Joan Claybrook

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Joan Claybrook
Joan Claybrook 2016.png
Claybrook in 2016
Born (1937-06-12) June 12, 1937 (age 81)
Alma materGoucher College (B.A.)
Georgetown University Law Center (J.D.)
  • Attorney
  • Lobbyist
Known forPublic Citizen

Joan Claybrook (born June 12, 1937) is an American lawyer and lobbyist who was president of Public Citizen from 1982 to 2008.[1] She also served in the Carter administration as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1977 to 1981.[2]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Claybrook grew up Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Goucher College, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1959. In 1973, she earned a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. Between college and law school, she worked in the congressional liaison's office at the Social Security Administration for six years before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1965 to complete a fellowship with the American Political Science Association. She also briefly worked as a staffer for Senator Walter F. Mondale.[3]


In 1977, Claybrook was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to head the then 10-year-old National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.[3] Prior to her time with NHTSA, Claybrook ran Congress Watch, worked for the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the National Traffic Safety Bureau, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. During her early years in Washington, D.C., she met Ralph Nader while advocating for improving highway and auto safety. In 1966, she lobbied with Nader for the successful passage of the nation's first auto safety laws: the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act. She was also involved in efforts for stricter automobile regulations including the 85 MPH speedometer.[4] Claybrook was also a prominent advocate for the use of airbags in automobiles.[5][6]

Board memberships[edit]

Claybrook currently serves on Georgetown University Law Center's Board of Visitors. She also holds positions on the boards of Consumers Union, Citizens for Tax Justice, Public Justice, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Goucher College Board of Trustees, and the California Wellness Foundation Advisory Board.[7]

Awards and honorary degrees[edit]

  • Honorary Doctor of Law, Goucher College
  • Honorary Doctor of Public Service, University of Maryland
  • Philip Hart Distinguished Consumer Service Award, Consumer Federation of America
  • Excellence in Public Service Award, Georgetown Law Center
  • Honorary Doctor of Law, Georgetown University
  • Foremother, National Research Center for Women & Families


  1. ^ Snyder, Jim (December, 2008). Claybrook steps down at Public Citizen group. Archived 2008-12-12 at the Wayback Machine The Hill
  2. ^ Roosevelt, Margot (August 8, 2006). Q & A: Joan Claybrook. Time
  3. ^ a b Holsendolph, Ernest (March 19, 1977). "Lobbyist for Nader to Head Safety Unit". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Interviews - Joan Claybrook | Rollover | FRONTLINE | PBS". February 21, 2002. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Public Citizen Press Room". Dec 6, 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  6. ^ Bedard, Patrick (September 1999). "Airbags Kill More Kids Than School Shootings - Column - Car Reviews - Car and Driver". Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  7. ^ Conniff, Ruth (March, 1999). Joan Claybrook - consumer advocate - Interview. Archived 2006-05-27 at the Wayback Machine The Progressive