by Akemi Tamanaha, AsAmNews Associate Editor
This afternoon the White House hosted the naming ceremony for the William T. Coleman, Jr. and Norman Y. Mineta Federal Building, which will be home to the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters.
On May 6, 2022, President Joe Biden signed a bill to name the building after Coleman and Mineta, who were both former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretaries. Coleman passed away in March 2017, and Mineta passed away in 2022.
Mineta was born in San Jose, California, in 1932. He was one of the 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. He would go on to serve as the mayor of San Jose from 1971-1975. In 1974, he was elected to represent California’s 13th district in Congress. He took office in 1975 and represented Californians for 20 years.
Mineta, a Democrat, served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under former President Bill Clinton from 2000 to 2001. He was the first Asian American to hold a presidential cabinet position. When former Republican President George W. Bush took office in 2001, Mineta became the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. He was the only Democrat to serve in Bush’s cabinet.
Congressman and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR) originally introduced H.R. 4689 which would have named the bill solely after Mineta. Mineta was the chair of the aviation committee when DeFazio first took office.
“He was a mentor to me. He was an inspiration to me,” DeFazio said at the naming ceremony. “He imbued me with a love of aviation and the issues, and saying this is the most interesting subcommittee on what we then called public works.”
The latest piece of legislation, the Norman Y. Mineta Federal Building Act, was a compromise between H.R. 4689 and S. 400, a bill that would have named the building solely after Coleman. In late 2021, as legislators were working on merging the bills, DeFazio said Mineta told him he was happy to share the name with Coleman. Mineta called Coleman a “great friend” who came to help him get elected when he was
“I’m sorry that Norm, you know, passed away before we could have this, but he was delighted to share the building with William T Coleman and William Coleman’s extraordinary, groundbreaking pathbreaking career in this country,” DeFazio said.
Mineta passed away at the age of 90 on May 3, 2022. Just three days later, President Biden signed the Norman Y. Mineta Federal Building Act.
“But beyond his remarkable lifetime of accomplishments, I will remember Norm for his steadfast commitment to a belief he held dear: that America can accomplish anything when we come together,” Biden said in a press release that day.
The re-named building will now have a plaque bearing Coleman’s and Mineta’s names.
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