SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Hundreds of people gathered Saturday to mourn U.S. Rep. Robert T. Matsui (search), recalling how he rose from immigrant roots to serve in Congress for 26 years.
"We will miss his leadership. We will miss his guidance. We will miss his advocacy. And we will miss his friendship," said Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo (search).
Matsui died Jan. 1 of pneumonia brought on by a rare form of bone marrow disease diagnosed several months ago. He was to be buried in his hometown Saturday in private services.
When he was a young child, Matsui's family was among the Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps (search) during World War II. As a congressman, he helped pass legislation apologizing for the internment policy and providing compensation for the survivors.
At the public memorial service, mourners including his wife and son gathered around a flag-draped coffin for speeches that honored a "trailblazer" for Asian-American politicians.
"He was from the beginning to the end, intelligent, hardworking, honest and practical," said former San Francisco mayor Phil Isenberg, who served with Matsui on the Sacramento City Council for seven years in the 1970s.
At a smaller invitation-only service near the state Capitol, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (search) of California called Matsui "the moral compass to the Congress of the United States."
"For all of us who served with Bob Matsui, it was an honor to call him 'colleague,"' she said.
Matsui, the third-ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he headed the party's unsuccessful effort last year to regain control of the House.
During his career, Matsui opposed President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security and helped pass President Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement.
Saturday's services followed a week of memorials to the late congressman that included tributes from across the political spectrum and a memorial service in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C. His body lay in state for 24 hours in California's Capitol.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has until Jan. 15 to call a special election to replace Matsui.
Among those mentioned as a candidate is Matsui's wife, Doris, a former director of public liaison in the Clinton White House and veteran Washington lobbyist.