News of the death surprised Senate colleagues, despite his advanced age, as he had continued to be in fairly good health for some time. Governor Neil Abercrombie will select a replacement to fill Inouye’s seat until a special election can be held in 2014, to fill the remainder of the Senator’s term which expires in 2016.
Senator Inouye fought in World War II for the United States as part of the highly decorated 442nd regiment of Japanese Americans, and earned the Medal of Honor after losing his arm in 1945. He was given the Medal of Honor by President Clinton in 2000. After his military service, he became Hawaii’s first congressman upon its admission to the Union in 1959, and was elected Senator for the first time in 1963. He was elected to a ninth term in 2010.
Senator Inouye served on the Senate committee which investigated the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s and chaired the Iran-Contra investigatory committee in the 1980’s. Since 2010, Inouye has also been the president pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in line for succession to the presidency after Joe Biden and John Boehner. Since 2009, Inouye has also been the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Inouye, 88, died Monday of respiratory complications at a Washington-area hospital. As a senator, he became one of the most influential politicians in Washington D.C. and he was the longest serving current senator and by far the most important for his home state of Hawaii. Upon his death, his tenure in the Senate was the second longest on record behind only Robert Byrd of West Virginia.