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 GabbardHawaii governor signs first-ever bill banning sunscreens that harm coral reefs Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks Pavlich: The left’s defense of evil 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 SchatzDems rip Trump DOJ nominee who represented Russian bank The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Expensive and brutal: Inside the Supreme Court fight ahead Dem senator: No argument will 'lay bare' GOP's hypocrisy on Supreme Court 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 HanabusaOvernight Energy: Zinke defends ‘Konichiwa’ greeting | Lowe's drops cancer-linked chemical from stores | Fight between EPA, Dem over summit heats up Zinke cites ‘friends that were Japanese’ in defending 'konichiwa' greeting West Virginians thankfully rejected Don Blankenship's racist remarks MORE (D-Hawaii) declared Akaka "one of Hawaii's greatest statesmen."

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoUnions aren’t a thing of the past. Unions are our future. Administration to brief Senate panel on family reunifications Lawmakers press Trump admin for list of migrant kids separated from families 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.