Former Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii dies at 93

Former Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii dies at 93
© Greg Nash

Former Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who served in Congress for more than three decades, died on Thursday at the age of 93, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported

Over the course of a 36-year career Washington, D.C., Akaka garnered a reputation as an advocate for Native Hawaiians and veterans. 

First elected to the House in 1976, Akaka became the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate when he was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D) in 1990. 

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He announced in 2011 that he would not seek reelection in 2012. 

"I have always strived to serve the people with much love and aloha, never forgetting my humble beginnings, and it is my hope that they, too, will continue this tradition," Akaka said in a 2011 statement announcing his retirement.

The piece of legislation most closely associated with the Hawaii Democrat, the so-called Akaka bill, which sought to grant self-governance to Native Hawaiians, made it through the House during his time as a representative. But the measure never gained enough support in the Senate, despite a 12-year effort by Akaka.

“As the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Daniel Akaka was a fierce advocate for the people of Hawaii,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.

“From securing federal money to improve social programs for Native Hawaiians to being a leading voice in persuading the United States to formally apologize for its overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Sen. Akaka always put his constituents first," the DNC statement continued. "He spent his entire life fighting for justice and opportunity for all Americans, and there is no doubt we will miss his ‘aloha’ spirit. Our prayers are with Sen. Akaka’s wife, Mary, his five children, and his entire family at this difficult time.”

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardPavlich: Media gives Hamas exactly what they want Overnight Defense: House panel passes 6B defense bill | What's in the bill and what didn't make the cut | Pentagon details 'failures' in Niger operation | Trump, Kim meeting set Policy issues take center stage as House panel passes 6B defense authorization bill MORE (D-Hawaii), who now represents the district held by Akaka for 13 years, said Friday that he "truly embodied the aloha spirit," and that she was "so grateful to have known" him.

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzNASA head: ‘No reason to doubt’ climate change science Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (D-Hawaii) also mourned Akaka's death, calling him a "pure heart, a determined warrior for native Hawaiians, and a true public servant."

 Rep. Colleen HanabusaColleen Wakako HanabusaWest Virginians thankfully rejected Don Blankenship's racist remarks Former Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii dies at 93 Zinke defends use of Japanese word: How could saying good morning 'be bad'? MORE (D-Hawaii) declared Akaka "one of Hawaii's greatest statesmen."

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoConservative justices signal willingness to uphold travel ban Former Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii dies at 93 Dems to top DOJ officials: Publicly promise not to interfere in Mueller's probe MORE (D-Hawaii), who succeeded Akaka in the Senate, paid tribute to the longtime lawmaker, as well, calling him "an example for us all."

Updated at 4:37 p.m.