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Weaver, Robert C. 1907–1997

Robert C. Weaver 19071997

Government official, scholar

At a Glance

Selected writings

Sources

Robert C. Weaver remains one of the least known of the civil rights pioneers who struggled throughout the middle half of the twentieth century to obtain rights for black Americans. Ebony magazine called him one of the direct action pioneers for picketing Washington, DC, stores as early as the 1930s. Primarily, however, his activities were within the context of his governmental jobs; he held various federal positions under Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal administration in the 1930s and 1940s, and then again under the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson presidential administrations in the early 1960s. In 1961 he received the highest federal appointment then assigned to any African American when he became Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency. Four years later, he became the first African American on the presidential cabinet, when President Johnson appointed him to the top position at the newly formed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While many have considered Weavers achievements to be exceptional, he never considered his actions extraordinary. He was raised in a middle-class family in Washington, DC, by parents who stressed education and achievement. They worked [and] they struggled, he told Ebony magazine, and their one ambition was to send us to New England schools. The familys vision of success was rooted in its lineage. Weavers grandfather, Robert Tanner Freeman, was the first Black person to graduate from Harvard with a degree in dentistry. His parents realized their goal, for Weaver attended Harvard from 1925 until 1934, earning bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in economics.

Weaver dedicated most of his life to fighting discrimination and improving race relations. He held a succession of assignments for a variety of departments under the New Deal administration of the 1930s and 1940s, frequently serving as advisor for minority affairs and race relations. He advised the Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes from 1934 to 1938; acted as special assistant to Nathan Straus of the Housing Authority from 1938 to 1940; assisted Sidney Hillman of the National Defense Advisory Commission in 1940; and was chief of the Negro employment and training branch of the labor division in the Office of Production Management from 1942 to 1943. After the United States joined World War II, he served on the War Manpower Commission as director of Negro Manpower Services.

Simeon Booker wrote in Ebony magazine, [Weavers] race relations service was an innovation for government [at that time]. Not satisfied with fighting discrimination on the job, Weaver spent his free time fighting the battle, too; during his first year in government, he and some friends desegregated the employee cafeteria.

Throughout his life, Weaver felt the sting of discrimination personally. Shortly after he finished his work at Harvard, he was recommended for a position with the Federal Reserve Board in New York City. He did not get the job because of his race. Years later, when he

At a Glance

Born Robert Clifton Weaver on December 29, 1907, in Washington, DC; died on July 17,1997, in New York City; son of Mortimer Grover and Florence Freeman Weaver; married Ella V. Haith, 1935; children: Robert (deceased), Education: Harvard University, BA, 1929; Harvard University, MA, 1931; Harvard University, PhD, 1934.

Career: Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Interior, 1934-38; U.S. Housing Authority, special assistant, 1938-40; National Defense Advisory Commission, administrative assistant, 1940-42; Office of Production Management, Labor Division, chief of Negro employment and training, 1942-43; War Manpower Commission, director of the Negro Manpower Service, 1943-44; Chicago Mayors Commission on Race Relations, director, 1944-45; American Council on Race Relations, director of community services, 1945-48; John Hay Whitney Foundation, director of Opportunity Fellowships, 1949-54; New York State Rent Administration, 1955-59; U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency, administrator, 1961-66; Chief of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1966-68; Baruch College, president, 1969-70; Hunter College, distinguished professor, 1971-78.

Selected memberships: Metro Life Insurance Company board of directors, 1969-78; Bowery Savings Bank, board of trustees, 1969-80; U.S. Controller General, consulting panel, 1973-97; New York City Conciliation and Appeals Board, 1973-84; Harvard University School of Design, visiting commission, 1978-83; NAACP Legal Defense Fund, executive committee of the board, 1978-97.

Selected awards: Spingarn Medal, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1962; Russworm Award, 1963; Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, 1968; Merrick Moore Spaulding Achievement Award, 1968; U.S. General Accounting Office, Public Service Award, 1975; New York City Urban League, Frederick Douglass Award, 1977; Schomburg Collection Award, 1978; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, inductee, 1985; National Urban League, Equal Opportunity Day Award, 1987; received more than 30 honorary degrees.

became Housing and Home Finance Administrator, he had a problem with his own housing. After he and his wife moved into an apartment building on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC, both suffered cold shoulders from the tenants. There was the coolness, he told Ebony, and [the] management wasnt too happy with the integration idea.

Weaver left Washington in the 1940s because he felt that the anti-discriminatory programs he had helped to put in place were moving too slowly. He served on the first Mayors race relation board in Chicago from 1944 to 1945, and then moved to New York, where he taught at Columbia University and New York University. From 1949 to 1954 he worked with the John Hay Whitney Foundation as director of Opportunity Fellowships, distributing money to fund projects that would not otherwise have received support; he distributed at least $600,000 to promising young African-American scholars. During the 1950s he served on various housing boards for the city and state of New York.

Weavers scholarly work during the 1940s and 1950s reflected his interest in the economics and housing problems of the African-American population. In 1946 he published Negro Labor: A National Problem, and two years later finished The Negro Ghetto, a book about housing segregation in the North.

