Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the highest ranking Asian-American elected official in American history, passed away this afternoon at Walter Reid Medical Center.
The 88-year-old Democrat, who was also one of the longest-serving politicians in Congress—died from respiratory complications.
As Buzzfeed reports, tributes from his colleagues on both side of the aisle have been pouring in:
“A week ago last Friday, we spent an hour in his office together, just the two of us. And we ended the meeting saying, we should do this again. But I won’t be able to do that again, he won’t be able to do that again,” a clearly emotional Majority Leader Harry Reid said shortly after news of his death broke.
“We will all miss him, and that’s a gross understatement.”
“I wish I were capable of saying more.”
Even before becoming Hawaii’s first member of the House of Representatives, Inouye was a model of sacrifice and duty: He enlisted in the military when the ban on service by Japanese Americans was lifted in 1943. He was grievously injured in 1945, and ultimately loosing his right arm.
In 1962, Inouye was elected to the Senate, where he has been a vibrant supporter of civil liberties. As someone who lived through military discrimination, he hailed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2012:
“Finally, all brave men and women who want to put on the uniform of our great nation and serve in the armed services may do so without having to hide who they are. My only regret is that nearly 13,000 men and women were expelled from the military during the 17 years that this discriminatory policy was in place,” Inouye said.
“In every war we have had men and women of different sexual orientation who have risked their lives for their country. I fought alongside gay men during World War II and many of them were killed in combat. Those men were heroes. And once again, heroes will be allowed to defend their country, regardless of their sexual orientation,” he added.
Rest in peace, senator.