TOPICS > Nation

Remembering Sen. Daniel Inouye, 88, Hawaii Statesman Since State’s Birth

December 18, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Since the state of Hawaii was admitted to the union in 1959, Daniel Inouye represented its constituents. A senator for nearly 50 years, Inouye died at the age of 88. Jeffrey Brown reports on the life and legacy of statesman, remembered as a life-long civil servant, World War II hero and consensus builder in Congress.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The late Senator Daniel Inouye was remembered today for his heroism in war, soft-spoken dignity in office and decades of service. The Hawaii Democrat died Monday.

Jeffrey Brown has this look back at his life.

JEFFREY BROWN: Daniel Inouye’s desk in the U.S. Senate chamber sat empty today, save for a bouquet of white roses and black shroud. And in his office, colleagues, friends and admirers filled a book of condolences.

Nearing his 50th year in the Upper Chamber, Inouye had represented the state of Hawaii in Congress from the moment it was admitted to the union in 1959.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: Our friend, Dan Inouye, just died.

JEFFREY BROWN: His passing was announced last night to a stunned Senate chamber by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

HARRY REID: His service in the Senate will be with the greats of this body.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: An iconic political figure of his beloved Hawaii and the only original member of a congressional delegation still serving in Congress.

JEFFREY BROWN: This afternoon, Inouye’s deputy chief of staff, Peter Boylan, recalled the senator.

PETER BOYLAN, Inouye deputy chief of staff: With all due respect to the president of the United States, Daniel Inouye is Hawaii’s greatest statesman. He was the master chess player. He always saw things three moves ahead, whether that was nationally or for Hawaii.

JEFFREY BROWN: Daniel Ken Inouye was born in Honolulu in 1924 to immigrant parents. And on Dec. 7, 1941, he rushed to help the wounded at Pearl Harbor. Long years later, he recalled the U.S. government’s wartime decision to declare his family and other Japanese Americans enemy aliens.

SEN. DANIEL INOUYE, D-Hawaii: I wanted to put on the uniform to show where my heart stood. But we were denied. So we petitioned the government. And a year later, they said, OK, if you wish to volunteer, go ahead.

ANNOUNCER: The 442nd Combat Team composed of American citizens of Japanese ancestry, moved up to rescue the lost battalion of World War II.

JEFFREY BROWN: In April 1945, 20-year-old lieutenant Inouye led an assault on dug-in machine guns in Italy. He destroyed all three emplacements after being shot in the stomach and having his right arm nearly severed. It was later amputated.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, but in 2000, that award was elevated to the nation’s highest, the Medal of Honor.

His death left Michigan Congressman John Dingell as one of the two remaining World War II veterans in Congress.

REP. JOHN DINGELL, D-Mich.: He worked to make the Congress effective as a tool in serving the broad public interest, both for Hawaii and for the rest of the country.

He believed in legislating, legislating well. And he knew that working together and accepting the responsibilities that we get when we are sworn in and when we’re elected was an extremely important part of his responsibility as a senator.

JEFFREY BROWN: After the war, Inouye turned to politics. He won a seat in the U.S. House in 1959 and was elected senator in 1962. Six years later, as keynote speaker, he lent a steady voice of reason to the riotous proceedings of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

DANIEL INOUYE: This is our country. And we are engaged in a time of great testing.

JEFFREY BROWN: Inouye became known for consensus-building as a behind-the-scenes voice of quiet conscience. He gained national attention on the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973.

And more than a decade later, he led another major Senate investigation. In that role, Inouye appeared on the NewsHour in June 1987 with New Hampshire Republican Warren Rudman, discussing illegal U.S. arm sales to Iran that funded Nicaragua’s Contra rebels.

DANIEL INOUYE: I think it shows what the government of the United States was going through during this period, deception, for one thing, nondisclosure to the Congress of the United States, keeping information from the people of the United States. And I think it’s an unfortunate chapter, but it had to be opened.

JEFFREY BROWN: Inouye ultimately became the second longest-serving senator ever. And as president pro tem of the Senate, he was third in line to succeed the president.

This morning, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was sworn into that post.

Daniel Inouye died Monday at WalterReedMedicalCenter of respiratory complications. He was 88 years old. Friends and family said his final word was “Aloha.”

JUDY WOODRUFF: We have more on Senator Inouye online, including a video clip from the Ken Burns documentary “The War.”