April 6 (UPI) — Former Sen. Daniel Akaka, the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the chamber, died Friday, his family announced. He was 93.
His daughter, Millannie Akaka, said her father died at 5 a.m. at The Villas at St. Francis hospice, where he had been since November. He died of organ failure.
“We are so fortunate to have him as long as we did. We were very lucky,” a family statement said.
Hawaiians elected Akaka to the House of Representatives in 1976, an office he held until 1990, when he was elected to the Senate. He retired in 2013 after serving more than three decades in Congress.
The Democrat was known for his modest political style and a champion of Native Hawaiian rights. He said he regretted never being able to get the Akaka bill passed in Congress, which would have established a Native Hawaiian governing body.
“It is long past time for the Native Hawaiian people to have the same rights, the same privileges, and the same opportunities as every other federally-recognized native people,” he told Hawaii News Now upon his retirement.
He was, though, able to convince President Bill Clinton to apologize for the United States’ role in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 on the 100th anniversary.
Akaka is survived by his wife, Mary Akaka, five children, 15 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.