- NAME: Patricia Roberts Harris
- OCCUPATION: Political Leader
- BIRTH DATE: May 31, 1924
- DEATH DATE: March 23, 1985
- EDUCATION: Howard University, University of Chicago, George Washington University’s National Law Center
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Mattoon, Illinois
- PLACE OF DEATH: Washington, D.C.
- Maiden Name: Patricia Roberts
Best Known For
Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African-American woman to hold a cabinet position, serve as U.S. ambassador and head a law school.
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During her confirmation hearings some thought her years in corporate law made her unable to understand the needs of the people that HUD serves. Harris proved her critics wrong by calling for increases in assistance to the poor and putting a stop to discriminatory housing and employment practices - causes she had championed for many years previously.
Sometimes described as blunt and tough, Harris demanded the best from her staff and herself while serving as secretary. She was an able administrator who reshaped the agency, which was in disarray when she took over the post. Harris worked hard to rebuild urban neighborhoods and to encourage businesses to invest in troubled areas. Encouraged by her success at HUD, Carter later made Harris the secretary of what is now known as health and human services. Harris left the position after Carter lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan.
Harris ran for mayor of Washington, but bowed out after losing the Democratic primary to incumbent Marion Barry. She then left politics and returned to teaching. Harris served as a professor at George Washington University Law School until the time of her death. She died on March 23, 1985.
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