Weavers scholarly and administrative work quietly attracted attention, and on December 31, 1960, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as the administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, making him the first black to achieve such a high position in the federal government. His agency had an estimated annual budget of more than $300 million, and oversaw such subsidiary agencies as the Federal Housing Administration, Public Housing Administration, Community Facilities Administration, and the Urban Renewal Administration. In 1966, Ebony magazine reported, How thepoker-faced scholar [Weaver] took over the[Housing and Home Finance Agency] in 1961 and brought direction and morale to the sprawling agency is a sterling example of his ability. For the first time, administrators of five agencies in the network met, worked out common problems and developed programs. New projects were conceived, including moderate-income housing, rent supplement assistance for low income families, open space preservation, urban beautification, mass transit assistance, rehabilitation assistance, relocation aids, grants for basic public facilities, [and] advanced acquisition of sites and land development assistance.

In 1961 President Kennedy attempted to raise Weavers agency to cabinet level but was blocked by Congress because of his plans to put Weaver, a black man, at the head. Four years later President Johnson succeeded, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development was established. On January 13, 1966, Weaver became the first African American appointed to a cabinet position. As President Johnson made the appointment, he told the country, according to an Ebony account, that Bob Weavers performance as administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency has been marked by the highest level of integrity and [an] ability to stimulate a genuine team spirit. I have found him to be a deep thinker but a quiet and articulate man of action. He is as well versed in the urban needs of America as any man I know.

When the President Richard Nixons administration took over in 1968, Weaver left government for good, and returned to academe. He served as the President of Baruch College for two years and then became a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College until he retired in 1978. Even after his retirement, Weaver was famous for never wasting time and always working. Shortly after he joined the cabinet, in fact, an aide of his told Ebony that Weaver never wastes time. He reads, writes, and constantly researches. When he makes a trip, he carries books and reports to read.

In addition to both his academic and government work, Weaver kept busy on many boards and committees. He was on the board of directors of Metro Life Insurance Company, the Bowery Savings Bank, and Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical School; he served as president of the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing, as a member of the commission on law and social action of the American Jewish Congress, the Citizens Committee for Children, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and for many years was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He kept busy until he no longer could. At age 89, Weaver died in New York City on July 17, 1997.

Despite his success and the praise of others, Weaver always refused to spread his own fame. Bob believes in getting the work done, not publicity on what he plans to do, Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP told Ebony magazine. Even when he was waiting to be nominated to the cabinet, he refused to ask black groups to recommend him or campaign in his behalf, knowing that his qualifications would secure him the position.

While he may never have blown his own horn, many others recognized Weavers worth and awarded him honors accordingly. In addition to the nearly 30 honorary degrees from such institutions as the University of Michigan, Howard, Harvard, Morehouse, Rutgers, Amherst, and Columbia, he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1962, the Russworm Award in 1963, delivered the annual Godkin Lectures at Harvard in 1965, and received the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award in 1968. In 1992 the Congressional Black Caucus honored him at a special party during their annual Weekend Production.

The nation commemorated Weavers greatest legacy in 2000, when the HUD headquarters building in Washington, DC, was dedicated in his honor. Fittingly, Weavers name became the first of any African American to grace a cabinet building in the capitol. Harlem Representative Charles Rangel, who had introduced the bill honoring Weaver to Congress told Jet that This is a long overdue expression of the nations gratitude for Robert Weavers contributions. The HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo praised Weaver in Jet, saying that he put the bricks and mortar on President Johnsons blueprint for a Great Society. Robert Weaver got real urban legislation on the books and nurtured our countrys first commitment to improve the quality of life in our nations cities. All of us who work at HUD and all who believe we can build an even greater society, are forever in his debt. Indeed many of the bricks and mortar Weaver put in place continue to benefit the nation.

Selected writings

The Negro Ghetto, Russell & Russell, 1948, reprinted, 1967.

Negro Labor: A National Problem, Kennikat Press, 1946, reprinted, 1969.

Dilemmas of Urban America, Harvard University Press, 1965.

The Urban Complex; Human Values in Urban Life, Doubleday, 1966.

(With William E. Zisch and Paul H. Douglas) The Urban Environment: How It Can Be Improved, New York University Press, 1969.

Sources

Black Enterprise, April 1971, p. 44.

Ebony, April 1966, p. 83; April 1972, p. 182; August 1975, p. 7; March 1982, p. 129.

Jet, October 12, 1992, p. 8.; August 4, 1997, p. 57; December 13, 1999, p. 31; June 5, 2000, p. 16; January 19, 2004, p. 36.

Look, April 11, 1961, p. 33.

Newsweek, January 9, 1961, p. 23; February 20, 1961, p. 25; March 5, 1962, p. 27; January 24, 1966, p. 26.

Time, January 6, 1961, p. 15; May 14, 1961, p. 16; January 21, 1966, p. 19; March 4, 1966, p. 87.

Robin Armstrong and Sara Pendergast

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Weaver, Robert C. 1907–

Robert C. Weaver 1907

Government administrator, scholar

At a Glance

Selected writings

Sources

Robert C. Weaver is one of the least known of the civil rights pioneers who struggled throughout the middle half of the twentieth century to obtain rights for black Americans. Ebony magazine called him one of the direct action pioneers for picketing Washington, D.C. stores as early as the 1930s. Primarily, however, his activities have been within the context of his governmental jobs; he held various federal positions under Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal administration in the 1930s and 1940s, and then again under the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson presidential administrations in the early 1960s. In 1961 he received the highest federal appointment then assigned to any African American when he became Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency. Four years later, he became the first African American on the Presidential Cabinet, when he led the newly formed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

While many have considered Weavers achievements to be exceptional, he has never seen himself that way. He was raised in a middle-class family in Washington, D.C, by parents who stressed education and achievement. They worked [and] they struggled, he told Ebony magazine, and their one ambition was to send us to New England schools. His parents realized this goal, for Robert attended Harvard from 1925 until 1934, earning bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in economics.

