Robert Weaver and President Johnson

The Appointment of the First African-American Cabinet Member

Sheboygan Press, July 1969

2021 marks the 55th anniversary of the first appointment of an African-American to a President’s Cabinet. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on January 13, 1966. Weaver was confirmed by the Senate a few days later.

Weaver, a Washington, D.C. native, had been the acting head of HUD since its founding in November 1965. He previously held other government positions, the most recent as head of the Federal Housing and Home Financing Agency. President Johnson said the integrity and ability he displayed in that position was a primary reason he was chosen to head HUD.

After earning a doctoral degree from Harvard, Weaver became a member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “black cabinet,” which provided insights to FDR about African-American issues and needs. Dr. Weaver was Chief of the Negro Employment and Training Branch of the Office of Personnel Management.

He was director of Negro Manpower Service in the World War II Manpower Commission and administrative assistant to the National Defense Advisory Commission. He also advised on racial problems for the U.S. Department of the Interior and was the board chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

Dr. Weaver became president of Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York and later a professor of urban affairs at Hunter College in New York. He received more than 30 honorary university degrees and many accolades, including the NAACP Springarn Medal and the Frederick Douglass Award of the New York City Urban League, among others.

He wrote several books, including The Urban Complex. He left a lasting legacy on Washington, D.C., with a street named after him and the HUD headquarters building – The Robert C. Weaver Federal Building.

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