Norman Mineta

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Norman Mineta
Mineta c. 2001
14th United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 25, 2001 – July 7, 2006
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byRodney Slater
Succeeded byMary Peters
33rd United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
July 21, 2000 – January 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byBill Daley
Succeeded byDonald Evans
Ranking Member of the House Transportation Committee
In office
January 3, 1995 – October 10, 1995
Preceded byBud Shuster
Succeeded byJim Oberstar
Chair of the House Transportation Committee
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byBob Roe
Succeeded byBud Shuster
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California
In office
January 3, 1975 – October 10, 1995
Preceded byBob Lagomarsino (redistricted)
Succeeded byTom Campbell
Constituency13th district (1975–1993)
15th district (1993–1995)
59th Mayor of San Jose
In office
January 9, 1971 – January 9, 1975
Preceded byRon James
Succeeded byJanet Hayes
Personal details
Born(1931-11-12)November 12, 1931
San Jose, California, U.S.
DiedMay 3, 2022(2022-05-03) (aged 90)
Edgewater, Maryland, U.S.
Resting placeOak Hill Memorial Park, San Jose, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
May Hinoki
(m. 1961; div. 1986)
Deni Brantner
(m. 1991)
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BS)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Unit Army Military Intelligence Corps

Norman Yoshio Mineta[1] (Japanese: 峯田 良雄, November 12, 1931 – May 3, 2022) was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, Mineta served in the United States Cabinet for Presidents Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and George W. Bush, a Republican.

Mineta was the mayor of San Jose from 1971 until 1975. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing California from 1975 until 1995. Mineta served as the United States Secretary of Commerce during the final months of Bill Clinton's presidency. He was the first person of East Asian descent to serve as a U.S. cabinet secretary.[2]

As the United States Secretary of Transportation for President Bush, Mineta was the only Democratic cabinet secretary in the Bush administration. He oversaw the creation of the Transportation Security Administration in response to the September 11 attacks that had occurred early in his tenure. On June 23, 2006, Mineta announced his resignation after more than five years as Secretary of Transportation, effective July 7, 2006, making him the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation in the department's history. A month later, the public relations firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies announced that Mineta would join it as a partner. In 2010, it was announced that Mineta would join L&L Energy, Inc. as vice chairman.

Mineta died on May 3, 2022, from a heart ailment in Edgewater, Maryland, at the age of 90.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mineta was born in San Jose, California, to Japanese immigrant parents Kunisaku Mineta and Kane Watanabe, who were barred from becoming American citizens at that time by the Asian Exclusion Act.[4] During World War II, the Mineta family was interned for several years at Area 24, 7th Barrack, Unit B, in the Heart Mountain internment camp near Cody, Wyoming, along with thousands of other Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans.[5] Upon arrival to the camp, Mineta, a baseball fan, had his baseball bat confiscated by authorities because it could be used as a weapon. Many years later, after Mineta was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, a man sent Mineta a $1,500 bat that was once owned by Hank Aaron, which Mineta was forced to return as it violated the congressional ban on gifts valued over $250. Mineta said: "The damn government's taken my bat again."[6]

While detained in the camp, Mineta, a Boy Scout, met fellow scout Alan Simpson, a future senator from Wyoming, who often visited the Boy Scouts in the internment camp with his troop. The two became close friends and remained political allies throughout their lives.[7]

Mineta graduated from the University of California, Berkeley's School of Business Administration in 1953 with a degree in business administration. Upon graduation, Mineta joined the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea. He then joined his father in the Mineta Insurance Agency.[4]


Councilman and mayor of San Jose[edit]

In 1967, Mineta was appointed to a vacant San Jose City Council seat by mayor Ron James.[8] He was elected to office for the first time after completing a term in the city council. He was elected vice mayor by fellow councilors during that term.[9]

Mineta ran against 14 other candidates in the 1971 election to replace outgoing mayor Ron James. Mineta won every precinct in the election with over 60% of the total vote and became the 59th mayor of San Jose, the first Japanese-American mayor of a major American city.[10] As mayor, Mineta ended the city's 20-year-old policy of rapid growth by annexation, creating development-free areas in East and South San Jose. His vice mayor Janet Gray Hayes succeeded him as mayor in 1975.[11]

United States Congress[edit]

