U.S. Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a decorated veteran of World War Two and one of the longest-serving members of Congress, died on Monday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He was 88.
Inouye, who was chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, died of complications from a respiratory illness, according to a statement issued by his office, which said "Aloha" was the last word he spoke.
Inouye's death was announced on the Senate floor by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who hailed him as one of the "greats of this body."
Under Hawaii law, the governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, will name a successor to fill Inouye's seat until a new senator is picked in the 2014 general election.
Because Abercrombie is expected to name a fellow Democrat, Inouye's death is unlikely to change the balance of power in the 100-member Senate, where Democrats are expected to maintain a 55-45 majority over Republicans.
First elected to Congress as Hawaii's first full-fledged member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Inouye took office on Aug. 21, 1959, the date Hawaii became a state, and he went on to win election to the U.S. Senate in 1962.
After nine consecutive Senate terms, he was the only member of a state's original congressional delegation still serving on Capitol Hill at the time of his death.
He was also the second-longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate after the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and became the most senior senator when Byrd died in June 2010.
Inouye thus assumed the post of president pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in line to succeed to the U.S. president, after the vice president and speaker of the House.
Inouye began his public service at the age of 17, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit consisting entirely of U.S. soldiers of Japanese ancestry.
Serving in Europe with distinction, Inouye lost his right arm while charging a series of German machine-gun nests on a hill in Italy in April 1945. The injury earned him a Purple Heart but ended his ambitions to study to be a surgeon.
Instead, he earned a law degree and entered politics after the war.
When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, according to his office's press statement, Inouye replied, "I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK."