Norman Y. Mineta

Mayor of San Jose (California), ten-term United States Representative, Secretary of Commerce, and Secretary of Transportation (b. 1931)

Norman Y. Mineta. Gift of Norman Y. Mineta.
Norman Y. Mineta.
Gift of Norman Y. Mineta.

A Democratic Congressional Representative and member of two Presidential Cabinets, Norman Mineta has set many records as a Japanese American politician. Elected the Mayor of San Jose in 1971, he was the first Japanese American mayor of a major city. Elected to Congress in 1975, he served as Chairman of the Public Works & Transportation Committee (1992 to 1994) and co-founded the Asian Pacific American Caucus. In June 2000, he was appointed Secretary of Commerce by President Clinton becoming the first Asian American to hold a Cabinet level position. Appointed Secretary of Transportation in 2001, he is the only Democrat serving in the Bush Cabinet.

Born in San Jose, California, Mineta’s family was interred during World War II in the WRA concentration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Returning to San Jose as a teen, he graduated from San Jose High School (1949) and the University of California-Berkeley School of Business (1953). He joined the Army in 1953 and served as an intelligence officer in Japan and Korea. Mineta first entered politics as a member of the San Jose City Council (1967 to 1971). In 1969, he served as the vice-mayor and in 1971 he was elected Mayor of San Jose by a margin of 60% over 14 other candidates.

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1975, Mineta represents the Silicon Valley. As a key member of the House Transportation Committee, he chaired the Aviation Subcommittee (1981 to 1988) and the Surface Transportation Subcommittee (1989 to 1991). In Congress he championed increased investment for transportation infrastructure including the Federal Aviation Administration. He was also a driving force behind passage of H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which officially apologized and established redress to Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. In 1995, George Washington University awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Medal to Mineta for his contributions to the field of civil rights.

Retiring from Congress, Mineta chaired the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, which in 1997 issued recommendations on reducing traffic congestion and lowering the aviation accident rate. In June 2000, he was named Chair of President Clinton's Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders before being appointed Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton cabinet.

The only Clinton cabinet member to return in the Bush cabinet, Mineta became Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush. He grounded all civilian airplane traffic for the first time in U.S. history following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. In another dramatic move, on September 21, 2001 Mineta sent a letter to all U.S. airlines forbidding them from racial profiling or discriminating against passengers based on their race, color, national or ethnic origin or religion. Secretary Mineta guided the creation of the Transportation Security Administration which became the Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

As of November 20, 2005

Statement by The Hon. Norman Y. Mineta (California 15th).
Remarks delivered at the University of Rochester Annual Meliora Weekend in Rochester, New York, October 12, 2001
King interviews Secretary Mineta regarding the implementation of new security screening measures at airports following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
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