Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William J. Bennett (1985–1988): Secretary of Education

William John Bennett was born on July 31, 1943. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from Williams College in 1965, a Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Texas in 1970, and a J.D. from Harvard University Law School in 1971.

From 1967 to 1973, he taught law and philosophy at several colleges, including the University of Texas and Harvard University. From 1972 to 1976, he worked both as an assistant to the president and as an assistant professor of philosophy at Boston University. Bennett served as the executive director of the National Humanities Center from 1976 to 1979, during which time he was also teaching philosophy at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina.

In 1979, Bennett became the president and director of the National Humanities Center and two years later, joined the Reagan Administration -- first as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981-1985) and then as secretary of education (1985-1988). Bennett then became President George W. Bush’s director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- also known as “drug czar” -- remaining in the position from 1989 to 1990.

Upon leaving the White House, Bennett has become involved in a number of conservative organizations. Most recently, he serves as a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as a codirector of Empower America, and as chairman of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism.