Harris, Patricia, 1924-1985



Harris, Patricia, 1924-1985


Bio: Patricia Roberts Harris was born Patricia Roberts on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois. On September 1, 1955, she married Attorney William Harris. She graduated summa cum laude from Howard University in 1945 and received a doctorate in jurisprudence from George Washington University Law School in 1960. In the same year, she was admitted to the District of Columbia bar and admitted to practice before the U.S. State Supreme Court. After serving as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice, she became associate dean of students and lecturer in law at Howard University. During the administration of President John F. Kennedy, she served as co-chairman of the National Women's Committee on Civil Rights. In 1964, she became the first black, woman ambassador when President Lyndon Johnson named her ambassador to Luxembourg. She was dean of Howard University Law School in 1969, and served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from January 23, 1977 to 1979. She served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and was the first Secretary of Health and Human Services, serving from August 3, 1979 to January 20, 1981. In 1982, she became a professor at the George Washington National Law Center, a position she held until her death from breast cancer on March 23, 1985. She was named woman of the Year by the Ladies Home Journal and received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.


President Lyndon B. Johnson and group including Rev. Abernathy (?), Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Clarence Mitchell, and Patricia Roberts Harris. Signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President's Room, Capitol, Washington DC, 8/6/1965. Photo # a1030-19a by Yoichi Okamoto. White House Photo Office collection, LBJ Presidential Library, public domain.


LBJ Connection: (1927-1972) Editor, Snyder Daily News, 1952-1954; President, San Antonio Standard, 1956-1962; Vice President, Express Publishing Company, 1962-1966, President, 1966-1972; Chairman of the Board, Harte-Hanks Newspapers, 1971-1972