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Samuel R. Pierce


In office
January 23, 1981 – January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Maurice Landrieu
Succeeded by Jack Kemp

Born September 8, 1922(1922-09-08)
Glen Cove, New York
Died November 19, 2000 (aged 78)
Glen Cove, New York
Political party Republican
Alma mater Cornell University
New York University Law School

Samuel Riley Pierce, Jr. (September 8, 1922 - November 19, 2000) was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Contents

Early life

Pierce was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Pierce was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans and Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity. He was also elected to Cornell's oldest senior honor society, the Sphinx Head Society. Pierce graduated from Cornell University in 1947 and received a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1949. He earned a Master of Laws degree from New York University School of Law in 1952.

Political career

Pierce was an assistant United States Attorney in New York from 1953 to 1955. A life long Republican, he first entered government when Eisenhower was president. He became an assistant to the undersecretary of labor in 1955. Pierce was appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve as a judge in New York City, 1959-1960. Pierce became a partner in a law firm in 1961, a first for an African-American and was there until 1981 excepting a period from 1970 through 1973 when, during the Nixon presidency, he was general counsel for the Department of the Treasury. Pierce argued before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Martin Luther King Jr. and the New York Times in the important First Amendment case styled New York Times v. Sullivan. After becoming the first African-American to become partner in a major New York law firm, Pierce went on to become the first African-American to serve on the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company. In 1981 Pierce became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Ronald Reagan. Pierce was Reagan's only African American cabinet member and the only cabinet member to serve in his post throughout both of Reagan's terms as President. On June 18, 1981 during a luncheon for the US Conference of Mayors in Washington DC, President Reagan mistook Pierce as one of the mayors on the dais, with the famous Hello, Mr. Mayor, comment. During Pierce's tenure, HUD appropriations for low-income housing were cut by nearly half and funding all but ended for new housing construction.

Political scandal

After leaving office he was investigated by the United States Office of the Independent Counsel and the United States Congress over mismanagement, abuse and political favoritism that took place in the department during his tenure. These investigations found that under Pierce's stewardship the department engaged in political favoritism and trading of influence. Millions of dollars of federal government money was given to projects as sought by connected politicians of both parties, in violation of rules governing such grants and expenditures. Through the 1990s many of Pierce's closest aides and confidants at the department were charged and convicted on felony charges related to the political favoritism and inappropriate expenditures that pervaded the department during Pierce's tenure (Thonas Demery, Phillip Winn, Joseph Strauss and Deborah Dean). Pierce himself was not charged. Samuel Pierce was loyal to his friends and associates. He was one of the very few Cabinet members to see outgoing President Reagan off at the airport, after President Bush was sworn in. And he stood by friends that had run afoul with the changing moods in the White House. Asked what the reason was for associating with people no longer needed at the White House, he replied: "He's a friend of mine." Pierce died on November 19, 2000.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Maurice Edwin Landrieu
United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
1981–1989
Succeeded by
Jack French Kemp
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