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o. culp hobby

Oveta Culp Hobby

[hob-ee]

Oveta Culp Hobby (January 19, 1905August 16, 1995) was the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, first commanding officer of the Women's Army Corps, and chairman of the board of the Houston Post.

She was born Oveta Culp in Killeen, Texas. She received her undergraduate degree from Mary Hardin Baylor College for Women and her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1925. Following college she served as parliamentarian of the Texas House of Representatives. In 1931 she married William P. Hobby, the former Governor of Texas and the publisher of the Houston Post and took a position as research editor at the Post.

During World War II she headed the War Department's Women's Interest Section for a short time and then became the Director of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps), which was created to fill gaps left by a shortage of men. The members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to be in uniform. Hobby achieved the rank of colonel and received the Distinguished Service Medal for efforts during the war. She was the first woman in the Army to receive this award.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower named her head of the Federal Security Agency, a non-cabinet post, though she was invited to sit in on cabinet meetings. She made the decision to legalize Jonas Salk's polio vaccine. On April 11, 1953, she became the first secretary of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, later divided into separate departments of (1) Education and (2) Health and Human Services. This was her second time to organize a new branch of the government.

In 1955, Mrs. Hobby resumed her position with the Houston Post as president and editor and cared for her husband, who was in failing health. She went on to serve on many boards and advisory positions with various civic and business institutions around the country. She died of a stroke in 1995, in Houston, and was buried at Glenwood Cemetery.

Her son, William P. Hobby, Jr., served as lieutenant governor of Texas from 1973 to 1991. Her daughter, Jessica, is married to Henry E. Catto, Jr., the former United States Ambassador to Great Britain. Hobby’s grandson, Paul Hobby, narrowly lost the election for comptroller of Texas in the 1998 general election.

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