W. Willard Wirtz

For other people named William Wirtz, see William Wirtz (disambiguation).
W. Willard Wirtz
10th United States Secretary of Labor
In office
September 25, 1962  January 20, 1969
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Arthur J. Goldberg
Succeeded by George P. Shultz
Personal details
Born William Willard Wirtz
(1912-03-14)March 14, 1912
DeKalb, Illinois, U.S.
Died April 24, 2010(2010-04-24) (aged 98)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Jane Quisenberry "Jane" Wirtz (m. 1936 2002; her death)
Relations Kathryn Wirtz Gude
Fran Wirtz Weeks
Children Richard Wirtz
Philip Wirtz
Parents William Wirtz
Alpha White Writz
Alma mater Northern Illinois University, Beloit College, Harvard Law School
Occupation Politician
Public servant
Religion Methodist

William Willard Wirtz (March 14, 1912 April 24, 2010) was a U.S. administrator, cabinet officer, attorney, and law professor. He served as the Secretary of Labor between 1962 and 1969 under the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.[1]

Early life

Wirtz was born on March 14, 1912 in DeKalb, Illinois, the son of Alpha (née White) and William Wirtz. He attended Northern Illinois University, where he became a brother of Alpha Phi Omega.[2] While a student at Beloit College, he met the former Mary Jane Quisenberry. They married in 1936. They had two sons, Richard and Philip Wirtz.[3]


He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1937 and was immediately appointed to the faculty of the University of Iowa College of Law by the Dean of the Law School (and future U.S. Supreme Court justice) Wiley B. Rutledge. Wirtz was a professor of law at Northwestern University from 1939 to 1942. He served with the War Labor Board from 1943 to 1945, and was chairman of the National Wage Stabilization Board in 1946. Wirtz returned to teach law at Northwestern until 1954.

His students included future U.S. Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, whom Wirtz recommended for what became his 194748 clerkship with Justice Rutledge. He was active in Democratic politics and wrote speeches for Adlai Stevenson during his 1952 Presidential campaign.[4] Wirtz was appointed by the Under-Secretary of Labor in 1961.

The official portrait of W. Willard Wirtz hangs in the Department of Labor

He held the post of Labor Secretary throughout the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, during which time he is credited for his having dealt effectively with the various trade union strikes of the 1960s.[5] While serving in the Labor Department, Wirtz developed programs for the Johnson administration's War on Poverty. He advocated for remedial education for school dropouts and for retraining programs for unemployed workers.[4] Wirtz's relationship with Johnson was compromised by Wirtz sending a private memorandum to the President expressing concerns about the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.[4]

Later life

Following his public service, he practiced law in Washington, D.C. as a partner in Wirtz & Gentry (197078), Wirtz & Lapointe (1979[?]), and Friedman & Wirtz (19841989). Named in 2000, the Wirtz Labor Library is the main library of the U.S. Department of Labor in the Frances Perkins Building in Washington, D.C..[6] The library contains 181,000 items, including the James Taylor collection (labor history), the Folio collection (trade union serials) and a 30,000 volume labor law collection. Wirtz wrote a memoir entitled "In the Rear View Mirror" which was published in 2008 by The Beloit College Press.[4]

Wirtz died in an assisted living facility in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 2010.[7] At the time of his death he was the oldest living former cabinet member and the last surviving member of the Kennedy administration cabinet.


  1. Obituary New York Times, 26 April 2010; page A15.
  2. "In the Rear View Mirror", W. Willard Wirtz p.19
  3. 1 2 3 4 Weil, Martin (April 25, 2010). "Labor secretary for Kennedy, Johnson". Washington Post. p. C6.
  4. Greenhouse, Steven (25 Apr 2010). "W. Willard Wirtz, Labor Chief, Dies at 98". New York Times. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  5. "About the Wirtz Labor Library". U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
  6. "Willard Wirtz, labor secretary for JFK". The Washington Post. Published April 24, 2010.
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur J. Goldberg
U.S. Secretary of Labor
Served under: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson

September 25, 1962 January 20, 1969
Succeeded by
George P. Shultz
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/30/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.