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“People say, ‘Will there be another Ted Kennedy, will there be another Robert Byrd or a Dan Inouye?’ But remember, frankly, when they came to the Senate, nobody saw them as potential giants. They had to prove themselves,” he said.

Mr. Inouye was elected to the House in 1959 — the same year Hawaii became a state. He served in the Senate from January 1963 until his death Dec. 17 at the age of 88 — the second-longest serving senator in history, trailing only Mr. Byrd.

In a sound-bite-hungry political age that rewards oversized hubris and bombastic behavior, Mr. Inouye was a throwback to a more civil — though by no means gentle — era on Capitol Hill. He abhorred self-promotion but was fueled by ambition. He shunned the camera, preferring to work behind the scenes.

“This was not a guy who sought the spotlight, who was eager to go on ‘Meet the Press’ or ‘Face the Nation’ every weekend,” Mr. Ornstein said. “He was an inside player.”

While quiet, he was anything but timid. He gained power as a member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, serving as chairman of the panel’s defense appropriations subcommittee before later chairing the full panel.

“He could be forceful when he wanted to be,” Mr. Ritchie said. “He saw what he wanted to do, and he did it.”

And few senators in history exhibited more heroics on the battlefield.

While leading troops during a World War II battle in Italy, his right arm was destroyed by German fire just as it was cocked to throw a hand grenade at the enemy. With his mangled arm barely attached to his body and his hand reflexively still clutching the live grenade, he grabbed the bomb with his other hand and successfully flung it at his German target.

Mr. Inouye was one of 22 Asian-American World War II veterans who in 2000 belatedly received the nation’s top honor for bravery on the battlefield, the Medal of Honor.

A memorial service for the senator was held Sunday at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. About 1,000 people attended, including Mr. Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Hawaii’s congressional delegation and several other senators, Cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries, the Associated Press reported.

Daniel was the best senator among us all,” Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, told those assembled. He later added: “Whenever we needed a noble man to lean on, we turned to Sen. Dan Inouye. He was fearless.”