Before it became Silicon Valley, Santa Clara Valley once was famous as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” known for its flowery blanket of orchards and the largest fruit production and packing region in the world until the 1960s. However, its transformation into the global center of technology innovation started long ago in 1938 when electronics pioneers Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard began harvesting the fruits of their labor.
Hewlett Packard was born in the legendary Palo Alto garage, becoming the model for subsequent generations of inventors and game changers as Santa Clara Valley started to grow and prosper after World War II. The breathtaking orchards of Santa Clara Valley were slowly replaced by subdivisions, shopping centers, and industrial parks through the 1950s and 60s. Silicon Valley emerged as waves of technology, from semiconductors to the “cloud,” and it’s now home to some of the world’s greatest technology enterprises including Google, Intel, Cisco, Apple, HP, Adobe, Applied Materials, eBay, and many more.
Mineta San José International Airport is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, just minutes away from these global technology giants. Conveniently serving a wealthy and diverse region approaching four million people and thousands of Silicon Valley companies, SJC is Silicon Valley’s airport.
Norman Y. Mineta
Norman Y. Mineta, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Member of Congress, and Mayor of San José, California, was well known for his work in the areas of transportation – including aviation, surface transportation, and infrastructure – and national security. He was recognized for his accomplishments in economic development, science and technology policy, foreign and domestic trade, budgetary issues and civil rights.
In 1942, when he was 10 years old, Mineta and his family were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry forced from their homes and into internment camps by the U.S. Government for the duration of World War II following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
Returning to his hometown of San José in 1945, he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and served as a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer during the Korean Conflict. Mineta then joined his father’s insurance business and undertook a career in public service, which has been both distinguished and unique. In 1967, he became the first Asian Pacific American member of the San José City Council, becoming the City’s Vice Mayor in 1968. He was elected Mayor of San José in 1971, making him the first Asian American mayor of a major U.S. city.
In 1974, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he represented parts of San José and the surrounding region for 20 years.
In Congress, Mineta was an advocate for the burgeoning technology industry in what became known as Silicon Valley. He worked to encourage new industries and spur job growth and supported the development of the infrastructure to support them. He served as the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Public Works and Transportation from 1992 to 1994, after having chaired the Subcommittee on Aviation and the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation. He was the primary author of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which shifted decisions on highway and mass transit planning to state and local governments.
Throughout his time in Congress, Mineta was a constant civil rights advocate. He authored the transportation portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act, aided several reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, passionately advocated for the rights of immigrants, co-authored the Disadvantaged Minority Health Improvement Act, co-authored the first bill aimed at eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S. military, and became an early leader in the fight for marriage equality.
He founded and served as the first Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. He served as the principal author and driving force behind what became the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized to Americans of Japanese ancestry for the internment during World War II. Fittingly, Mineta was serving as Speaker Pro Tempore on the day of its passage, and he signed the legislation on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed Mineta Secretary of Commerce, making him the first Asian Pacific American Cabinet Secretary. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Mineta Secretary of Transportation, where he served until 2006 – one of the very few Americans to have served in the Cabinet of Presidents from two parties.
As Secretary of Transportation on September 11, 2001, Mineta made the unprecedented decision to ground all aviation flights to protect American airspace. He then guided the creation of the Transportation Security Administration—an agency with more than 65,000 employees—marking the largest mobilization of a new federal agency since World War II.
Mineta was also a Vice President of Lockheed Martin, where he oversaw the first successful implementation of the EZ-Pass system in New York state. Additionally, he mentored aspiring political leaders and held speaking engagements around the world.
Recognized for his leadership, Mineta received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor in the United States— as well as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights’ Hubert Humphrey Award. He was a recipient of the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, which is awarded for significant public service of enduring value to the field of aviation. George Washington University recognized Mineta with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Medal for outstanding contributions to the field of civil rights. In spring of 2016, Mineta was designated as the Yale Chubb Fellow.
In honor of his service to San José and the Nation, San José City Council officially added Norman Y. Mineta’s name to San José International Airport in November 2001, while Mineta was serving as Secretary of Transportation.
Secretary Mineta passed away on May 3, 2022, at the age of 90.