In 1974, Mineta ran for the United States House of Representatives in what was then California's 13th congressional district. The district was previously the 10th District, represented by retiring 11-term Republican Charles Gubser. Mineta won the Democratic nomination and defeated State Assemblyman George W. Milias with 52 percent of the vote.[12] He was reelected ten more times from this Silicon Valley-based district, which was renumbered as the 15th District in 1993, never dropping below 57 percent of the vote.[13]

Mineta co-founded the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and served as its first chair.[14] He served as chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure between 1992 and 1994.[15] He chaired the committee's aviation subcommittee between 1981 and 1988, and chaired its Surface Transportation subcommittee from 1989 to 1991.[16]

During his career in Congress, Mineta was a key author of the landmark Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.[15] He pressed for more funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. Mineta was a driving force in the House of Representives behind the passage of H.R. 442, while Senator Spark Matsunaga (Hawaii) "almost single-handedly" got the legislation passed in the Senate of the 100th Congress [17] which became the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, a law that officially apologized for and redressed the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during World War II.[18]

Private sector[edit]

Mineta resigned his seat mid-term to accept a position with Lockheed Martin in 1995.[19] He chaired the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, which in 1997 issued recommendations on minimizing traffic congestion and reducing the aviation accident rate. The Clinton administration adopted many of the commission's recommendations, including reform of the Federal Aviation Administration to enable it to perform more like a business.[20]

In 1999, Mineta received the L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation.[21]

Mineta was appointed to the board of directors of Horizon Lines effective January 1, 2007. He had formerly served on the board of AECOM Technology Corporation and was on the board of SJW Corp.[22]

Secretary of Commerce[edit]

In 2000, President Bill Clinton nominated Mineta to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, making him the first Asian American to hold a presidential cabinet post.[23] Clinton had wanted to nominate Mineta as U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 1992, but Mineta wanted to remain in Congress at that time.[24]

Secretary of Transportation[edit]

Mineta was appointed United States Secretary of Transportation by President George W. Bush in 2001, a post that he was offered eight years earlier by Bill Clinton. He was the only Democrat to have served in Bush's cabinet and the first Secretary of Transportation to have previously served in a cabinet position. He became the first Asian American to hold the position, and only the fourth person to be a member of the cabinet under two presidents from different political parties (after Edwin M. Stanton, Henry L. Stimson and James R. Schlesinger).[25] In 2004, Mineta received the Tony Jannus Award for his distinguished contributions to commercial air transportation.[26]

Following Bush's reelection, Mineta was invited to continue in the position, and he did so until resigning in June 2006. When he stepped down on July 7, 2006, he was the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation since the position's inception in 1967.[27]

September 11 attacks[edit]

Mineta's testimony to the 9/11 Commission about his experience in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center with Vice President Cheney as American Airlines flight 77 approached the Pentagon was not included in the 9/11 Commission Report.[28] In one colloquy testified by Mineta, the vice president refers to orders concerning the plane approaching the Pentagon:

There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, "The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to, "The plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" Well, at the time I didn't know what all that meant.

— Norman Mineta, 9/11 Commission[29]

Commissioner Lee Hamilton queried if the order was to shoot down the plane, to which Mineta replied that he did not know that specifically.[29]

Mineta's testimony to the commission on Flight 77 differs somewhat significantly from the account provided in the January 22, 2002, edition of The Washington Post, as reported by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz in their series "10 Days in September".

9:32 a.m.

The Vice President in Washington: Underground, in Touch With Bush

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, summoned by the White House to the bunker, was on an open line to the Federal Aviation Administration operations center, monitoring Flight 77 as it hurtled toward Washington, with radar tracks coming every seven seconds. Reports came that the plane was 50 miles out, 30 miles out, 10 miles out—until word reached the bunker that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon.

Mineta shouted into the phone to Monte Belger at the FAA: "Monte, bring all the planes down." It was an unprecedented order—there were 4,546 airplanes in the air at the time. Belger, the FAA's acting deputy administrator, amended Mineta's directive to take into account the authority vested in airline pilots. "We're bringing them down per pilot discretion," Belger told the secretary.

"Fuck pilot discretion," Mineta yelled back. "Get those goddamn planes down."

Sitting at the other end of the table, Cheney snapped his head up, looked squarely at Mineta and nodded in agreement.

— Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, The Washington Post[30]

This same article reports that the conversation between Cheney and the aide occurred at 9:55 a.m., about 30 minutes later than the time that Mineta had cited (9:26 a.m.) during his testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

After hearing of Mineta's orders, Canadian transport minister David Collenette issued orders to ground all civilian aircraft traffic across Canada, resulting in Operation Yellow Ribbon. On September 21, 2001, Mineta sent a letter to all U.S. airlines forbidding them from practicing racial profiling or subjecting Middle Eastern or Muslim passengers to a heightened degree of pre-flight scrutiny. He stated that it was illegal for the airlines to discriminate against passengers based on race, color, national or ethnic origin, or religion. Subsequently, administrative enforcement actions were brought against three airlines based on alleged infringements of these rules, resulting in multimillion-dollar settlements. Mineta voiced his intention to "absolutely not" implement racial screenings in a 60 Minutes interview just after 9/11. He later recalled his decision "was the right thing [and] constitutional" based on his own experience as a member of those who had "lost the most basic human rights" as a result of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.[5]

The Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose was named after Mineta in November 2001 while he was serving as Secretary of Transportation.[31] The Mineta Transportation Institute, located at San Jose State University, and portions of California State Highway 85 are named after him.[32][33]

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow announced on June 23, 2006, that Mineta would resign effective July 7, 2006, because "he wanted to." A spokesman said Mineta was "moving on to pursue other challenges." He left office as the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation in history.[34]

After leaving the Bush administration[edit]

Norman Mineta, 2009

Hill+Knowlton announced on July 10, 2006, that Mineta would join the firm as vice chairman, effective July 24, 2006.[35]

In 2005, Mineta received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council member and Google cofounder Larry Page.[36][37] In October 2006, Mineta won the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.[38] In December 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[39] In 2007, the Japanese government conferred upon him the Grand Cordon, Order of the Rising Sun.[40]

On February 4, 2008, the day before the closely contested California Democratic primary, Mineta endorsed Barack Obama.[41]

Beginning in the summer of 2008, Mineta began service as chairman of a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration overseeing a study of modernization efforts at the United States Coast Guard. Other notable members of the panel include former Office of Personnel Management director Janice Lachance and former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe.[42]

In June 2010, Mineta was named co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. On August 10, 2010, he was named vice chair of L&L Energy, Inc., which was headquartered in Seattle and operated coal mines and other facilities related to coal production in China.[43]

Mineta was a recipient of the Chubb Fellowship at Yale University from 2015 to 2016.[44]


The Mineta Transportation Institute was named after him. It was established by Congress in 1991 as a research institute focusing on issues related to intermodal surface transportation in the United States. It is part of San Jose State University's Lucas Graduate School of Business in San Jose, California, and is currently directed by Karen Philbrick. In 2001, the San Jose International Airport adopted his name to honor him while he was serving as the US Secretary of Transportation.

In 2022, Congress renamed the Department of Transportation headquarters building as the William T. Coleman, Jr. and Norman Y. Mineta Federal Building, in honor of Mineta and another former Secretary, William Thaddeus Coleman Jr.[45]

Personal life[edit]

Mineta's first marriage was to May Hinoki, which lasted from 1961 to 1986.[46] In 1991, Mineta married United Airlines flight attendant Danealia "Deni" Brantner.[47] Mineta had two children from his first marriage and two stepchildren from his second marriage. He had 11 grandchildren.[18]

