Mourning the loss of a Great American and cherishing the memory of his friendship

Mineta Portrait
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Apologies for violating one of my “journalistic” principles; in writing about my friend, Norm Mineta, I will be writing in the first person singular. While as a political appointee in the Reagan FAA, I had several opportunities,nay PRIVILEGES, to meet with the then Chair of the House Aviation subcommittee. Starting with a lawn mowing job as a teenage, I had met a number of  important politicians;none were as warm, friendly, sincere and truly interested in me and my family. A man, whose mental rolodex of people met would require100 GB to be converted to a computer file, always knew who I was whenever we shook hands for the next 40 years.

SJC runway dedication

[An example of Norm’s humanity was the 2001 dedication of a new runway at the SJC Mineta International Airport. 
An impressive list of attendees reflected the admiration for the then DOT Secretary. Not a place that a DC 
lobbyist would be expected to attend, but as this East Coast visitor moved towards thai august gathering, 
the Secretary (and his ever present Coast Guard body guard) stepped to greet me. ]

More significantly, Chairman Mineta and then DOT Secretary Mineta exhibited extraordinary command of the multitude of technical aviation issues which came before him. True to his character, Norm focused on the human impact of his decisions. It was not enough to do the right thing from a policy perspective; he delved into how this position would affect those being regulated and those regulating. Having followed a number of his predecessors and successors, he established such a reputation for the wisdom of his choices that even when articulating a controversial position, the usual chorus of constant critics would withold their usual maniac attack.

America, Aviation and all forms of transportation, Congress and every issue in which justice is being judged, Norm will be missed.

Below are a series of messages by individuals and organizations who knew Mr. Secretary. Their eloquence and percipiency add further dimensions to this great American. To introduce these paeans of praise, a pictorial panel of Norm throughout his 90 years.

Panel of Mineta history milestone

Jeff Shane on Mineta



ARSA statement on Mineta




NBAA Salutes American Icon Norman Mineta

Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-783-9360,

Washington, DC, May 4, 2022 – National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen today paid tribute to former United States congressman, military veteran, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, aviation champion and American legend Norman Y. Mineta, who passed away yesterday at age 90.

“Norm Mineta’s life story is one of values, accomplishment and dignity,” Bolen said. “He was an extraordinary public servant, and an even better human being. America is indebted to him for his lifetime of service.”

The son of Japanese immigrants, Mineta became the first Asian-American to hold a cabinet-level position when he was appointed secretary of commerce by President Bill Clinton in 2000. The following year, Mineta was named transportation secretary by President George W. Bush, becoming the only Democratic cabinet official in that administration.

During the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mineta took the unprecedented step of grounding all aircraft over the United States, ordering pilots to immediately land at the nearest suitable airport to prevent the possibility of further attacks.

In the months following 9/11, Mineta steadfastly forbade the use of racial profiling by airline security. His position was based on his life’s experience: During World War II, at the age of 10, he proudly wore his Boy Scout uniform as his family was placed in a Japanese internment camp. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

Mineta was a tireless advocate for general aviation: While serving as chair of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he took on the powerful trial lawyers’ lobby and approved the General Aviation Revitalization Act, a bipartisan bill widely credited with protecting aircraft manufacturers from needless lawsuits and creating thousands of jobs.

When NBAA held its Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference in San Jose, Mineta made it a point to include the event on his calendar.

Mineta launched his political career in 1967 with his appointment to fill a vacant San Jose, CA, city council seat. He subsequently won election to that seat in 1969, and two years later was elected as the first Japanese-American mayor of a major U.S. city.

In 1975, Mineta was elected to serve California’s 13th district in Congress, and he represented the emerging Silicon Valley region for 20 years before resigning his seat in 1995 to move to the private sector as an executive with Lockheed Martin.

In November 2001, San Jose officials lauded Mineta by renaming the city’s commercial airport as the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).

Mineta resigned as transportation secretary in July 2006, and to this day he remains the longest-tenured official to hold that position. President Bush later awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. Mineta is prominently featured in Tom Brokaw’s famous book, The Greatest Generation.

nym pointing

Chair DeFazio on Mineta

Ranking Member Graves on NYM

The Mineta DOT Headquarters

Statement of SJC airport on NYM


A most thorough and well-written obituary of the Honorable Norman Y, Mineta Norman Mineta, transportation secretary who helped create TSA, dies at 90

He became one of the country’s highest-profile Asian American political leaders, as a big-city mayor, a 10-term congressman and a Cabinet secretary

WaPo obituary picture

An authoritative Mineta history from the President George W. Bush library:

Bush History of NYM p.1


Bush p2 of Mineta history


Bush p3 of Mineta history


Bush p4 of Mineta history


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