Robert Clifton Weaver: First African-American Appointed to a Presidential Cabinet

Written by Susan Gichuhi

Education and Early Life

Robert Clifton Weaver (born 12/29/1907 – 07/17/1997 in Washington, D.C.) was a political administrator, academic, and economist. He is most known for serving as the inaugural United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or H.U.D. The agency was created under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, and Weaver served from 1966 to 1968. Weaver was the first Africa-American to be appointed to a cabinet position in a presidential administration.

Before Weaver served on Johnson’s cabinet, he served under the Kennedy administration, and as an administrator in the New York State government. During the Roosevelt administration, Weaver was in charge of directing federal programs under the New Deal. During this time, Weaver earned his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1934.

Nomination to Johnson’s Cabinet

In 1965 after the Department of Housing and Urban Development was approved by Congress Weaver was thought of as a top nominee. He had served under various administrations at several levels of government and was an excellent candidate for the position. President Johnson had his reservations about Weaver. Johnson worried about his political sense, but he wanted a good administrator that could bring excitement to the new program. After Johnson had given his nomination, and a successful Senate confirmation, Weaver was sworn in as the newest member of Johnson’s cabinet.

Housing Issue Concerns

Weaver was concerned about African American housing. He published an article in the NAACP’s The Crisis magazine title “Negroes Need Housing.” He explained that there was a large difference between the average income of an African American family and the cost of living. Also, Blacks did not have an adequate supply of housing because of many societal factors include the decline in the rural south. Weaver suggested that the government create a program to allow all African Americans to either buy or rent a home. In 1937 Weaver drafted the U.S. Housing Program under the Roosevelt administration and in 1937 it was established. The program would operate by offering local housing departs financial support that would be used as a subsidy to lower the amount of rent that poor Blacks were required to pay.

In 1969 after serving under Lyndon B. Johnson-Weaver became Baruch College’s president in 1969. From 1970 – 1978 he taught at Hunter College in New York. On July 17, 1997, Weaver died at the age of 89 in Manhattan, New York.

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Susan Gichuhi

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