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Leading Texas woman made first secretary of HEW

April
11
1953

On this day in 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Oveta Culp Hobby the first secretary of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The Killeen native had married former governor William P. Hobby in 1931. During her subsequent extraordinary career she took an active part in the family's communications empire, became an important figure in the Democratic party, headed the League of Women Voters, and organized the Women's Auxiliary Air Corps during World War II. In her thirty-one months as secretary of HEW, the agency greatly expanded the nation's hospital system, improved the administration of food and drug laws, increased grants for mental health, set up a nurse-training program, enlarged the rehabilitation program, and designed an insurance program to protect Americans against the rising cost of illness. When Mrs. Hobby left office in July 1955, Eisenhower told her, "None of us will forget your wise counsel, your calm confidence in the face of every kind of difficulty, your concern for people everywhere, the warm heart you brought to your job as well as your talents."

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