Daniel Akaka, Former Democratic Senator of Hawaii, Dies at 93

Senator Akaka also successfully pursued legislation that provided onetime compensation for members of the Phillipine Scouts, an American-led unit of mostly Filipino and Filipino-American recruits who fought alongside United States troops but did not qualify for Veterans Administration benefits.

And he secured a formal apology for the United States’s role in the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii in 1893 as well as a transfer of land that the federal government had taken.

But he failed in repeated legislative efforts to have native Hawaiians recognized as an indigenous people so that they might receive federal benefits similar to those provided to American Indians and natives of Alaska.

During his Senate years Mr. Akaka had stints as chairman of its Committee on Veterans Affairs and of its Committee on Indian Affairs.


Senator Daniel K. Akaka on Capitol Hill in 2011.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Mr. Akaka was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. On March 17, 2003, three days before the United States attacked that country, he warned the Senate:

“If we pursue our current path, we will have a war lacking in many things essential to achieving complete success. It will be a war without broad international support, without sufficient planning for post-conflict reconstruction and stability, without a definite exit time and strategy, and without a firm price tag.

“Moreover,” he continued, “it will be a war with serious ramifications for our long-term readiness capabilities for homeland security and for managing other crises.”

A steadfast liberal on most issues, he was known as a champion of federal workers, complaining that his Senate colleagues too often denigrated them and cheerfully froze their pay.

He chaired a Senate subcommittee on the federal work force and was the chief sponsor of the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Act, which provided safeguards against retaliation to federal workers who report waste, fraud and abuse.

Daniel Kahikina Akaka was born in Honolulu on Sept. 11, 1924, the youngest of eight children. His father was of Chinese and Hawaiian descent; his mother was Hawaiian. He attended public schools.


Mr. Akaka arriving in Honolulu on Air Force One in 2010 with President Barack Obama. The senator was a steadfast liberal on most issues.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

After service with the Army Corps of Engineers, he graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1952 with a degree in education and taught music, social studies and math in elementary, middle and high schools. He later became a school principal and earned a master’s degree.

After Hawaii was admitted into the union in 1959, he was an official in the state’s Department of Education and was named director of the Hawaii Office of Economic Opportunity, an antipoverty program.

Mr. Akaka was first elected to the House in 1976 and easily re-elected afterward. In 1990 he was appointed to fill a Senate vacancy caused by the death of Spark Matsunaga. He was elected that fall and re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006. He announced in March 2011 that he would not run again in 2012.

Mr. Akaka, who lived in Honolulu, is survived by his wife, Mary Mildred Chong, whom he married in 1948; a daughter, Millannie Akaka Mattson; four sons, Daniel Jr., Gerard, Alan and Nicholas; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

While he was never known as a key lawmaker, Mr. Akaka was familiar to watchers of C-Span: his name came first whenever the Senate roll was called and, in his early years, he relished presiding over that body, a duty many of his colleagues regarded as tedious.

In 1992, the Senate presented him with its Golden Gavel Award for presiding for at least 100 hours.

“I really was proud of being able to chair the Senate floor over the years and really looked forward to it,” he said in a 2011 interview for this obituary.

Even in his final years, he left instructions with the Democratic cloakroom that he would preside in a pinch, saying, “Any time you can’t find somebody, call me.”

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