Today we commemorate former US Secretary of Commerce and Transportation Norman Mineta, who passed away on May 3 at the age of 90. He was a public servant, veteran, and honored friend of The National WWII Museum, and we are saddened at the passing of this great man and celebrate his lifelong achievements.
After graduating from the University of California,Berkeley’s ROTC program in 1953, Mineta served as an intelligence officer and translator in Japan during the US occupation. Along with his military service, Mineta led a distinguished political career representing California as the first Japanese American member of Congress in 1975. He served as Chairman of the US House Committee on Public Works and Transportation from 1992 to 1994 before being appointed as the US Secretary of Commerce by President Bill Clinton and then later Secretary of Transportation by President George W. Bush.
During World War II, Mineta was among the thousands of Japanese Americans wrongfully incarcerated in the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming following President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. Mineta’s time at Heart Mountain fueled his drive to help usher the Civil Liberties Act into law. Signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, the Civil Liberties Act issued a formal apology by the US Congress and reparations to formerly incarcerated Japanese Americans. Mineta reflected on the meaning of the Civil Liberties Rights Act in his oral history, saying that the Japanese-American community “shouldered the yoke of the evacuation and internment in 1942. And I think that yoke was finally lifted.”
Norman Mineta also was a great friend and supporter of The National WWII Museum and its mission. His oral history is part of the Museum’s collection, and Mineta’s experience at Heart Mountain is also highlighted in the Museum’s Arsenal of Democracy exhibit on wartime incarceration. Mineta was a 2017 recipient of The National WWII Museum’s Silver Service Medallion that celebrates individuals with a direct connection to World War II and who have served our country with distinction.