Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), former chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and Medal of Honor winner, who died Monday evening at the age of 88, was being hailed as both a soldier,a statesman and an architect of modern Hawaii. He was its first Congressman and familiar to media companies for his tenure as chair of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee.
"Each of us in the Senate has lost a piece of ourselves with the passing of Sen. Inouye," said Senate Commerce Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who succeeded Inouye in that post. "He has been a total mentor and great friend to me since I came to the Senate. I'm truly honored to have had the opportunity to know him so well. His life is a testament to what true patriotism, hard work, and courage embody."
Inouye served in both the House and Senate but began his public service at 17, when he enlisted in the army after Pearl Harbor. He joined E Company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, generally identified as the most decorated infantry unit in history and made up entirely of Japanese-Americans. He lost an arm charging machine gun nests in Italy and was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military accolade.
"The country lost a true hero and statesman," said FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who worked for the Senator when he headed commerce. "Sen. Inouye dedicated his life to representing the State of Hawaii and advancing the interests of the nation. He did so with strength, determination, and grace. For generations, Sen. Inouye has been a role model for dedicated public servants everywhere."
She said that during her time on the committee, "I watched Senator Inouye build consensus and advance legislation on vital and contentious issues of the day. As a result of his work, the nation is stronger and a better place to live. He will be greatly missed."
Commissioner Robert McDowell talked to B&C/Multichannel News about Inouye's collegiality with his opposite number on the committee, the late Republican Chairman, Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). They were both World War II veterans and represented states with unique, yet similar, issues as the last two, and noncontiguous, states.
While they were political opposites, they shared a strong bond of respect and affection, referring to each other as "brothers."
"Today we lost a great American hero," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. "Daniel Inouye's powerful life story is about courage, conviction, and service. Getting to know Sen. Inouye has been a unique privilege for me and my family, with whom Sen. Inouye showed uncommon generosity of spirit. We mourn his passing His inspiration will be widespread and enduring."
Inouye was keenly interested in communications matters. He urged the FCC to intervene in retrans impasses, endearing him to cable operators. Inouye said he believed the FCC had the power to force arbitration -- Stevens shared that sentiment -- a power the FCC has not asserted for itself.
Inouye also pushed for FCC reform, better broadband stats, taking care of key broadcast constituencies in the DTV transition, and urged the FCC to defend its indecency rules in court, which endeared him to the Parents Television Council.
"We mourn the loss of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a true American hero whose life was devoted to honor, country and service to the people of Hawaii," said National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell. "In an age where partisan politics seems inescapable, Senator Inouye exemplified bipartisanship and constructive compromise for the good of our nation. ‘We may disagree, but we don't have to be disagreeable,' was a common Inouye refrain, and his commitment to people over party affiliation was legendary among his colleagues. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to his wife Irene, his son Ken, and the entire Inouye family."
On the broadcast side, former Senator Gordon Smith, said of his colleague.
"We mourn the passing of a statesman, a decorated war hero, and a legend in the U.S. Senate," said Smith. "I had the pleasure of working with Sen. Inouye on the Senate Commerce Committee on many pieces of legislation, and I can honestly say there was no finer gentleman in politics. Broadcasters have lost a friend, and our country has lost a man of bipartisan decency and integrity."
"In addition to being an extraordinary leader, public servant and war hero, Senator Inouye was a great defender of decency," said PTC president Tim Winter. "We are proud to have worked with him in behalf of children and families across our nation. We are profoundly grateful for his vision and his leadership, and we offer our heartfelt wishes to his family and friends."
Survivors include his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, and a son, Daniel Ken Inouye Jr.