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Daniel Akaka
United States Senator
from Hawaii

In office
May 16, 1990 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Spark Matsunaga
Succeeded by Mazie Hirono
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1977 – May 16, 1990
Preceded by Patsy Mink
Succeeded by Patsy Mink
Personal details
Born Daniel Kahikina Akaka
(1924-09-11)September 11, 1924
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Died April 6, 2018(2018-04-06) (aged 93)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Resting place National Cemetery of the Pacific
Honolulu, Hawaii
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Chong
Children 5
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1945–1947[1]
Rank US Army WWII CPL.svg Corporal[1]
Unit Corps of Engineers
Battles/wars World War II

Daniel Kahikina Akaka (/əˈkɑːkə/;[2] September 11, 1924 – April 6, 2018) was an American educator and politician who was a United States Senator from Hawaii from 1990 to 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, Akaka was the first U.S. Senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry.[3]

Born in Honolulu, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He attended the University of Hawaii, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees. Originally a high school teacher, Akaka went on to serve as a principal for six years. In 1969, the Department of Education hired him as a chief program planner. In the 1970s, he served in various governmental positions.

Akaka was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1976 to represent Hawaii's Second Congressional District, and he served for 13 years. In 1990, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to succeed the deceased Spark Matsunaga, subsequently winning the special election to complete Matsunaga's term. Akaka would later be re-elected to three full terms. In March 2011, he announced that he would not run for re-election in 2012.[4] After fellow senator Daniel Inouye died on December 17, 2012, Akaka became the state's senior senator, and remained so briefly until he left office on January 3, 2013. He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Mazie Hirono.

Early life, education, and teaching career

Senator Daniel Akaka and his wife, Millie Akaka[citation needed]

Daniel Kahikina Akaka was born in Honolulu, the son of Annie (née Kahoa) and Kahikina Akaka. His paternal grandfather was born in Swatow, Canton, China during the late Qing Dynasty, and his other grandparents were of Native Hawaiian descent.[5][6] His brother was Rev. Abraham Akaka.[7]

Akaka graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1942. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including service on Saipan and Tinian. He served from 1945 to 1947.[1] He worked as a welder and a mechanic and in 1948 was a first mate on the schooner Morning Star.[8]

Entering college (funded by the G.I. Bill), he earned a bachelor of education in 1952 from the University of Hawaii. He later received a master of education from the same school in 1966. He worked as a high school teacher in Honolulu from 1953 until 1960, when he was then hired as a vice principal. His son Alan Akaka was born in 1956.[9] In 1963, he became head principal.[8]

Early political career

Akaka in 1977, during his first term in Congress

In 1969, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare hired Akaka as a chief program planner. Akaka then continued working in government, holding positions as director of the Hawaii Office of Economic Opportunity, human resources assistant for state Governor George Ariyoshi, and director of the Progressive Neighborhoods Program.[10][11]

Akaka was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1976 to represent Hawaii's 2nd congressional district, comprising all of the state outside the inner ring of Honolulu.[12] He was reelected seven times, all by wide margins.[citation needed]

U.S. Senate

Akaka at Senate youth program


Akaka was appointed by Governor John Waihee to the U.S. Senate in April 1990 to serve temporarily after the death of Senator Spark Matsunaga.[13] In November of the same year, he was elected to complete the remaining four years of Matsunaga's unexpired term, defeating Congresswoman Pat Saiki with 53 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 1994 for a full six-year term with over 70% of the popular vote. He was reelected almost as easily in 2000.[14]

For the 2006 election, he overcame a strong primary challenge from Congressman Ed Case,[15] then won a third full term with 61 percent of the vote, defeating Cynthia Thielen.[16]


During his tenure, Akaka served as the Chair of the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.[16]

In 1996, Akaka successfully sponsored legislation that led to nearly two-dozen Medals of Honor being belatedly awarded to Asian-American soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion.[17] He also successfully passed legislation compensating Philippine Scouts who were refused veterans benefits.[17]

From 2000 until his retirement from the Senate in 2013, Akaka sponsored legislation, known as the Akaka Bill, to afford sovereignty to native Hawaiians. In 2005, Akaka acknowledged in an interview with NPR that the Akaka Bill could eventually result in outright independence.[18]

The Akaka Bill has been supported as a means of restoring Hawaiian self-determination lost with the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii,[19] and would include giving up the ability to sue for sovereignty in federal courts in exchange for recognition by the federal government (but would not block sovereignty claims made under international law.)[20] The bill has been criticized as discriminating on the basis on ethnic origin in that only Native Hawaiians would be permitted to participate in the governing entity that the bill would establish.[21]

In April 2006, he was selected by Time as one of America's Five Worst Senators. The article criticized him for mainly authoring minor legislation, calling him "master of the minor resolution and the bill that dies in committee".[22]

Akaka voted against authorization of the use of military force against Iraq.[23]

In February 2009, a bill was authored in the Philippine House of Representatives by Rep. Antonio Diaz seeking to confer honorary Filipino citizenship on Akaka, Senators Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens and Representative Bob Filner, for their role in securing the passage of benefits for Filipino World War II veterans.[24]

On March 2, 2011, Akaka announced he would not be running for re-election in the 2012 U.S. Senate elections.[4] He attended his final session in the Senate on December 12, 2012. He closed his speech with a traditional Hawaiian farewell, "a hui hou" (until we meet again).[25]

Committee assignments

Akaka and Senator Barack Obama in 2005

  • Committee on Armed Services
  • Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development
    • Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
    • Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment
  • Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security
    • Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia (Chairman)
    • Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration
  • Committee on Indian Affairs (Chairman)
  • Committee on Veterans' Affairs
  • Congressional Task Force on Native Hawaiian Issues (Chairman)

