Dr. Robert C. Weaver worked many years on the state, local and federal level as a quiet cog in the civil rights machine behind the scenes. In 1966, he became the first Black person to be appointed to a presidential cabinet position and the first secretary of the Housing and Urban Development.
Weaver was born on this day in 1907 in Washington, D.C. to a middle class family. His mother’s father, Dr. Robert Freeman, was the first Black person to graduate from Harvard University with a degree in dentistry. Weaver went on to become a Harvard man himself, earning his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph. D degrees from the school.
In 1933, Weaver began one of his many appointments as an aide to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. The following year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Weaver to join the informal “Black Cabinet,” 45 prominent African-American who served as advisers to the federal government regarding Black Americans, the Great Depression, and the New Deal.
In 1955, Weaver made history in New York by becoming the first Black State Cabinet member after his appointment as New York State Rent Commissioner. Weaver’s knowledge of housing and economics served him well and leveraged his connections there to help the needs of African-Americans in the state. In 1960, Weaver was a chairman for the NAACP and also worked as the vice chairman of the New York City Housing and Redevelopment Board.
President John F. Kennedy sought out Weaver to serve as the lead administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency in 1961. In 1966, Weaver became HUD secretary and held the post for two years. In 1969, Weaver began serving as president at Baruch College. He then became a Professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College in 1970 and worked their for eight years.
Weaver authored four books about Black people and urban housing during the heights of his career. In 1962, the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal. In 2000, the HUD headquarters was named after him after he first dedicated the building in 1968. Weaver passed in 1997 at the age of 89.