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Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta dead

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Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta dead
As secretary of transportation, Mineta was responsible for closing U.S. airspace after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as spearheading the creation of the Transportation Security Administration. File Photo by Eduardo Sverdlin/UPI | License Photo

May 3 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta died Tuesday at the age of 91, his former chief of staff confirmed.

Mineta is perhaps best known for closing U.S. airspace following the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, while leading the transportation department under former President George W. Bush.

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He was the only Democratic Cabinet member of the Bush administration and is also credited with spearheading the Transportation Security Administration in the wake of the attacks.

Mineta, who died of heart failure at his family home in Maryland, had a long and distinguished political career.

After surviving internment in California during World War II, Norman Yoshio Mineta went on to become the mayor of San Jose from 1971 to 1975. He was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and would spend the next 20 years in office, before leaving in 1995.

He broke a racial barrier on July 20, 2000, when he became the 33rd secretary of commerce, at the tail end of the Clinton administration. He was then sworn in as transportation secretary in January 2001.

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His hometown renamed its airport after him, christening it the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2001.

Condolences came pouring in from the political community after his death became public Tuesday.

"San Jose has lost a great champion, and I have lost a deeply admired mentor," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. "Like so many of those fortunate to have worked with Norm, I learned enormously from his calm leadership style, his deadpan humor, and his sincere love for public service."

Liccardo worked as an intern in Mineta's congressional office in Washington, D.C., when he was 18.

"I'm saddened to hear of the passing of former @USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta -- a strong bipartisan voice for American infrastructure, Asian American trailblazer, and exemplary leader in both local and federal office," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote on Twitter.

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