Miller Center

Patricia R. Harris (1979–1980) - Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

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Patricia Roberts Harris was born on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois, and earned a bachelor's degree in political science and economics in 1945 from Howard University. Following her undergraduate studies, Harris worked for the Chicago Young Women's Christian Association (1946-1949). She also became assistant director of the American Council for Human Rights (1949-1953) and executive director of Delta Sigma Theta (1953-1959). She then earned a law degree and worked for the U.S. Department of Justice's criminal division.

Thereafter, Harris was a member of the Howard University Law School faculty from 1961 to 1965 and from 1967 to 1970. In the interim, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her ambassador to Luxembourg (1965-1967). Following her time at Howard, Harris practiced law privately for several years (1970-1977).In the Carter administration, Harris served as secretary of housing and urban development (1977-1979), secretary of health, education, and welfare (1979-1980), and then secretary of health and human services (1980-1981). Patricia Harris died on March 23, 1985.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Robert A. Strong

Professor Strong is the William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University. He is also an associate editor of the White House Studies journal and has worked on the Presidential Oral History program at the Miller Center. His writings include:

Working in the World: Jimmy Carter and the Making of American Foreign Policy (Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

Decisions and Dilemmas: Case Studies in Presidential Foreign Policy Making (M.E. Sharpe, 2005)