Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Edward J. Derwinski (1989–1992): Secretary of Veterans' Affairs

Edward Joseph Derwinski was born September 15, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois. He entered the U.S. Army in 1945, serving in the Pacific arena and later during the Japanese occupation. Following his time in the service, he graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a B.A. in history (1952).

Derwinski was elected to two terms in the Illinois House of Representatives (1952-1956); in 1958, Illinois voters elected Derwinski to the U.S. Congress, where he served until 1982. In Congress, he served on the House Foreign Affairs, Post Office, and Civil Service Committees. In the interim, in 1971, Derwinski served as delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and later as chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Interparlimentary Union, an international body of legislators (1970-1972).

After leaving Congress, Derwinski was a counselor at the Department of State (1983-1987) and served as undersecretary of state for security assistance, science and technology (1988).

President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be the first cabinet-level secretary of veterans' affairs in 1989, and Derwinski remained in that post until he resigned to help Bush run for reelection. He returned to private life when Bush lost the election.