Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Robert C. Weaver (1966–1969): Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Robert Clifton Weaver was born on December 29, 1907, in Washington, D.C. Weaver received his B.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. Throughout the New Deal era, Weaver served as an advisor on minority affairs in a number of federal agencies.

He remained an active participant in efforts to improve race relations throughout the mid-1940s. Following the Second World War, Weaver was a professor at Northwestern, Columbia, and New York Universities from 1947 until 1951. Between 1949 and 1955, he also worked for the John Hay Whitney Foundation, overseeing the opportunity fellowship program.

In the late 1950s, Weaver was New York state's rent commissioner. Then, in 1960, he became vice chairman of the New York City Housing and Redevelopment Board. President-elect Kennedy asked Weaver to serve as the administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA). In that capacity, Weaver helped author the 1961 compilation housing bill. He also supported and helped lobby for the 1962 Senior Citizens Housing Act.

Weaver continued working at HHFA during the Johnson administration, drafting all of the administration's housing and urban renewal programs. Weaver also worked on the $7.8 billion housing bill in 1965, which included an expansion of public housing and programs for rent supplementing low-income families.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was created in September 1965, and Weaver became its first secretary the following January -- thereby becoming the first African-American appointed to a cabinet position. HUD absorbed HHFA, so many of Weaver's responsibilities carried over from his former post. After assuming the responsibilities as HUD secretary, Weaver promoted the Metropolitan Development Act in November of 1966 and the Demonstration Cities Program.

Weaver was an opponent to suggestions opposing the promotion of homeownership among the poor, believing that the poor could not meet the demands of paying a mortgage or keeping up a home; instead, he supported expanding funding for existing housing programs. Still, Weaver was a proponent of the Johnson administration's open housing bill, believing it would help the nation's policy against discrimination. He ran into problems in 1966 when Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff and Senator Robert F. Kennedy criticized his federal urban renewal efforts.

Despite the success of individual programs, Weaver's initiatives had failed to stop the growth of urban decay. Weaver resigned his post on January 1, 1969. Later that year, he became president of Bernard Baruch College, but he left that post in 1971 to become professor of urban affairs at Hunter College. Robert Weaver died in New York City on July 17, 1997.