On this day in 1966, Robert C. Weaver was appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President Lyndon Johnson. Weaver was the first African-American to hold a cabinet level position in the United States. Johnson’s predecessor John F. Kennedy was the first to come up with the idea of a Department of Housing and Urban Development to deal with urban issues, but it was not approved until after his assassination, in 1965.
Weaver had served as one of the 45 African-American members of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s informal ‘Black Cabinet’ in the 1930s. He advised the President on federal housing, and directed programs during the New Deal. Weaver served as HUD secretary for the remainder of the Johnson administration, until 1968.
Weaver’s appointment was an important, though sometimes overlooked, moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Weaver paved the way for other African-Americans in federal office. Since Weaver, the US has seen African-Americans Justices of the Supreme Court, Secretaries of State, Attorney Generals and a President of the United States. Weaver died July 17th 1997, at the age of 89.