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Latinos in the U.S. Cabinet 

Trailblazer of the Day | Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lauro Cavazos Jr and Hilda Solis

Lauro Cavazos, Jr. (1927- ) was the first Latino in the U.S. Cabinet, serving as Secretary of Education under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Born in Kingsville, Texas, Dr. Cavazos earned Zoology degrees from Texas Tech University and a Ph.D. in Physiology from Iowa State University. He served as Dean of Tufts University Medical School and as the first Latino President of Texas Tech University. In 1988, he was named U.S. Secretary of Education, where he championed the importance of parental involvement.

In 2009, California Congresswoman Hilda Solis (1957- ) became the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Cabinet when she was named Secretary of Labor. The daughter of Nicaraguan and Mexican parents who met in citizenship class, Solis was the first in her family to go to college, graduating from Cal State Polytechnic, then USC. She served five terms in the California legislature and four terms in the U.S. House - where she championed environmental justice and worker safety issues - before being named by President Obama as Secretary of Labor (and first U.S. Cabinet member of Central American descent). She left the Cabinet in 2013.

Other notable Cabinet milestones:

Federico Peña (1947-) has the distinction of serving in two U.S. Cabinet capacities, tabbed by President Bill Clinton as both the first Latino Secretary of Transportation (1993-97) and first Latino Secretary of Energy (1997-98). Peña was also Denver’s first Hispanic mayor and was instrumental in bringing the Colorado Rockies to his city.

Alberto Gonzales (1955- ) joined the Texas Supreme Court in 1999. When George W. Bush became President in 2001, he named Gonzales as White House Counsel and then U.S. Attorney General, making him the highest-ranking Latino in U.S. Government history.

In addition to Secretary Solis, President Obama appointed other Latino Cabinet officers. Ken Salazar (1955- ) was a former U.S. Senator from Colorado who was Secretary of the Interior from 2009 to 2013. Thomas Perez (1961- ), son of Dominican immigrant parents and a former Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, has been Secretary of Labor since 2013.