Weaver has dedicated most of his life to fighting discrimination and improving race relations. He held a succession of assignments for a variety of departments under the New Deal administration of the 1930s and 1940s, frequently serving as advisor for minority affairs and race relations. He advised the Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes from 1934 to 1938; acted as special assistant to Nathan Straus of the Housing Authority from 1938 to 1940; assisted Sidney Hillman of the National Defense Advisory Commission in 1940; and was chief of the Negro employment and training branch of the labor division in the Office of Production Management from 1942 to 1943. After the United States joined World War II, he served on the War Manpower Commission as director of Negro Manpower Services.

Simeon Booker wrote in Ebony magazine, [Weavers] race relations service was an innovation for government [at that time]. Not satisfied with fighting discrimination on the job, Weaver spent his free time fighting the battle, too; during his first year in government, he and some friends desegregated

At a Glance

Born Robert Clifton Weaver, December 29, 1907, in Washington, DC; son of Mortimer Grover and Florence Freeman Weaver; married Ella V. Haith, 1935; children: Robert (deceased). Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1929, M.A., 1931, Ph.D., 1934.

Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Interior, 1934-38; U.S. Housing Authority, special assistant, 1938-40; National Defense Advisory Commission, administrative assistant, 1940-42; Office of Production Management, Labor Division, chief of Negro employment and training, 1942-43; War Manpower Commission, director of the Negro Manpower Service, 1943-44; Chicago Mayors Commission on Race Relations, director, 1944-45; American Council on Race Relations, director of community services, 1945-48; John Hay Whitney Foundation, director of Opportunity Fellowships, 1949-54; New York State Rent Administration, 1955-59; U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency, administrator, 1961-66; Chief of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1966-68; Baruch College, president, 1969-70; Hunter College, distinguished professor, 1971-78.

Metro Life Insurance Company, board of directors, 1969-78; Bowery Savings Bank, board of trustees, 1969-80; U.S. Controller General, consulting panel, 1973; New York City Conciliation and Appeals Board, 1973-84; Harvard University School of Design, visiting commission, 1978-83; NAACP Legal Defense Fund, executive committee of the board, 1978; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1985.

Selected awards: Spingarn Medal, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1962; Russworm Award, 1963; Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, 1968; Merrick Moore Spaulding Achievement Award, 1968; U.S. General Accounting Office Service Award, 1978; New York City Urban League Frederick Douglass Award, 1977; Schomburg Collection Award, 1978; Equal Opportunity Day Award of the National Urban League, 1987; received more than 30 honorary degrees.

Addresses: 215 E. 68th Street, New York, NY 10021.

the employees cafeteria.

Throughout his life, Weaver has personally felt the sting of discrimination. Shortly after he finished his work at Harvard, he was recommended for a position with the Federal Reserve Board in New York City. He did not get the job because of his race. Years later, when he became Housing and Home Finance Administrator, he had a problem with his own housing. After he and his wife moved into an apartment building on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C., both suffered cold shoulders from the tenants. There was the coolness, he told Ebony;, and [the] management wasnt too happy with the integration idea.

Weaver left Washington in the 1940s because he felt that the anti-discriminatory programs he had helped to put in place were moving too slowly. He served on the first Mayors race relation board in Chicago from 1944 to 1945, and then moved to New York, where he taught at Columbia University and New York University. From 1949 to 1954 he worked with the John Hay Whitney Foundation as director of Opportunity Fellowships, distributing money to fund projects that would not otherwise have received support; he distributed at least $600,000 to promising young African American scholars. During the 1950s he served on various housing boards for the city and state of New York.

Weavers scholarly work during the 1940s and 1950s reflected his interest in the economics and housing problems of the African-American population. In 1946 he published Negro Labor: A National Problem, and two years later finished The Negro Ghetto, a book about housing segregation in the North.

Weavers scholarly and administrative work quietly attracted attention, and on December 31, 1960, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as the administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, making him the first black to achieve such a high position in the federal government. His agency had an estimated annual budget of more than $300 million, and oversaw such subsidiary agencies as the Federal Housing Administration, Public Housing Administration, Community Facilities Administration, and the Urban Renewal Administration.

In 1966, Ebony magazine reported, How the poker-faced scholar [Weaver] took over the [Housing and Home Finance Agency] in 1961 and brought direction and morale to the sprawling agency is a sterling example of his ability. For the first time, administrators of five agencies in the network met, worked out common problems and developed programs. New projects were conceived, including moderate-income housing, rent supplement assistance for low income families, open space preservation, urban beautification, mass transit assistance, rehabilitation assistance, relocation aids, grants for basic public facilities, [and] advanced acquisition of sites and land development assistance.

