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Henry Giugni Dies; Aide to Sen. Inouye

Henry K. Giugni was the first person of color to be Senate sergeant-at-arms.
Henry K. Giugni was the first person of color to be Senate sergeant-at-arms. (Uss Missouri Memorial Association Via Associated Press)

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By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 5, 2005

Henry K. Giugni, 80, a longtime aide to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and a former sergeant-at-arms to the U.S. Senate, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 3 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville. He was a Potomac resident.

"Henry was an acquaintance of presidents and kings, but his heart was always with the native people of Hawaii, who are still struggling for their moment in the sun," Inouye said.

Mr. Giugni (pronounced "JOO-nee") was not only a legend in Hawaii politics but also a colorful character on Capitol Hill. A former Honolulu motorcycle cop, he was hard to miss around the Senate. He was the one wearing flip-top sunshades and white buck shoes.

On a February day in 1988, the tough-talking, Camel-smoking sergeant-at-arms was dispatched to the Russell Senate Office Building by Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) to escort several Republicans back to the Senate floor. Byrd was trying to break a Republican filibuster of campaign finance legislation, and the senators were avoiding a quorum call.

A cleaning woman told Mr. Giugni that one of the recalcitrant Republicans, Oregon Sen. Robert Packwood, was hiding behind the locked door of his office.

"I was sitting in my office with the door bolted," Packwood later said at a packed news conference. "I thought I was safe. But it's the little things that always trip you up."

Mr. Giugni used his sergeant-at-arms pass key to unlock the office door, but Packwood had his shoulder pushed up against it. Mr. Giugni managed to shove the esteemed senator aside, whereupon he hauled the Republican feet first out of his office and carried him into the Senate chamber. Packwood laughed about it later and gave his "arresting" officer a hug.

Occasionally, Mr. Giugni got into political scrapes of his own. In 1976, the Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into his acceptance of an illegal $5,000 corporate cash contribution. Although Mr. Giugni repaid the money, the committee advised Inouye to fire his top assistant. The senator rejected the advice.

"Our father was pedal to the metal. He lived life to the fullest," said daughter Heather Haunani Giugni of Honolulu. "He enjoyed every minute he spent on Capitol Hill."

Henry Kuualoha Giugni, who always described himself as "just a poor Hawaiian boy," was born on the Pearl City Peninsula of Oahu. He was 16 on Dec. 7, 1941, and rushed to enlist in the Army as soon as he found out about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served on Guadalcanal.

After the war, he attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa and then became a firefighter in Honolulu. He was told that as a dark-skinned Hawaiian, that was the best job he could hope for, another daughter recalled. That comment propelled him into Democratic Party politics on the island, where he met Inouye and other political figures. He played a key role in Inouye's campaigns, beginning in 1957 when Inouye, as a member of the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives, ran for the Territorial Senate.

After a stint as a Honolulu police officer and liquor inspector, he joined Inouye's staff. From 1963 to 1986, he was the senator's chief of staff.

In 1987, Mr. Giugni became the first person of color and the first Polynesian to be appointed sergeant-at-arms. During his four-year tenure, he supervised a staff of 2,000, acted as the Senate's chief purchasing officer and was responsible for a $115 million annual budget. He also sat on the Police Board, which supervises Congress's police force.

"He respected the policemen. He always acted like he was one of them," said daughter Deborah Roselani McMillan of Los Angeles.

Mr. Giugni appointed the first minority, a black man, to lead the sergeant-at-arms service department and was the first to assign women to the Capitol Police plainclothes unit. He also expanded the Special Services Office, which conducts Capitol tours for the blind, deaf and those who use wheelchairs and publishes Senate maps and documents in Braille.

After retiring from the Senate in 1990, he joined Cassidy & Associates, a Washington-based lobbying and public affairs firm.

Besides his two daughters, survivors include his wife of 59 years, Muriel Roselani Giugni of Potomac; two other daughters, H. Kealoha Giugni of Honolulu and Gina Pilialoha Giugni-Halbach of Annapolis; 11 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.


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