multiple commercial planes were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers and U.S. Pentagon. It was Mineta who ordered a halt to all U.S. air travel — a first in modern history.

“In the aftermath, he worked tirelessly to help build the TSA to bolster the security of our airlines, railroads and seaways,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Today, America is safer and stronger because of his devoted service, for which he earned the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo issued the following statement on Mineta’s passing:

“San José has lost a great champion, and I have lost a deeply admired mentor. Norm Mineta gave me my start in public service as an 18-year-old intern in his Washington congressional office. Like so many of those fortunate to have worked with Norm, I learned enormously from his calm leadership style, his deadpan humor, and his sincere love for public service.

Norm’s legacy is one steadfast defense of our civil liberties, and defense of our nation in the perilous hours of 9/11. Whenever Norm was asked about his incredible career, which took him to our nation’s highest offices, he never forgot where he was from: ‘My favorite title,’ he’d often tell people, ‘was always ‘Mr. Mayor.’ My heart goes out to Deni, David, Stuart, Robert, Mark, and the entire family.”

You can read Mineta's obituary here.