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. He would later be re-elected to three full terms. In March 2011, he announced he would not run for re-election in 2012.
After fellow U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye died on December 17, 2012, Akaka became the state's senior senator, and briefly remained so until he left office on January 3, 2013. He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Mazie Hirono.
|United States Senator|
May 16, 1990 – January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Spark Matsunaga|
|Succeeded by||Mazie Hirono|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Hawaii's 2nd district
January 3, 1977 – May 16, 1990
|Preceded by||Patsy Mink|
|Succeeded by||Patsy Mink|
Daniel Kahikina Akaka|
September 11, 1924
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
April 6, 2018 (aged 93)|
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
National Cemetery of the Pacific |
|Education||University of Hawaii, Manoa (BEd, MEd)|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1945–1947|
|Unit||Corps of Engineers|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Daniel Kahikina Akaka (Chinese: 李碩; pinyin: Lǐ Shuò) 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. His brother was Rev. Abraham Akaka.
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. He worked as a welder and a mechanic and in 1948 was a first mate on the schooner Morning Star.
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. In 1963, he became head principal.
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.
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. He was reelected seven times, all by wide margins.
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. 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.
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.
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. He also successfully passed legislation compensating Philippine Scouts who were refused veterans benefits.
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.
The Akaka Bill has been supported as a means of restoring Hawaiian self-determination lost with the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, 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.) 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.
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".
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.
On March 2, 2011, Akaka announced he would not be running for re-election in the 2012 U.S. Senate elections. 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).
Akaka died of organ failure in the early hours of April 6, 2018, at the age of 93. 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."
|Democratic||Daniel Akaka (inc.)||256,189||71.8%|
|Democratic||Daniel Akaka (inc.)||251,215||77.7%|
|Natural Law||Lauri A. Clegg||4,220||1.2%|
|Libertarian||Lloyd Jeffrey Mallan||3,127||0.9%|
|United States Senate Democratic primary election, 2006: Hawaii|
|Democratic||Daniel Akaka (inc.)||210,330||61.4||-11.5|
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 2nd congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Hawaii
1990, 1994, 2000, 2006
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Hawaii
Served alongside: Dan Inouye, Brian Schatz
| Chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
| Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee