Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Abraham Ribicoff (1961–1962): Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Abraham Ribicoff was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on April 9, 1910, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. Ribicoff had a long history of government service, having been elected in 1938 to the lower house of Connecticut's legislature. He continued to serve in that body until 1948, when he was elected, by the Hartford congressional district, to the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a congressman during the early stages of the Cold War, he was noted for supporting Connecticut's defense-related industries. Ribicoff served as a member of the House of Representatives until 1952. Two years later, he was elected as governor of Connecticut.

He remained at this post until asked by newly elected President John Kennedy to serve in the cabinet as the secretary of health, education, and welfare. After holding the position for only eighteen months, he resigned to run for a Senate seat in Connecticut. As a U.S. Senator, Ribicoff was a member of the Finance Committee, where he specialized in matters of international trade. He also served as the head of the Government Affairs Committee.

He is perhaps best rememberd for accusing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley of using "Gestapo" tactics at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. After serving three terms in the U.S. Senate, Ribicoff retired to practice law in New York. He died on February 22, 1998.