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Former US Senator Daniel Akaka Dies

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Former US Senator Daniel Akaka has reportedly died at the age of 93, according to various media reports.

Akaka served in the US Senate from 1990 to 2013 before retiring, and was the first US Senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry. He also served in the US House from 1977 to 1990.  He also served in the US House from 1977 to 1990. He had been a strong advocate for Native Hawaiian Rights, and tried for years to pass the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, also known as the Akaka Bill.

Condolences are pouring in this morning, many speaking of the kind nature and aloha spirit that the late senator embodied.

US Senator Mazie Hirono responded to the news with the following statement:

“Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka embodied the Aloha Spirit. He dedicated his life to serving the people of Hawaiʻi as an educator, and in the U.S. Army, state government, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate. In Congress, Senator Akaka’s care, empathy, and collegiality served as an example for us all. It’s an honor to sit at his desk in the Senate chamber, and we continue his work to improve the lives of veterans and the Native Hawaiian community. My thoughts are with Millie and the Akaka ʻohana in this difficult time. As he so often said, mahalo nui loa, my friend.”

Just a few moments ago, US Senator Brian Schatz issued a message via Twitter saying:


“Daniel K. Akaka was beloved by everyone in Hawaiʻi, and his colleagues of both parties in Washington DC. A pure heart, a determined warrior for native Hawaiians, and a true public servant. We will miss you, Senator Akaka. Aloha.”

In a formal statement released this morning, US Sen. Schatz provided additional comment:

“When Daniel K. Akaka went to Washington, he always took Hawai‘i with him. His unbending source of strength was the people and land he loved so much.

“Senator Akaka served his country as a welder, public school principal, gubernatorial aide, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator. As a World War II Army veteran, his life was changed by the GI bill, and he believed in the government’s power to improve people’s lives—a guiding principle during his 36 years of service in Congress. He wrote and passed into law a 21st century GI bill, which updated and expanded services for veterans and their families. He spent years on the Indian Affairs Committee fighting for Native Hawaiians. He pushed for workers’ rights and good governance, enacting whistleblower protections as the chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management. Every national park in Hawai‘i is better because of him; he expanded or improved each one, as well as the federally authorized National Tropical Botanical Garden. Senator Akaka also left his mark on the Dodd-Frank Act by making sure it improved financial literacy and expanded consumer and investor protections, and he secured funding for the H-3 as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and passed into law the Commercial Space Launch Act.

“Even after he left the Senate in 2012, Senator Akaka continued to lead. People looked to him for guidance and mentorship because of his strong moral compass as a policy maker and family man. He was a devoted husband to Millie and loving father and grandfather to a large ohana. Our thoughts are with his family in this difficult time. He will be well remembered and greatly missed.”


Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also Tweeted his condolences saying:

“Senator Akaka lived a life of love, kindness & aloha. I never heard him utter an unkind comment about a single person. He represented the best of Hawai’i and set the highest standard for all us to achieve in terms of human decency. I will miss his quiet leadership. Our hearts go out to Millie and his entire family.”

US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa issued the following comments via her Twitter account:

Hawaiʻi’s heart is broken this morning as we learn of the passing of one of Hawaiʻi’s greatest statesman. Thank you, Senator Akaka, for your legacy of courage and love. You taught Congress and our nation how to fight with dignity and Aloha. We all aspire to lead like you.

Senator’s passionate advocacy on behalf of Hawaiʻi, Native Hawaiians, his students, veterans, and his contributions to our community and humanity cannot be easily measured. He gave his heart to Hawaiʻi. Our thoughts and prayers are with Aunty Millie and the entire Akaka ʻOhana.

US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard issued the following Tweet:

“Senator Akaka truly embodied the aloha spirit & selflessly dedicated his life to serving others. He treated everyone equally, with kindness, respect & love – no matter who they were or how they treated him. He responded always with aloha, sharing his warm smile & embrace w/ all

“I’m so grateful to have known & worked with him over the years & to have spent time with him the last few days. He impacted the lives of countless people. His legacy of aloha will live on thru all who continue to be inspired by his example. We love you, Senator Akaka. A hui hou.”


In a formal statement, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said the following:

“My heart is heavy today as we remember my dear friend and mentor, Senator Daniel K. Akaka. With a servant’s heart full of aloha, Senator Akaka dedicated his life to serving the people and our nation, in the U.S. Army, as a public school teacher, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the U.S. Senate. I am grateful to have worked with and known Senator Akaka over the years, and to have witnessed firsthand how he truly embodied the aloha spirittreating all with kindness, respect, and love. His legacy of service and aloha will continue to inspire each of us to live aloha every dayserving others, protecting our planet, and fighting for justice, equality, and peace. My heart is with Aunty Millie and the entire Akaka ʻohana. A hui hou and aloha, my friend.”

