Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Marion B. Folsom (1955–1958): Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Marion Folsom was secretary of health, education and welfare under President Eisenhower from July 20, 1955, until July 31, 1958. Folsom graduated from the University of Georgia (1912) and the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard (1914).

He joined Eastman Kodak in 1914, becoming assistant to the president of the company (1921-1925), assistant to the chairman of the board (1925-1930), assistant treasurer (1930-1935), and treasurer (1935-1953). Folsom also took a leave of absence to serve in the First World War, seeing some action with the Army in France and leaving a captain in the quartermaster corps.

A keen advocate of a national social security system, he served as a member of the President's Advisory Board of the Committee on Economic Security in 1934 and was instrumental in drafting the Social Security Act of 1935. Folsom would also serve as staff director of the U.S. House Special Committee on Postwar Economic Policy and Planning (1944-1946) and as vice-chairman of the President's Advisory Committee on the Merchant Marine (1947-1948).

In 1953, Eisenhower named him undersecretary of the treasury. Folsom was thus responsible for the first complete federal tax law revision since 1874 and worked closely with Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Oveta Culp Hobby on matters relating to social security.

After her resignation, Eisenhower appointed Folsom to fill the vacancy. Folsom introduced a number of programs to improve education, including the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which provided university scholarships to students wishing to become professors; it also made funds available for the study of science, mathematics, and modern languages.

Folsom encouraged the expansion of medical research, stewarding legislation for the construction of research facilities and for programs to control environmental pollution. He served as secretary for three years -- longer than the two that he had intended -- returning to the board of Eastman Kodak until he retired in 1964.