Samuel Pierce

Samuel R. Pierce
8th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
In office
January 23, 1981  January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Moon Landrieu
Succeeded by Jack F. Kemp
Personal details
Born (1922-09-08)September 8, 1922
Glen Cove, New York, U.S.
Died October 31, 2000(2000-10-31) (aged 78)
Holy Cross Hospital in Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting place None
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Barbara Penn Wright Pierce
Children Victoria Wright Pierce
Alma mater Cornell University (B.A, J.D)
New York University (LL.M)
Profession Politician
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Unit Criminal Investigation Division
Battles/wars World War II

Samuel Riley Pierce, Jr. (September 8, 1922  October 31, 2000) was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from January 23, 1981 until January 20, 1989.

Early life

Born in Glen Cove, New York. Pierce was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.[1] Pierce was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. He was also elected to Cornell's oldest senior honor society, the Sphinx Head Society. Pierce served in the United States Army's Criminal Investigation Division during World War II. 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.[2]

Political career

Pierce was an assistant United States attorney in New York from 1953 to 1955. A lifelong Republican, he first entered government when Eisenhower was president. He became an assistant to the undersecretary of labor in 1955. [3] 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. Due to his perceived low profile within the Reagan administration, he was sometimes derided as "Silent Sam."[4] During Pierce's tenure, HUD appropriations for low-income housing were cut by nearly half and funding all but ended for new housing construction.[2]

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 (Thomas Demery, Phillip Winn, Joseph Strauss and Deborah Gore 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 at the Holy Cross Hospital in Washington, D.C., on October 31, 2000, at the age of 78.[2]


  1. "Distinguished Eagle Scouts" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  2. 1 2 3 Shenon, Philip (November 3, 2000). "Samuel R. Pierce Jr., Ex-Housing Secretary, Dies at 78". The New York Times.
  3. Jackson, Robert L. (November 4, 2000). "Samuel R. Pierce Jr.; Reagan HUD Chief Was Investigated but Never Charged". Los Angeles Times.
  4. Time magazine, "Silent Sam Speaks Up," by Michael Riley, Nancy Traver and Samuel Pierce (September 18, 1989 – retrieved on August 7th, 2010).

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Moon Landrieu
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Served under: Ronald Reagan

Succeeded by
Jack F. Kemp
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