In 1961 President Kennedy attempted to raise Weavers agency to cabinet level but was blocked by Congress because of his plans to put Weaver, a black man, at the head. Four years later President Johnson succeeded, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development was born. On January 13, 1966, Weaver became the first African American appointed to a cabinet position. As President Johnson made the appointment, he told the country, according to an Ebony account, that Bob Weavers performance as administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency has been marked by the highest level of integrity and [an] ability to stimulate a genuine team spirit. I have found him to be a deep thinker but a quiet and articulate man of action. He is as well versed in the urban needs of America as any man I know.

When the President Richard Nixons administration took over in 1968, Weaver left government for good, and returned to academe. He served as the President of Baruch College for two years and then became a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College until he retired in 1978. Even after his retirement, Weaver was famous for never wasting time and always working. Shortly after he joined the cabinet, in fact, an aide of his told Ebony that Weaver never wastes time. He reads, writes, and constantly researches. When he makes a trip, he carries books and reports to read.

In addition to both his academic and government work, Weaver has kept busy on many boards and committees. He was on the board of directors of Metro Life Insurance Company, the Bowery Savings Bank, and Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical School; he served as president of the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing, as a member of the commission on law and social action of the American Jewish Congress, the Citizens Committee for Children, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and for many years was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Despite his success and the praise of others, Weaver has always refused to spread his own fame. Bob believes in getting the work done, not publicity on what he plans to do, Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP told Ebony magazine. Even when he was waiting to be nominated to the Cabinet, he refused to ask black groups to recommend him or campaign in his behalf, knowing that his qualifications would secure him the position.

While he may never have blown his own horn, many others recognized Weavers worth and awarded him honors accordingly. In addition to the nearly 30 honorary degrees from such institutions as the University of Michigan, Howard, Harvard, Morehouse, Rutgers, Amherst, and Columbia, he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1962, the Russworm Award in 1963, delivered the annual Godkin Lectures at Harvard in 1965, and received the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award in 1968. In 1992 the Congressional Black Caucus honored him at a special party during their annual Weekend Production.

Selected writings

The Negro Ghetto, Russell & Russell, 1948, reprinted, 1967.

Negro Labor: A National Problem, Kennikat Press, 1946, reprinted, 1969.

Dilemmas of Urban America, Harvard University Press, 1965.

The Urban Complex; Human Values in Urban Life, Doubleday, 1966.

(With William E. Zisch and Paul H. Douglas) The Urban Environment: How It Can Be Improved, New York University Press, 1969.

Sources

Black Enterprise, April 1971, p. 44.

Ebony, April 1966, p. 83; April 1972, p. 182; August 1975, p. 7; March 1982, p. 129.

Jet, October 12, 1992, p. 8.

Look, April 11, 1961, p. 33.

Newsweek, January 9, 1961, p. 23; February 20, 1961, p. 25; March 5, 1962, p. 27; January 24, 1966, p. 26.

Time, January 6, 1961, p. 15; May 14, 1961, p. 16; January 21, 1966, p. 19; March 4, 1966, p. 87.

Robin Armstrong

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Robert C. Weaver

Robert C. Weaver

Robert C. Weaver (born 1907) was a housing expert who served as administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency and then became the first African American cabinet officer when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1966.

Born into a middle-class family in 1907, Robert C. Weaver grew up in a nearly all-white Washington, D.C. neighborhood. The grandson of Robert Tanner Freeman, the first African American, Harvard-educated dentist, Weaver followed his grandfather's footsteps and enrolled at Harvard after graduation from Dunbar High School. At Harvard he majored in economics and graduated cum laude in 1929. Two years later he received a master's from Harvard. After teaching economics one year at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, Weaver returned to Harvard in 1932 on a scholarship and pursued a Ph.D. in economics conferred in 1934.

Deeply concerned that African Americans receive their fair share from the New Deal, Weaver joined Clark Foreman as an adviser on African American affairs for Harold Ickes' Department of the Interior. Under Weaver's prodding, the DOI's Public Works Administration (PWA) achieved a fine record for its treatment of African Americans. The Harvard economist particularly made sure that they received adequate consideration in PWA-sponsored public housing. Weaver remained in the federal government until 1944, serving in a number of advisory roles with the United States Housing Authority, the National Defense Advisory Commission, the Office of Production Management, the War Production Board, and the War Manpower Commission.

Just as important as these official positions was Weaver's leadership role in the informal Federal Council on Negro Affairs. Created in 1936, the council served as President Roosevelt's adviser on African American affairs, helped sensitize FDR to their needs and aspirations, and assured unprecedented commitments to African Americans.

Upon leaving the federal government in 1944, Weaver joined the Mayor's Committee on Race Relations in Chicago as its first executive secretary. While in Chicago he also served on the Metropolitan Housing Council. In 1946 he traveled to the former Soviet Union as a member of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration's mission to the Ukraine.

After his return, Weaver taught at Northwestern University, Columbia University Teachers College, New York University, and the New School for Social Research between 1947 and 1951. He also completed his two most important books after leaving government work: Negro Labor; A National Problem (1946) and The Negro Ghetto (1948). The latter was one of the first works to explore segregation in the North.

Besides his writing and teaching, Weaver assumed the directorship of the John Hay Whitney Foundation in 1949 and oversaw the distribution of fellowships to deserving African Americans for further study. He remained with the foundation until 1955, when Governor W. Averell Harriman of New York named him deputy state rent commissioner. Within a year Harriman promoted Weaver to state rent administrator, the first cabinet level position ever held by an African American in New York state.

Weaver soon broke additional ground and became the highest federal administrator ever when John F. Kennedy nominated him administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA) and overseer of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Community Facilities Administration, Federal National Mortgage Association, Urban Renewal Administration, and Public Housing Administration. Kennedy's choice for the HHFA job proved controversial, primarily because he chaired the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In addition, he strongly opposed segregated public housing, advocated the use of FHA mortgage insurance to integrate the suburbs, and insisted that the Urban Renewal Program stop uprooting so many poor African Americans. As a result, the nomination faced congressional delay and defiance, particularly from southerners. Nevertheless, Congress finally confirmed him and he took office February 11, 1961.

Unlike his predecessors, the new HHFA head wished to create a more rational urban complex rather than merely more housing production. He also believed that the independent agencies under HHFA needed more coordination and attempted to control better their personnel and budgets. Meanwhile, Weaver helped write the Housing Act of 1961, which he described as "a blend of the old and the new." Overall, it relied more on existing machinery rather than new programs. Among its features were provision for 100, 000 public housing units and a four-year authorization of $2.5 billion for reviving center cities.

Although Congress willingly agreed to pass the omnibus bill, its refusal to approve another bill directly affected Weaver's career. From the beginning of his administration, John F. Kennedy firmly believed that the nation needed a cabinet post on urban affairs. Only then, Kennedy believed, could order and direction be given to the many federal programs operating in metropolitan areas. Weaver, it appeared, would be the obvious choice to head the new cabinet post. But the prospect of having an African American cabinet officer seemed too much for Southern congressmen who felt little need for such a position anyway. As a result, they defeated all efforts by the president to create such a department.

Not until after Kennedy's assassination did urban America attain its own department, and then many expected that a white mayor would be selected to head it. After reviewing more than 200 applications, however, Johnson named Weaver as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1966. Weaver helped organize and manage the growing department for the next two years, leaving after Richard Nixon's victory over Hubert Humphrey in 1968. On retiring from federal service, the former HUD chief became the first president of Bernard M. Baruch College, a new component of the City University of New York system. He left Baruch in 1970 to become Distinguished Professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College in New York City. For the next eight years he taught and directed the Urban Affairs Research Center. Weaver also maintained involvement in the civil rights movement and served on the boards of 13 prestigious companies. Later, Mayor Edward Koch of New York appointed the then 75-year-old Weaver as a member of a nine member board to supervise the city's rent-stabilized apartments in 1982.

Further Reading

A treatment of Weaver's early career can be found in Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue (1978) and Richard Bardolph, The Negro Vanguard (1959). Mark I. Gelfand provides a good analysis of Weaver's career heading the HHFA in A Nation of Cities: The Federal Government and Urban America, 1933-1965 (1975). □

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Weaver, Robert C.

Weaver, Robert C. 19071997

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Robert Clifton Weavers career as economist and presidential advisor spanned the New Deal to the War on Poverty. He produced two major treatises on the economic status of African Americans, Negro Labor (1946) and The Negro Ghetto (1948), and an influential textbook in urban planning and policy, The Urban Complex (1964). Weaver was the first U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the first African American to hold a cabinet-level position.

Born in Washington, D.C., on December 29, 1907, Weaver earned his doctorate in economics in 1934 from Harvard University. From 1933 through 1944, he held a sequence of advisory positions in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including Advisor on Negro Affairs to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes (19341938) and chief, Negro Manpower Service, War Manpower Commission (19421944). From 1961 to 1966, under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, he was Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Administration. President Johnson appointed Weaver the first secretary of HUD in 1966, a post he held until 1968.

Although most of his career was spent in government, Weaver was a consistent critic of governments failure to endand occasional duplicity inthe subjugation and segregation of the black population. In Negro Labor, Weaver detailed the participation of government agencies and trade unions in the exclusion of black workers from defense industry jobs. In The Negro Ghetto, Weaver explained how the Federal Housing Authoritys (FHAs) lending practices reinforced local efforts to exclude African Americans from moving into white communities. Weaver argued that segregation would result in deteriorating housing quality and, eventually, to anger, the degradation of social relationships, and increased violence. In essence, he predicted the urban uprisings of the 1960s in 1948.

Walter B. Hill, in Finding Place for the Negro: Robert C. Weaver and the Groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement (2005), and Charles and Dona Hamilton, in Social Policies, Civil Rights and Poverty (1986), credit Weaver with the creation of a forerunner of modern affirmative actionthe minimum percentage clause. This clause, which was inserted into Public Works Administration contracts for low-cost housing, prohibited discrimination on the basis of race or religion and identified, as prima facie evidence of discrimination, a contractors failure to hire a minimum percentage of black workers, based on the number of skilled black craftsmen in the locality.

Weaver outlined his vision of how to revitalize these urban centers in The Urban Complex and in Dilemmas of Urban America (1965). Weaver sought to revitalize urban centers through comprehensive, regional planning. Despite the black communitys perception that urban renewal meant Negro removal, Weaver remained an advocate of the use of eminent domain, government subsidies, and tax incentives to replace deteriorating, low-cost housing in urban centers. Weaver believed urban renewal projects created the opportunity to replace segregated ghettos with integrated communities. Later, in a 1985 article, The First Twenty Years of HUD, Weaver acknowledged the difficulty of realizing this vision.

Following his tenure at HUD, Weaver served as president of Baruch College, City University of New York, and as a Distinguished Professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College. He died in July 17, 1997, at the age of eighty-nine. In 1999, Congress renamed the HUD headquarters in his honor.

SEE ALSO Discrimination, Racial; General Equilibrium; Ghetto; Johnson, Lyndon B.; Kennedy, John F.; New Deal, The; Poverty; Roosevelt, Franklin D.; Segregation; Segregation, Residential; Urban Renewal; Urban Studies

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hamilton, Charles V., and Dona C. Hamilton. 1986. Social Policies, Civil Rights and Poverty. In Fighting Poverty: What Works and What Doesnt, eds. Sheldon H. Danziger and Daniel H. Weinberg. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hill, Walter B., Jr. 2005. Finding Place for the Negro: Robert C. Weaver and the Groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement. Prologue 37 (1): 4251. http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/weaver.html.

Weaver, Robert C. 1946. Negro Labor: A National Problem. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1969.

Weaver, Robert C. 1948. The Negro Ghetto. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

Weaver, Robert C. 1964. The Urban Complex: Human Values in Urban Life. New York: Doubleday.

Weaver, Robert C. 1965. Dilemmas of Urban America.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Weaver, Robert C. 1985. The First Twenty Years of HUD. The Journal of the American Planning Association 51 (Autumn): 463474.

Cecilia Conrad

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Weaver, Robert Clifton

Robert Clifton Weaver, 1907–, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1966–68), b. Washington, D.C. He was successively adviser to the Secretary of the Interior (1933–37), special assistant with the Housing Authority (1937–40), and an administrative assistant with the National Defense Advisory Commission (1940). During World War II he held several offices concerned with mobilizing black labor. After holding various teaching assignments and working with the John Hay Whitney Foundation, Weaver was (1955–59) New York state rent commissioner. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the post of administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him head of the newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); he was the first black to hold a cabinet post. After leaving HUD he was (1969–70) president of Bernard M. Baruch College and professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College (1970–78). His works include Negro Labor: A National Problem (1946), The Negro Ghetto (1948), The Urban Complex: Human Values in Urban Life (1964), and Dilemmas of Urban America (1965).

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Weaver, Robert Clifton

Weaver, Robert Clifton

December 29, 1907
July 19, 1997


Economist Robert Weaver's maternal grandfather, Robert Tanner Freeman, the son of a slave who bought freedom for himself and his wife in 1830 and took his surname as the badge of his liberty, graduated from Harvard University in 1869 with a degree in dentistry, the first African American to do so. His daughter Florence attended Virginia Union University, then married Mortimer Grover Weaver, a Washington, D.C., postal clerk, and gave birth to Robert Weaver. Raising Robert and his older brother, Mortimer Jr., in a mostly white Washington neighbor-hood, Florence Weaver repeatedly emphasized to her sons that "the way to offset color prejudice is to be awfully good at whatever you do."

The Weaver boys did exceptionally well in Washington's segregated school system: Mortimer went on to Williams College and then to Harvard for advanced study in English; Robert joined him at Harvard as a freshman, and when he was refused a room in the dormitory because he was African American, he lived with his brother off campus. Robert Weaver graduated cum laude in 1929, the year his brother died of an unexplained illness, and stayed at Harvard to earn his master's degree in 1931 and doctorate in economics in 1934. In 1933, with the advent of the New Deal, Weaver was hired by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to be the race-relations adviser in the Housing Division. While holding that post, Weaver helped desegregate the cafeteria of the Interior Department and became an active member of the "Black Cabinet," an influential group of African Americans in the Roosevelt administration who met regularly to combat racial discrimination and segregation in New Deal programs and within the government itself.

In 1935 Weaver married Ella V. Haith, a graduate of Carnegie Tech, and from 1937 to 1940 he served as special assistant to the administrator of the U.S. Housing Authority. During World War II he held positions on the National Defense Advisory Committee, the War Manpower Commission, and the War Production Board. In 1944 he left the government to direct the Mayor's Committee on Race Relations in Chicago, and then the American Council on Race Relations. After the war, he worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, headed a fellowship program for the John Hay Whitney Foundation, and published two critical studies of discrimination against African AmericansNegro Labor: A National Problem (1946) and The Negro Ghetto (1948)before being chosen by New York's Democratic governor, Averell Harriman, in 1955 as the state rent commissioner, the first African American to hold a cabinet office in the state's history.

This was followed by Weaver's appointment by President John F. Kennedy after the 1960 election to be director of the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency, at the time the highest federal position ever held by an African American. While heading what he termed an "administrative monstrosity," Weaver authored the acclaimed The Urban Complex (1964) and Dilemmas of Urban America (1965), which focused attention on the inadequate public services and the inferior schools in lower-class inner cities, but he achieved only minor successes in his endeavors to stimulate better-designed public housing, provide housing for families of low or moderate incomes, and institute federal rent subsidies for the ailing and the elderly.

