Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the influential Democrat who broke racial barriers on Capitol Hill and played key roles in congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals, died Monday. He was 88. Inouye, a senator since January 1963, was currently the longest-serving senator and was president pro tempore of the Senate, third in the line presidential succession. His office said today that he died of respiratory complications at a Washington-area hospital. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Inouye's death on the Senate floor.
Inouye was a World War II hero and Medal of Honor winner who lost an arm to a German hand grenade during a battle in Italy. He became the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, when he was elected to the House in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state. He won election to the Senate three years later and served there longer than anyone in American history except Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who died in 2010 after 51 years in the Senate. A quiet but powerful lawmaker, Inouye ran for Senate majority leader several times without success, but in 2008 became chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.