In Memoriam: Daniel Inouye

The senator, a GW Law School alumnus and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, died Monday.

December 19, 2012

Sen. Daniel Inouye, J.D. ’52, the first Japanese American elected to Congress and a recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws from the George Washington University, died Dec. 17 at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He was 88.

The second longest-serving member in U.S. Senate history, Sen. Inouye was an instrumental figure in shaping U.S. defense policy and was a tireless defender of the interests of the Hawaiian people. He served as chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee—part of the Committee on Appropriations—and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Sen. Inouye also served as the keynote speaker at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and on the Senate’s select committee on the Watergate scandal.

“Both in the military and in the Senate, Daniel Inouye showed unwavering patriotism, as well as compassion for those who had traditionally been without a voice in government,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp. “He was a true American hero, with whom the university that traces its origins to the patriotism of George Washington was honored to be associated. His example of dedicated and selfless leadership will be sorely missed.”

A highly decorated World War II veteran, Sen. Inouye joined the U.S. Army at 17 years old after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served with the famous “Go for Broke” U.S. Army regiment and received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions after losing an arm while leading an assault in San Terenzo, Italy, on April 21, 1945.

Sen. Inouye graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1950 and GW Law School in 1952. He worked as deputy prosecuting attorney for the city and county of Honolulu and in 1954 was elected majority leader of Hawaii’s Territorial House of Representatives, where he served two terms. In 1958, Sen. Inouye was elected to Hawaii’s Territorial Senate, and became Hawaii’s first congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1959, when Hawaii achieved statehood. Sen. Inouye served almost nine consecutive terms in office.

In 1962, George Washington University honored Sen. Inouye with its Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and Sen. Inouye served as a member of the university's Board of Trustees from 1982 to 1992. He delivered the keynote address at the GW Law School’s 2008 Commencement, where he received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the university.

Sen. Inouye is survived by his wife, Irene Hirano; his son Ken; a stepdaughter; and a granddaughter.