Today in Black History, 07/19/2015 | Patricia Roberts Harris - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 07/19/2015 | Patricia Roberts Harris

July 19, 1979 Patricia Roberts Harris became the first African American woman to hold a post in a presidential cabinet when President Jimmy Carter appointed her Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Harris was born May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 1945 and graduated at the top of her class from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1960. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her Ambassador to Luxembourg May 19, 1965, the first African American to serve as a United States Ambassador, where she served until 1967. Harris was named dean of Howard University’s School of Law in 1969, a position she held until 1972. President Carter appointed Harris Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977 and on this date she became Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and served until 1981. She was appointed a professor at the George Washington University National Law Center in 1982, a position she held until her death March 23, 1985. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2000 and she was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. The Patricia R. Harris Education Center in Washington, D. C. is named in her honor.
 

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