Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Ray LaHood (2009-2013): Secretary of Transportation

Ray LaHood was born on December 6, 1945, in Peoria, Illinois. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1971 from Bradley University in sociology and education. After graduating from college, LaHood worked as a social studies teacher in a junior high school. In 1972, he became the director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau, a position he held for two years.

In 1977, LaHood entered politics as an administrative assistant to U.S. Representative Tom Railsback. From 1982 to 1983, he briefly served in the Illinois House of Representatives, replacing the retiring Pen Polk. After losing his seat in the Illinois House, La Hood joined the staff of House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel in 1983. He served on Michel's staff in Peoria, Illinois, until 1990 when he was appointed chief of staff and moved to Washington, D.C. In 1994, LaHood was elected as a Republican to the 104th Congress, replacing Michel as the representative of the 18th Congressional District of Illinois. He gained national attention in the House when he presided over the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton and was praised for his even-handedness.

In 2008, President-elect Barack Obama asked LaHood to join his cabinet as secretary of the Department of Transportation. LaHood is considered a moderate Republican and played a major role in the Illinois transportation network, helping put aside funds for highway construction and the expansion of Illinois airports. In the House, LaHood served on the Appropriations Committee and the Transportation Committee. He was confirmed as secretary of transportation on January 22, 2009, and served in the Obama administration until July 2013, when he resigned as secretary.