Democratic Party of Hawai‘i Statement on the Passing of Senator Daniel Akaka:

It is with profound sorrow that the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i learned today of the passing of former Senator Daniel Akaka.

The first native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate, Daniel Akaka was a longtime Party leader and a strong advocate for democratic values, native Hawaiians, and veterans during his political career that started in the House of Representatives in 1976 and ended in the U.S. Senate in 2013.

“Senator Akaka was an inspiration to so many in our Party and all levels of government. In Congress, his warmth and generosity earned him respect from members of both sides of the aisle,” said Tim Vandeveer, DPH Party Chairperson.

“He embodied the Aloha spirit and always put the people of Hawai‘i first,” Vandeveer stated, adding “We celebrate his life, his dedication to public service, and his commitment to the Democratic Party. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his ohana during this difficult time.”

Information regarding memorial services will be shared when made available.

Gov. David Ige has ordered that the United States flag and the Hawai‘i state flag will be flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for the memory of Sen. Daniel K. Akaka.

Flags shall be flown at half-staff immediately, at the State Capitol and upon all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawai‘i National Guard in the State of Hawai‘i, until sunset on the day of Sen. Akaka’s interment.

“Our beloved Sen. Akaka lived a life of service and aloha, and each of us in Hawaiʻi has benefited in countless ways. Our state mourns the loss of this man of upright character. While we celebrate his military service and dedication to our nation’s veterans, his advocacy of the Hawaiian language and culture, and his work in Congress to recognize Filipino veterans, he was first and foremost a family man. Dawn and I send our condolences to Auntie Millie and the entire Akaka ʻOhana. A hui hou, Sen. Akaka,” said Gov. Ige.

Lieutenant Governor Doug Chin offers this statement:

“Former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka epitomized the true meaning of aloha.  He treated everyone with genuine kindness, grace and compassion.  We deeply mourn his passing and send our heartfelt sympathies to his family.  Rest in peace and love, Senator Akaka.”

House of Representatives Speaker Scott K. Saiki released the following statement on the passing of Senator Daniel Akaka:

“Senator Akaka served Hawaiʻi with dignity, respect and humility. He never lost sight of his values and the need to protect our state and its people.  Hawaiʻi has lost an extraordinary statesman.”

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi:

“Senator Akaka was a true statesman who exemplified the best qualities of a leader and embodied the spirit of Aloha.  He dedicated his life to serving the people of Hawai‘i and we are all better because of him. My deepest condolences to Aunty Millie and the entire Akaka family during this time.” 

Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English:

“As the highest ranking Native Hawaiian in elected office, Senator Akaka embodied the hopes and dreams of the Hawaiian people.  His steadfast commitment to Hawai‘i and his many accomplishments has created a firm foundation for Native Hawaiians to move forward.  Aloha minamina iā ‘Anakē Millie me ka ‘ohana Akaka.  Ke aloha paumākō.”

Statement from Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald on the passing of former U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka:

“On behalf of the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary, I extend our sympathy and aloha to Mrs. Akaka and the Akaka ʻohana. From teaching in our public schools to representing Hawaiʻi in Congress with distinction for more than 35 years, Senator Akaka was a true public servant who always had the best interests of Hawaiʻi’s people in his heart. He exemplified aloha in everything he did, and treated everyone with kindness, warmth and respect. Although we will miss his warm smile and wise leadership, he will always remind us of the power of a life guided by the aloha spirit.”

Mayor Alan Arakawa’s statement:

“It is with great sorrow that we mourn the passing of former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka. He was the embodiment of the word ‘Aloha’ and service to others, and so served as an inspiration to his colleagues of all parties.  Working in Washington D.C. for 35 years, he was the first native Hawaiian to be elected to Congress.  His many years of service, his great love and respect for Hawaiʻi, is a legacy for all of us to preserve and follow. Here on Maui he was a tireless resource for our veterans, and worked to help expand the Makawao Veterans Cemetery as well as other veterans services.  On behalf of Ann and myself, the people of Maui County, our family, friends, and colleagues, we extend our condolences and Aloha to his wife Millie, their children and the rest of the Akaka ʻOhana.”

*Developing story. We will update as more information is available. 

US Senator Daniel Akaka, file photo by Wendy Osher.

Former Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and his honorary campaign chairman retired U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. File photo courtesy

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, surrounded by members of the Maui Veteran’s Council, who honored him with a lifetime achievement award. File photo (2011) by Wendy Osher.

U.S. Sen. Akaka accepts a proclamation during an event hosted by the Maui Veterans Council. File photo by Wendy Osher.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. Photo 2011 by Wendy Osher.

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka. Courtesy photo.

Shirley Yokouchi greets Senator Akaka. File photo courtesy.

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