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Arthur Sherwood Flemming

In office
August 1, 1958 – January 19, 1961
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Abraham A. Ribicoff
Succeeded by Anthony J. Celebrezze

Born June 12, 1905(1905-06-12)
Kingston, New York
Died September 7, 1996 (aged 91)
Alexandria, Virginia

Arthur Sherwood Flemming (June 12, 1905 - September 7, 1996) was United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare between 1958 to 1961 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Fleming was an important force in the shaping of Social Security policy for more than four decades. He also served as president of the University of Oregon, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Macalester College. In 1966, he was elected to a four-year term as president of the National Council of Churches, the leading Christian ecumenical organization in the United States.


Early life and education

Born in Kingston, New York, Flemming was a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, class of 1927, and a member of the Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.

Federal government career

Dr. Flemming's government career began in 1939 when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Civil Service Commission. He was a member of the Hoover Commission which studied the organization of the federal government in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Flemming was the Chairman of the White House Conference on Aging in 1971 and was appointed U.S. Commissioner on Aging by President Richard Nixon. Flemming was also a co-founder of the Save Our Security coalition, a Social Security advocacy group. He was the recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, one in 1957 from President Eisenhower and the second one in 1994 from President Bill Clinton. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala said of Flemming: "He was one of the great intellects of social policy, combining extraordinary knowledge with a rare gift for policy-making."

Cranberry Scare of 1959

On November 9, 1959, Secretary Flemming announced, seventeen days before the Thanksgiving holiday, that some of the 1959 crop of cranberries contained traces of aminotriazole, a weed killer, which had been shown to cause thyroid cancer in rats in laboratory testing. Although the sale of cranberries was not banned, Flemming cautioned that if a housewife didn't know where the berries in a product came from, "to be on the safe side, she doesn't buy".[1]. Flemming acknowledged the impact of his announcement prior to the holidays, but added "I don't have any right to sit on information of this kind." [2]

After decreased sales of cranberries during the holiday season, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined, in January, 1960, that 99% of the crop had not been contaminated. However, the incident did cause cranberry growers to cease using amitrole as a herbicide, as demanded by the farmers' largest consumer, the Ocean Spray company. Prior to 1959, cranberries were seldom consumed except during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and cranberry juice was available, but not popular. After the disastrous holiday season, Ocean Spray promoted the popularity of the juice, and the production of the berries was increased in the long run.[3]

University president

Flemming served as president of Ohio Wesleyan University. He was the university's first president to be an alumnus and a layman (non-ordained minister). Having served in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, his Wesleyan inauguration at the June commencement of 1949 drew many famous speakers and celebrities.

From 1961 to 1968, Flemming served as president of the University of Oregon. During his popular and controversial tenure, the number of students grew from 8,000 to 14,000, and federal funding that the University received rose dramatically. Flemming was responsible for the addition of the School of Community Services and Public Affairs, the Pine Mountain Observatory and the building of various laboratories on campus. He defended the right of Communist Party USA leader Gus Hall to speak on campus and also convinced Tom Autzen to contribute money toward the building of Autzen Stadium.

Flemming died of acute renal failure at a retirement home in Alexandria, Virginia and is buried at the Montrepose Cemetery in his hometown of Kingston, New York.

See also


  1. ^ "The Cranberry Boggle", TIME Magazine, November 23, 1959
  2. ^ "Northwest Cranberries Found Contaminated", Lincoln (Neb.) Evening Journal, November 9, 1959, p1
  3. ^ Allan Mazur, True Warnings and False Alarms: Evaluating Fears About the Health Risks of Technology, 1948-1971 (Resources for the Future, 2004), p112-113

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Marion Bayard Folsom
United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
August 1, 1958 - January 19, 1961
Succeeded by
Abraham A. Ribicoff

Redirecting to Arthur Flemming


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