Secretary Hills

March is nearly over, which means our blog series in honor of Women’s History Month is coming to a close. Our final post this month honors Carla Anderson Hills. On February 13, 1975, President Ford indicated he would nominate Hills to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

White House Press Releases, Box 7.
NAID: 7338039
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

In his book, A Time to Heal, President Ford reflected “Her nomination…caused an immediate howl of protest from the interest groups over which HUD had jurisdiction. They complained about Carla’s lack of expertise in the industry and urged me to select a realtor, home builder or city planner. I saw her lack of expertise as a plus. It was far better to pick someone from outside who would assimilate the necessary information and then decide the issues on their merits. Despite their disappointment, none of the interest groups opposed the nomination. With only five dissenting votes, the Senate confirmed her, and the Cabinet took on a new, more independent look.”

When she was sworn in on March 10, 1975, Hills became just the third woman to serve in a presidential cabinet (following Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor during the Franklin Roosevelt and Truman administrations, and Oveta Hobby, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Eisenhower administration). “I embark upon this new assignment in government with warm appreciation for the confidence that the President has placed in me,” she remarked after being sworn in. “With great pride to become a part of his Cabinet, and with a firm determination that we shall make substantial strides toward that goal of achieving for every American family decent shelter and a proper living environment, and with a sharp awareness that the work to accomplish this goal will be very hard, I believe that we will succeed.”

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Carla Anderson Hills during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on March 12, 1975.  
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

When Justice William O. Douglas resigned from the Supreme Court in November 1975, Secretary Hills was among the five or six named on a short list for President Ford to consider nominating to replace Douglas, along with Detroit Federal District Court Judge Cornelia Kennedy. Though neither ultimately was selected, their considerations were historic.

Sheila Weidenfeld Files, Box 39, “Ford, Betty – Supreme Court Appointment.” 
Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

Following the Ford administration, Secretary Hills served as the US Trade Representative during the George H.W. Bush administration, and the co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations from 2007 through 2017.