Kennedy had promised in 1960 to launch a comprehensive program to assist cities, run by a cabinet-level department. But because of his intention to select Weaver as department secretary, and thus the first African-American cabinet member, Congress twice rebuffed Kennedy's plan. Southern Democrats opposed Weaver because of his race and his strong support of racially integrated housing. Following the landslide election of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, however, Congress approved a bill to establish a new Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1965, and, because of Johnson's influence, confirmed his choice of Weaver to head it. By then, Weaver's moderation and reputation for being professionally cautious had won over even southern Democrats who had formerly voted against him, like Senator A. Willis Robertson of Virginia, who claimed: "I thought he was going to be prejudiced. But I have seen no evidence of prejudice."

Weaver ably administered HUD's diffuse federal programs and the billions of dollars spent to attack urban blight, but innovative policies and plans, such as those in the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act, soon fell victim to the escalating expenditures for the Vietnam War and to the conservative backlash fueled by ghetto rioting from 1965 to 1968. In 1969, after more than a third of a century of government service, Weaver left Washington to preside over the City University of New York's Baruch College for two years and then to be Distinguished Professor of Urban Affairs at CUNY's Hunter College until 1978, when he became professor emeritus. He stayed busy during his retirement, serving on the boards of the Metro Life Insurance Company, the Bowery Savings Bank, and Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical School, and he was active in the American Jewish Congress, the Citizens Committee for Children, and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Although never an active frontline fighter in the civil rights movement, Weaver chaired the board of directors of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1960, served on the executive committee of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1973 to 1990, and was president of the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing from 1973 to 1987. He received numerous awards, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP (1962), the New York City Urban League's Frederick Douglass Award (1977), the Schomburg Collection Award (1978), and the Equal Opportunity Day Award of the National Urban League (1987), and he was the recipient of more than thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities before his death in 1997. In 2000 the Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington, D.C., was named in his honor, the first building in the nation's capital to be named after an African American.

See also Politics in the United States

Bibliography

"New Cabinet Member." Crisis (February 1966): 76, 120ff.

"Robert C. Weaver." Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 46. Detroit, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 2005.

Weaver, Robert C. "The Health Care of Our Cities." National Medical Association Journal (January 1968): 4246.

harvard sitkoff (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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Weaver, Robert Clifton

WEAVER, ROBERT CLIFTON

Robert Clifton Weaver (December 29, 1907–July 17, 1997), New Deal race relations adviser, was born and raised in the black middle class of Washington, D.C. Weaver attended Harvard University on a scholarship, where he came to know fellow African-American students Ralph Bunche, John P. Davis, and William H. Hastie. In 1933, during the New Deal's first "100 Days," Weaver and Davis formed the Joint Committee on National Recovery to represent the needs of black people at congressional hearings. In November 1933 Weaver was chosen to assist Clark H. Foreman, then race relations adviser to Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes. Two years later, Weaver succeeded Foreman as Ickes's adviser in both the Department of the Interior and the Public Works Administration (PWA). In 1938, Weaver joined the newly created United States Housing Authority and from 1940 to 1944 he served in a number of capacities with federal agencies.

With Mary McLeod Bethune, Weaver was one of the most influential members of the Black Cabinet, an informal group of African Americans appointed in the Roosevelt era as racial advisers to federal departments and newly established agencies. Weaver's importance as an advocate for African Americans derived from his expertise in black housing and labor issues, his academic and personal qualities, and his belief in the New Deal's significance as an agency for change. Although he helped force integration of the Interior Department's lunchroom facilities in the 1930s, he was not a political or civil rights activist like Bethune or Davis. Focusing on jobs and housing, Weaver used statistics and analysis to influence federal policy and to expand public awareness of the "Negro problem."

Weaver saw New Deal reform as instrumental in transforming the condition of African Americans. The integration of blacks into the American economic system, through expanded federally financed employment and housing opportunities, would not only create necessary skills for blacks and facilitate their entry into a growing industrial society, it would also improve the climate for race relations. For Weaver, economic segregation reinforced the social and political separation of the races. The Depression had illuminated the depth of black destitution and the urgency for immediate black assistance. Only the federal government possessed the power necessary to modify social institutions and provide blacks and other minorities with the material and spiritual aid necessary to secure their ultimate integration into American life. At Weaver's urging, racial discrimination was not only prohibited in PWA labor contracts, but in 1934 Harold Ickes supported a quota system to assure black worker participation. Weaver had an equally important impact in gaining black inclusion in public housing programs begun in the late 1930s. He left the government in 1944 believing that his influence was limited but he never lost faith in the New Deal or in the government's critical role in improving the quality of black life. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson appointed Weaver secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he became the first African American to head a federal cabinet post.

See Also:AFRICAN AMERICANS, IMPACT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION ON; BETHUNE, MARY MCLEOD; BLACK CABINET.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kirby, John B. Black Americans in the Roosevelt Era: Liberalism and Race. 1980.

Weiss, Nancy J. Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR. 1983.

Williams, Alma Rene. "Robert C. Weaver: From the Black Cabinet to the President's Cabinet." Ph.D. diss., Kent State University, 1982.

Wolters, Raymond. Negroes and the Great Depression: The Problem of Economic Recovery. 1970.

John B. Kirby

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Weaver, Robert Clifton

WEAVER, Robert Clifton

(b. 29 December 1907 in Washington, D.C.; d. 17 July 1997 in New York City), statesman, college professor, and economist who was the first African-American member of a New York State cabinet, the first African-American member of a presidential cabinet, and the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1966–1968).