Caucus memberships

Akaka and President George W. Bush in 2006

  • Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
  • Congressional Biotechnology Caucus
  • Congressional Postal Caucus (Vice Chair)
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Senate Anti-Meth Caucus
  • Senate Army Caucus (Co-Chair)
  • Senate Sweetener Caucus (Co-Chair)
  • Senate Oceans Caucus


Akaka died of organ failure in the early hours of April 6, 2018, at the age of 93.[26] Former president Barack Obama remembered Akaka as "a tireless advocate for working people, veterans, native Hawaiian rights, and the people of Hawaii... He embodied the aloha spirit with compassion and care."[27]

Electoral history

United States Senate special election, 1990: Hawaii
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Daniel Akaka 188,901 53.72
Republican Pat Saiki 155,978 44.35
Libertarian Ken Schoolland 6,788 1.93
Majority 32,923 9.36
Turnout 351,666
United States Senate election, 1994: Hawaii[28]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Daniel Akaka (inc.) 256,189 71.8%
Republican Maria Hustace 86,320 24.2%
Libertarian Richard Rowland 14,393 4.0%
Democratic hold Swing
United States Senate election, 2000: Hawaii[29]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Daniel Akaka (inc.) 251,215 77.7%
Republican John Carroll 84,701 24.5%
Natural Law Lauri A. Clegg 4,220 1.2%
Libertarian Lloyd Jeffrey Mallan 3,127 0.9%
Constitution David Porter 2,360 0.7%


Candidate Votes[30] Percentage
Daniel Akaka 129,158 54.2%
Ed Case 107,163 45.0%
United States Senate election, 2006: Hawaii
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Daniel Akaka (inc.) 210,330 61.4 -11.5
Republican Cynthia Thielen 126,097 36.8 +12.3
Libertarian Lloyd Mallan 6,415 1.9 +1.0
Majority 84,233 24.6
Turnout 342,842
Democratic hold Swing

See also

  • List of Asian Americans and Pacific Islands Americans in the United States Congress


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Once a Soldier... Always a Soldier". Legislative Agenda. Association of the United States Army. 2011. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  2. AP pronunciation guide
  3. About Senator Akaka Daniel Kahikina Akaka, U.S. Senator of Hawaii Archived May 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. 4.0 4.1 DePledge, Derrick (March 3, 2011). "'The right time'". Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  5. Genealogy from
  6. " - newspaper archive, clipping service - newspapers and other news sources". October 5, 2004. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  7. JOHN T. MCQUISTONSEPT. 17, 1997 (September 17, 1997). "Abraham Akaka, 80, Hawaii Clergyman, Dies - The New York Times". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Akaka in Congress since 1976 | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper". The Honolulu Advertiser. January 20, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  9. Ruymar, Lorene (1996). The Hawaiian Steel Guitar and its Great Hawaiian Musicians. Anaheim Hills, California: Centerstream Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 1-57424-021-8. 
  10. Brown, Emma. "Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii senator with ‘spirit of aloha,’ dies at 93". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  11. The Associated Press. "Daniel Akaka, longtime Hawaii senator, dead at 93". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  12. Killough, Ashley (September 1, 2015). "Former Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka dies at 93 - CNNPolitics". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  14. "John Carroll: Faith shaped a winding journey | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper". The Honolulu Advertiser. September 9, 2002. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  15. "Hawaii's Akaka defeats Case for Senate - politics". NBC News. September 24, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Daniel Akaka, Long-Serving Hawaii Senator, Dead at 93". April 6, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Clymer, Adam (7 April 2018). "Daniel Akaka, Former Democratic Senator From Hawaii, Dies at 93". The New York Times. p. B7. Retrieved 16 April 2018. 
  18. Kaste, Martin (August 16, 2005). "Native Hawaiians Seek Self Rule". NPR. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  19. Reyes, B.J. (January 22, 2008). "Obama would sign Akaka Bill as president". Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  20. Carlson, Ragnar (August 19, 2009). "Nationhood". Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  21. Camire, Dennis (June 9, 2006). "After bill fails, Akaka vows to try again". Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  22. Calabresi, Massimo; Bacon, Perry Jr. (April 24, 2006). "Daniel Akaka: Master of the Minor". Time Magazine. New York City: Meredith Corporation.,8599,1183980,00.html. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  23. "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  24. Salaverria, Leila (February 24, 2009). "4 US solons as honorary Filipinos". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved March 20, 2009. 
  25. "Sen. Daniel Akaka says 'a hui hou' to Congress". KHON-TV. December 12, 2012. 
  26. HNN Staff (April 6, 2018). "Former US Sen. Akaka, the 'ambassador of aloha,' dies at 93 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  27. HNN Staff (April 6, 2018). "Obama: Akaka loved Hawaii's people (who loved him right back)". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  28. "Office of Elections". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  29. "2000 ELECTION STATISTICS". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 
  30. "Primary Election 2006 - State of Hawaii - Statewide". Retrieved April 6, 2018. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Patsy Mink
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Patsy Mink
Party political offices
Preceded by
Spark Matsunaga
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Hawaii
(Class 1)

1990, 1994, 2000, 2006
Succeeded by
Mazie Hirono
United States Senate
Preceded by
Spark Matsunaga
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Hawaii
Served alongside: Dan Inouye, Brian Schatz
Succeeded by
Mazie Hirono
Preceded by
Larry Craig
Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Patty Murray
Preceded by
Byron Dorgan
Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Maria Cantwell

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