Hills, Carla (1934—)

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Hills, Carla (1934—)

American lawyer and public official who was the first woman secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (1975) and the third woman ever to hold a U.S. Cabinet post. Born Carla Helen Anderson in Los Angeles, California, on January 3, 1934; younger of two children of Carl Anderson (a building supplies executive) and Edith (Hume) Anderson; attended the Marlborough School, Los Angeles, California; graduated cum laude from Stanford University, 1955; Yale University Law School, LL.B., 1958; married Roderick M. Hills (a politician), on September 27, 1958; children: four.

Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1934, Carla Anderson was headed for a career in law from age 12, when she was inspired by the biography of Alexander Hamilton. She graduated cum laude from Stanford University, where she also captained the tennis team, then worked her way through Yale Law School, receiving her LL.B. in 1958. That same year, Carla married Roderick Maltman Hills, whom she had met while at Stanford. After passing the California Bar in 1959, she worked for two years as an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles.

In 1962, not yet 30, Hills, along with her husband and several other partners, formed the law firm of Munger, Tolles, Hills & Rickershauser. Specializing in antitrust and securities cases, she gained prominence as a trial lawyer. In addition to her work with the firm, Hills served on the advisory board of the California Council on Criminal Justice (1969–71) and on the standing committee on discipline for the U.S. District Court for Central California (1970–73). She was an adjunct professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (1972), was on the board of councillors of the University of Southern California Law Center (1972–74), and on the Executive Committee on Law and a Free Society of the state bar of California (1973). During this time, Hills also gave birth to four children, adding the responsibilities of motherhood to her already formidable schedule. Then, and later, her children were high priority, particularly when it came to birthdays or school activities. "I might tell the judge I had a conflicting appointment," she told Business Week reporter Paul Magnusson in an interview (June 22, 1990). "Fortunately, they never think to ask if the conflict is a birthday party."

Hills left the firm in 1974, when she was appointed assistant attorney general in the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice. As the highest ranking woman at the Justice Department, Hills oversaw a staff of 250 lawyers in Washington and 94 U.S. attorneys across the country. In February 1975, she was appointed by President Gerald R. Ford as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Confirmed despite reservations over her lack of experience in the field, Hills remained in the post until 1977, proving herself to be a tough, no-nonsense administrator. During her tenure at HUD, and for several years afterward, Hills was expected to become the first woman named to the U.S. Supreme Court, although ultimately that honor went to Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981.

In 1978, Hills returned to private law practice, opening Latham, Watkins and Hills, the Washington office of the Los Angeles-based firm of Latham and Watkins. In 1986, she became a co-managing partner of Weil, Gotshal and Manges in Washington, D.C. During this time, Hills' relationship with a Florida developer and the DRC Funding Group, a mortgage lender, came under scrutiny as the result of a Congressional investigation into allegations of corruption at HUD, though she was never implicated in any wrongdoing.

Hills accepted another political appointment in 1988, when she was named U.S. trade representative by president-elect George Bush, the first woman nominee to his Cabinet. At her confirmation hearing, Hills swore to break down unfair barriers to American trade with a crowbar if necessary. Bush presented her with an inscribed crowbar at her swearing-in: "To Carla—I know you'll use this with finesse and strength. George." Over the next four years, Hills, working with a staff of 150, faced numerous challenges, including concluding the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, resolving various trade disputes as Europe moved toward integration, and implementing free-trade agreements with Canada and Israel. Her most daunting task by far was to open Japanese markets to American exports. Adhering to a negotiating style that was called at once "conciliatory" and "extremely tough and calculating," Hills was successful in clearing barriers for American manufacturers of supercomputers, semiconductors, telecommunications equipment, and finished-wood products.

In 1993, she left office with the departing Republican administration and, with three of her colleagues from the trade office, established Hills' and Company, a consulting firm representing companies doing business in the global market. Hills' career has included service on the boards of numerous corporations, including IBM, Chevron, Corning Glass Works, and American Airlines. During 1982 and 1983, she was chair of the American Bar Association. She also served as a trustee of Pomona College, the University of Southern California, and the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena.


Graham, Judith, ed. Current Biography 1993. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1993.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Hills, Carla (1934—)

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