Mineta died on May 3, 2022, from a heart ailment in Edgewater, Maryland, at the age of 90.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dick Cheney: Personal Reflections on his Public Life".
  2. ^ Witte, Brian; Chea, Terence (May 3, 2022). "Norman Mineta, transportation secretary in 9/11 era, dies". Associated Press. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Norman Mineta, transportation secretary who helped create TSA, dies at 90". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Norman Mineta and his legacy: an American story (documentary), PBS, Bridge Media, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Ken Watanabe meets Japanese-Americans" (渡辺謙 アメリカを行く, Watanabe Ken America o Iku) broadcast on NHK BS Premium in Japan July 19, 2011 & TV Japan in USA September 11, 2011
  6. ^ Wald, Matthew L. (January 3, 2001). "Norman Yoshio Mineta: A Clinton Holdover, a Reagan Veteran and a Departing Senator". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  7. ^ Matthews, Chris (2002). "A Pair of Boy Scouts". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  8. ^ "San Jose Legends: Norm Mineta—from council to cabinet". May 1, 2021.
  9. ^ Roberts, Steven V. (October 17, 1971). "A Japanese-American Is at the Helm in San Jose". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  10. ^ "New Mayor of San Jose is Japanese". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. April 14, 1971. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  11. ^ "San Jose scores a first with woman mayor". November 6, 1974. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  12. ^ "Our Campaigns – CA District 13 Race – Nov 05, 1974".
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns – Candidate – Norman Y. Mineta".
  14. ^ Fuchs, Chris (May 15, 2017). "In Congress, the Fight for Asian American and Pacific Islander Voices Hasn't Slowed". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  15. ^ a b "Secretary Norman Mineta". HuffPost. September 11, 2001. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  16. ^ "Norman Y. Mineta, Former Secretary of Transportation, 2001–2006".
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Fuchs, Chris (May 14, 2019). "Norman Mineta's American story helped the U.S. apologize for incarceration and lead after 9/11". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  19. ^ Associated, The (May 3, 2022). "Norman Mineta, pioneering Asian American who served in 2 presidential Cabinets, dies at 90". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  20. ^ "A History of Air Traffic Control Provision in the United States". The Eno Center for Transportation. January 22, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  21. ^ "Events - special_20110215.HTM | Aviation Week". Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  22. ^ "Norman Y. Mineta". Bloomberg. Retrieved October 28, 2013.[dead link]
  23. ^ "Norman Mineta And His Legacy: An American Story". KPBS Public Media. May 15, 2019.
  24. ^ "From a Camp to the Cabinet". Los Angeles Times. July 16, 2000.
  25. ^ "Transportation Chief Quits, Citing 'Other Challenges'". The New York Times. June 24, 2006. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  26. ^ "archives — Tony Jannus Award". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  27. ^ "Transportation Secretary Mineta resigns – Jun 23, 2006". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  28. ^ Zarembka, Paul (2006). The Hidden History of 9-11-2001. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: JAI Press / Elsevier Ltd. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-7623-1305-1.
  29. ^ a b "Public Hearing". National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. 2003. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  30. ^ "America's Chaotic Road to War". The Washington Post. January 22, 2002. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  31. ^ "Mineta San José International/Silicon Valley Airport – About SJC – Timeline". Archived from the original on August 21, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 2001 – City Council approves naming the airport to "Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport" in honor of the former Mayor and long-term Congressman.
  32. ^ "Freeway dedicated in honor of Norman Mineta". KNTV NBC Bay Area. September 15, 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  33. ^ Schwarzenegger, Arnold; Bonner, Dale E.; Kempton, Will (May 2008). 2007 Named Freeways (PDF). California Department of Transportation. p. 37. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  34. ^ "President's Statement on Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta". White House. 2006. Retrieved June 24, 2006.
  35. ^ "U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta Joins Hill & Knowlton". Hill & Knowlton. 2006. Archived from the original on July 17, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2006.
  36. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  37. ^ "Larry Page Biography Photo". Awards Council member Larry Page presents the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement to Norman Mineta, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, at the 2005 International Achievement Summit in New York.
  38. ^ Gilbert, Gordon. "Mineta Is Wright Brothers Award Winner | News: Aviation International News". Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  39. ^ "Bush Gives Medal of Freedom to 10 People". Associated Press. 2006. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  40. ^ "Japan honors Norman Mineta, Daniel Okimoto," San Jose Business Journal. June 6, 2007.
  41. ^ "Two Senior California Democrats Endorse Obama". WebWire. 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  42. ^ [1] Archived November 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ Inc, L. & L. Energy. "L & L Energy Announces Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta as Vice-Chairman of Board of Directors". (Press release). {{cite press release}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  44. ^ "Chubb Fellowship at Yale University". Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  45. ^ Weingroff, Richard (June 30, 2023). "A New Name for DOT Headquarters". FHWA News.
  46. ^ "Congress – New Members" (PDF). Congressional Quarterly. January 4, 1975. p. 7.
  47. ^ Conconi, Chuck (March 27, 1991). "Personalities". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 1, 2019.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of San Jose
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Transportation
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 13th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 15th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the House Transportation Committee
Succeeded by
New office Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
Succeeded by
Preceded by Ranking Member of the House Transportation Committee
Succeeded by