Daniel Inouye, a war hero and the second-longest serving senator, died Monday evening of respiratory complications at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, with his wife and son by his side.
The Hawaii senator's last word was "Aloha," and when asked recently how he wanted to be remembered, according to a statement on his website, he replied: "I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did okay."
Sen. Harry Reid announced his colleague's passing in remarks Monday evening on the Senate floor.
"I've never known anyone like Dan Inouye. No one else has," Reid said. "The kindness that he has shown me for my time here is something I will cherish always. A man who has lived and breathed the Senate. If there ever were a patriot, Dan Inouye was that patriot."
President Barack Obama remembered the senator as "an American hero" who worked to forge bipartisan consensus throughout his political career. Inouye was "not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him," the president said in a statement.
Serving since 1963, the 88-year-old Hawaii Democrat was the second-longest serving senator (behind the late Sen. Robert Byrd) and President Pro Tempore of the chamber, which made him third in line for succession to the presidency.
He was a war hero who survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and went on to fight in Italy during World War II where he received a Medal of Honor for directing his platoon successfully through a hail of gunfire and refusing to evacuate even after he suffered a gunshot wound and shattered arm.
Fellow Medal of Honor recipient and NBC News military analyst Col. Jack Jacobs said he knew Inouye well and recalled him as "a gentleman and a patriot."
He added that Inouye's WWII unit was "composed almost entirely of Japanese-Americans, most of whom we had put in concentration camps and classified them as enemy aliens," yet it was also "the most highly decorated organization in the Army during WWII."
Inouye was Hawaii's first-ever Congressman following statehood in 1959 and a vocal advocate of veterans' rights.
During his decades-long tenure at the Senate, he served as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and was a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Watergate Committee and the committee formed to investigate the Iran Contra Affair.
His first wife Margaret "Maggie" Awamura preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., his daughter-in-law Jessica, his granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano.