Robert C. Weaver

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Robert C. Weaver
Robert C. Weaver official portrait.jpg
1st United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
In office
January 18, 1966 – December 18, 1968
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Robert Coldwell Wood
Personal details
Born Robert Clifton Weaver
December 29, 1907
Washington, D.C.
Died July 17, 1997(1997-07-17) (aged 89)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ella V. Haith
Alma mater Harvard University

Robert Clifton Weaver (December 29, 1907 – July 17, 1997) served as the first United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (also known as HUD) from 1966 to 1968. He was the first African American to hold a cabinet-level position in the United States.

As a young man, Weaver had been one of 45 prominent African Americans appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to his Black Cabinet. He acted as an informal adviser to Roosevelt as well as directing federal programs during the New Deal.

Early life and education[edit]

Weaver was born on December 29, 1907 into a middle-class family in Washington, D.C. His parents were Morgan Weaver, a postal worker, and Margaret Freeman, of mixed-race ancestry; they encouraged the boy in his academic studies. His maternal grandfather was Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman, the first black to graduate from Harvard in dentistry.[1]

The young Weaver attended the M Street School, now known as the Paul Dunbar High School. The academic high school for blacks at a time of racial segregation had a national reputation for excellence. Weaver went on to Harvard University, where he earned his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. in economics, completing his doctorate in 1934.[1]

Marriage and family[edit]

Weaver married Ella V. Haith in 1935. They adopted a son, who died in 1962.

Career[edit]

In 1933, Weaver worked as an aide to United States Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes.[2] Near the beginning of his career, but with a reputation for knowledge about housing issues, the young Weaver was appointed to a position in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1934, becoming one of his Black Cabinet.[3] Roosevelt appointed a total of 45 prominent blacks to positions in executive agencies, and called on them as informal advisers on issues related to African Americans, the Great Depression and the New Deal.

Weaver had numerous public policy positions, in between stints in academia. He was appointed state rent commissioner (1955–1959) under Governor W. Averell Harriman, becoming the first black State Cabinet member in New York. He was then named to New York City's Housing and Redevelopment Board. Next, he was recruited by newly elected president John F. Kennedy.[3]

Cabinet nomination[edit]

After election, Kennedy tried to establish a new cabinet department to deal with urban issues. It was to be called the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Postwar suburban development and economic restructuring were drawing population and jobs from the cities. The nation was faced with a stock of substandard, aged housing in many cities, and problems of unemployment.

In 1961, while trying to create HUD, Kennedy had done everything short of promising the new position to Weaver. He appointed him Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA),[3] a group of agencies which Kennedy wanted to raise to cabinet status.

"When Dr. Weaver joined the Kennedy Administration, whose Harvard connections extended to the occupant of the Oval Office, he held more Harvard degrees – three, including a doctorate in economics – than anyone else in the administration's upper ranks."[1]

Weaver with Lyndon Johnson at the White House for his swearing-in ceremony, 1966.

Republicans and southern Democrats opposed legislation to create the new department. The following year, Kennedy unsuccessfully tried to use his reorganization authority to create the department. As a result, Congress passed legislation prohibiting presidents from using that authority to create a new cabinet department, although the previous Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower administration had created the cabinet-level U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under that authority.

When the department was finally approved in 1965, many people thought that Weaver would be the best nominee. He had previously served in various posts in government with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, as one of his unofficial Black Cabinet members.[3] In 1965, he was still Administrator of the HHFA, having been appointed by Kennedy. In public, Johnson reiterated Weaver's status as a potential nominee but would not promise him the position. In private, Johnson had strong reservations. He often held pro-and-con discussions with Roy Wilkins, Executive Director of the NAACP.

He wanted a strong proponent for the new department. Johnson worried about Weaver's political sense. Johnson seriously considered other candidates, none of whom were black. He wanted a top administrator, but also someone who was exciting. Johnson was worried about how the new Secretary would interact with the Solid South, still Democrat, but with social tensions following passage of civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act in 1965. As candidates, Johnson considered the politician Richard Daley, mayor of Chicago; and the philanthropist Laurence Rockefeller.

Ultimately, Johnson believed that Weaver was the best-qualified administrator. Johnson's attitude became more favorable after he received a report which his assistant Bill Moyers had prepared at his request, on Weaver's potential effectiveness as the new Secretary. Moyers noted Weaver's strong accomplishments and ability to create teams. Ten days after Johnson's receiving the report, the president put forward the nomination and Weaver was successfully confirmed by the United States Senate.

Later years[edit]

After serving under Johnson, Weaver became president of Baruch College in 1969. The following year, he became a professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College in New York. He taught there until 1978.

Weaver died July 17, 1997, at the age of 89.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Books[edit]

Weaver wrote a number of books regarding black issues and urban housing, including:

  • Negro Labor: A National Problem (1946)
  • The Negro Ghetto (1948)
  • The Urban Complex: Human Values in Urban Life (1964)
  • Dilemmas of Urban America (1965)

Further reading[edit]

  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr., 15 January 1965, 12:06pm, Citation # 6736, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Richard Daley, 15 September 1965, 9:40am, Citation # 8870, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Richard Daley, 1 December 1965, 9:56am, Citation # 9301, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Roy Wilkins, 15 July 1965, 2:40pm, Citation # 8340, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Roy Wilkins, 1 November 1965, 10:11am, Citation # 9101, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Roy Wilkins, 4 November 1965, 10:50am, Citation # 9106, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Roy Wilkins, 5 January 1966, 4:55pm, Citation # 9430, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Thurgood Marshall, 3 January 1965, 10:15am, Citation # 9403, Recordings of Telephone Conversations, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
  • "Weaver, Robert Clifton." Infoplease. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0851710.html
  • Speech by Robert Weaver given on April 8, 1969. From the University of Alabama's Emphasis Symposium on Contemporary Issues.
  • Pritchett, Wendell E. (October 1, 2008). Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City: The Life and Times of an Urban Reformer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 444. ISBN 978-0-226-68448-2. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c James Barron, "Robert C. Weaver, 89, First Black Cabinet Member, Dies" The New York Times (July 19, 1997). Retrieved April 15, 2010
  2. ^ Chenrow, Fred; Chenrow, Carol (1973). Reading Exercises in Black History, Volume 1. Elizabethtown, PA: The Continental Press, Inc. p. 56. ISBN 08454-2107-7
  3. ^ a b c d "New Administration: Ornaments on the Tree" Time (January 6, 1961). Retrieved May 20, 2011
Political offices
Preceded by
Jack T. Conway (Acting)
Administrator of Housing and Home Finance Agency
1961–1966
Succeeded by
(none)
Preceded by
(none)
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
1966–1968
Succeeded by
Robert Coldwell Wood