Spark Matsunaga

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Spark Masayuki Matsunaga was a United States Representative and Senator from Hawaii, a member of the Democratic Party. He was born born in Kukuiula, Kauai, Hawaii, October 8, 1916. He was a Japanese-American whose legislation as a United States Senator led to the creation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

He became a United States Army Reservist in 1941. He voluntarily joined the 100th Infantry Battalion, the first Japanese-American unit formed during World War II. Matsunaga was wounded twice in battle in Italy, for which he received the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. Matsunaga was released from active service as a captain in December 1945.

Matsunaga graduated from the University of Hawaii at Honolulu in 1941 with a degree in education and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1951.

Matsunaga served as assistant public prosecutor for the city and county of Honolulu from 1952 to 1954. He was a member of Hawaiian statehood delegation to Congress in 1950 and 1954. Matsunaga was a member of the Territorial legislature from 1954 to 1959, serving as majority leader 1957-1959.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962 and served there until 1976. Matsunaga went on to serve in the United States Senate from 1977 until his death in 1990, being reelected to the senate in 1982 and again in 1988. Matsunaga authored and supported legislation to establish a research organization called the United States Peace Institute and to authorize the post of Poet Laureate. As a Senator, he was also a major proponent of the use of renewable energy sources. A signature legislative achievement was the Spark Matsunaga Hydrogen Research and Development Act, which was passed in 1990 and provides funding for research into alternative energy sources. Matsunaga also actively supported Soviet-American cooperation in space exploration. Perhaps Matsunaga's greatest achievement in the Senate was obtaining redress for Japanese-Americans who had been unjustly interned during World War II.

Matsunaga died in Toronto, Canada, April 15, 1990. He was cremated and his ashes interred in Punchbowl National Cemetery, Honolulu, Hawaii.

In his honor, the University of Hawaii established the Matsunaga Institute for Peace in which scholars explore ways to resolve differences without resorting to violence.

Matsunaga was preceded in the Senate by Hiram Fong and succeeded by Daniel Akaka.

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External Links

  • Raising the Bar: Pioneers in the Legal Profession (American Bar Association)
  • Spark Matsunaga (Wikipedia)
  • Hoover, Will. Spark Matsunaga Honolulu Advertiser, July 2, 2006.
  • Hydrogen (Hawaii Natural Energy Institute)
  • Lifetime Voting Record (Americans for Democratic Action)
  • Sparky -- New book explores the life of Sen. Spark M. Matsunaga, a Kauai boy who helped a reluctant nation accept its Asian-American brothers (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 7, 2002)
  • HELENE MATSUNAGA / 1925-2004 Senator’s wife was devoted and generous (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9-27-04)
  • Ceremony Honors Spark Matsunaga Featured On New U.S. Treasury Inflation-Indexed I Bond (Bureau of the Public Debt)
  • Matsunaga Institute for Peace (Institute for Peace)
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