After eight decades of public service, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye passed away at 88 Monday from respiratory problems.
Inouye had served in the Senate since 1962 and, as longest-serving senator of the majority party, was the Senate president pro tempore, which placed him third in the line of presidential succession. He was serving as chairman of the Appropriations Committee at the time of his death.
Inouye, a Democrat, was the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in American history and was elected to Congress in 1959 right after Hawaii was confirmed for statehood. He successfully ran for the Senate in 1962 and served for nine terms. When President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Inouye was already in Congress.
Inouye’s family was on hand when he uttered his final word “Aloha,” according to Hawaii News Now. The official time of death was 5:01 EST.
As news of Inouye’s death broke, his colleagues honored his memory.
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“His service to the Senate will be with the greats of this body,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The Senate seat will be filled by an appointment by Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who the Washington Post reported would pick from three finalists provided by the state party. The seat is up for a full term in 2016.
Inouye, a member of the legendary Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, lost an arm charging a series of German machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. That bravery earned him the Medal of Honor, according to Fox News.
Inouye’s influence on Hawaii’s modernization cannot be overstated. He vaulted the former island kingdom into the 20th century by promoting road service and public transportation among each island, protecting the rights of Native Hawaiians, championing the rights of veterans, and promoting research facilities as well as alternative energy.
He is survived by his second wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., Ken's wife Jessica, and granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano. He was preceded in death his first wife, Maggie Awamura.
Inouye was the second longest-serving senator in United States history and had already said he intended to run for an unprecedented tenth term in 2016, when he would have been 92.
Inouye succeeded Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., as president pro tempore of the Senate – third in line for the presidency -- on his death in 2010. He would have succeeded Byrd as the longest serving senator in history on June 29, 2014, which would have been his 18,805th day in office.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., as the senior member of the Senate majority, now becomes president pro tem. Hawaii's other senator, Daniel Akaka, who is also 88, retired this election and will be succeeded by Rep. Mazie Hirono in January.
As Inouye’s health deteriorated he was asked how he wanted to be remembered. The senator replied with, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did okay.”