Former US Transportation Secretary Mineta dies at 90

Norman Mineta, remembered as the US transportation secretary at the time of the September 11 attacks, died on Tuesday at the age of 90. He was the first Japanese American to become a US federal Cabinet member. Mineta was born in 1931 in San Jose, California, to Japanese immigrants.

He experienced a hard time in his boyhood. Like about 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry in the US, he was detained in incarceration camps during World War Two. After serving as the mayor of his hometown of San Jose, Mineta was elected to the House of Representatives in 1975.

During his about 20-year-career as a congressman, he worked hard for the passage of a law for the Japanese Americans who were held in the internment camps. The law required the US government to apologize and pay reparations to them. Mineta was appointed as Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton in 2000 as the first Japanese American Cabinet member.

He became Secretary of Transportation when President George W. Bush’s administration was inaugurated in 2001. He led the Transportation Department in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks later in the year.

Mineta worked to restore confidence in aviation security. He also urged the authorities to avoid discriminatory security checkups based on racial and ethnic backgrounds, as harassment against people of Middle-Eastern origin was spreading. Mineta has been the Board of Trustees Chair of the Japanese American National Museum.

The organization announced that Mineta passed away on Tuesday at his home in Maryland.

US media say the cause of his death was a heart ailment.