Weaver was the son of Mortimer Grover Weaver, a postal clerk, and Florence E. Freeman. His mother instilled in Weaver his love of learning, and he had a very strong work ethic and a notable independent streak in his personality that were manifested during his time at Dunbar High School in Washington. During his junior year he held a full-time job as an electrician; in his senior year he ran his own electrical repair service.

Weaver graduated from Dunbar High School in 1925 and entered Harvard University, where he majored in economics, graduating with a B.S. degree in 1929 and then continuing at Harvard to earn an M.S. degree in economics in 1931. From 1931 to 1932 he taught economics at the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, but he received a scholarship to continue his education at Harvard and returned there in 1932, receiving his Ph.D. in economics in 1934. By then he was already having an effect on the social policies of the U.S. federal government.

In 1933 the newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt recruited young, college-educated people to serve in his administration, and Weaver was among them. In 1934 he became an adviser to Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, developing special expertise in the economics of housing, redevelopment, and racial segregation. On 18 July 1935 Weaver married a college professor, Ella V. Haith. They adopted a son, who died in 1962. Although he was years away from being known to the general public, Weaver may well have been the most influential African American in Roosevelt's administration by the time the president formed the Federal Council on Negro Affairs in 1936, nicknamed the "Black Cabinet" by journalists. By the time he left his position with the Department of the Interior in 1938 to join the U.S. Housing Authority, Weaver was the man Roosevelt turned to first for advice on policies involving African Americans.

In 1940 Weaver joined the National Defense Advisory Commission; in 1942 he became chief of African-American employment affairs in the Office of Production Management; from 1942 to 1943 he focused on African-American labor issues for the War Production Board; and from 1943 to 1944 he was the director of the Negro Manpower Services for the War Manpower Commission. In 1940 Roosevelt was leaving New York City from Pennsylvania Station when his press secretary Stephen T. Early was blocked from entering the station by police officers. After Early angrily bowled over an African-American police officer to gain admittance, Roosevelt and those close to him worried about the effect the incident would have on African-American voters in an election year. As he had become accustomed, Roosevelt asked Weaver for advice, and Weaver sent a message to the president that resulted in the promotion of Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who would become the first African-American general of the U.S. Army; the move also resulted in the appointment of William H. Hastie, the first African-American aide to the secretary of war; and the appointment of Campbell C. Johnson, the first African-American aide to the director of the Selective Service.

In 1946 Weaver served as a representative of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in the Ukraine. That same year his book Negro Labor: A National Problem was published, and as a result Weaver began to develop an influence outside government. His 1948 book The Negro Ghetto was a pioneering effort to analyze housing segregation, which Weaver believed to be at the root of all other forms of racial segregation. From 1947 to 1955 Weaver served in several academic positions, while writing numerous articles about economics.

In 1955 Weaver was appointed New York State's deputy rent commissioner, and in December 1955 New York governor W. Averell Harriman appointed him director of the State Rent Commission, making Weaver the first African American to become a member of the New York cabinet. He left the position in January 1959. In 1960 Weaver chaired the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). On 31 December 1960 President-elect John F. Kennedy announced the appointment of Weaver as director of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA); Weaver was officially sworn in on 11 February 1961.

In 1961 Weaver helped draft the Housing Act of 1961, which focused on creating public housing units for poor people and on revitalizing inner cities. That year Kennedy tried to create a new cabinet post and a new federal government department focusing on urban affairs, and he wanted Weaver to head the agency, but Congress refused to authorize the new department. During his years as director of the HHFA, Weaver tried to expand the federal government's role in providing housing for the poor, as well as to expand the government's influence on urban renewal projects, which he believed tended to ruin inner-city neighborhoods and to drive African Americans from their homes. In addition, he wanted the government to encourage the racial integration of suburbs. Weaver's book The Future of the American City was published in 1962; The Urban Complex: Human Values in Urban Life was published in 1964; and Dilemmas of Urban America was published in 1965. These books established Weaver as one of the foremost experts on the problems of U.S. cities.

In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson won congressional approval for the creation of a new federal department, Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On 13 January 1966 Johnson appointed Weaver as the secretary of HUD, making Weaver the first African American to be a member of a presidential cabinet. As secretary, Weaver sought to expand the department's powers and to have the federal government invest in housing in inner cities, winning a $2.5 billion congressional authorization for this purpose in 1966. Weaver left his cabinet post after Richard M. Nixon was elected president.

From 1969 to 1970 Weaver served as the first president of the new Bernard M. Baruch College, part of the New York University system. From 1971 to 1978 he was distinguished professor of urban affairs at Hunter College. Weaver died at the age of eighty-nine.

During his years of government service, Weaver helped open new economic opportunities for African Americans and guided the racial policies of three presidents. His books and essays helped give an authoritative foundation to efforts to improve life in America's cities, and his ideas and work helped reshape those cities during the 1960s.

Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue (1978), mentions Weaver's early career. Notable Black American Men, edited by Jessie Carney Smith (1999), offers fairly complete coverage of Weaver's career. The entry on Weaver in Current Biography Yearbook (1961) presents a detailed summary of his career to 1961. Obituaries are in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune (both 19 July 1997).

Kirk H. Beetz

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