Ambassador Horace G. Dawson, Jr., Ph.D.

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     Dignitaries from around the nation assembled in Howard University’s Crampton Auditorium on January 27, 2000 to pay tribute to Patricia Roberts Harris and to witness the unveiling of a U.S. postage stamp in her honor. Patricia Roberts Harris is the 23rd American and seventh woman honored on a commemorative postage stamp in the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage series. More than 150 million Patricia Roberts Harris stamps were made available at post offices nationwide on January 27.

     Patricia Roberts Harris (1924-1985), a 1945 graduate of Howard University, was well-known as an influential public official, diplomat and civil rights activist. Her many achievements included several "firsts." She became the first African American woman to hold a U.S. ambassadorship when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg (1965-67). She was the first African American woman to serve on a presidential cabinet, appointed Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1977-79) by President Jimmy Carter, and two years later, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, later Health and Human Services (1979-81). She was also the first woman to serve as dean of Howard University’s School of Law (1969).

     The legacy of Patricia Roberts Harris that is being celebrated on a national level by the commemorative stamp in her honor has been long appreciated by the Howard University community and predates the stamp by many years. One major outgrowth of her legacy at Howard University is the Patricia Roberts Harris Public Affairs Program, which serves as a living memorial to a Howard University alumna, professor and dean known for her trailblazing public service career. The program, which grew out of a bequest she made to the University, was established in October 1987. Its purpose is twofold: to complement the University’s course offerings in areas related to public policy, and to encourage students to consider careers in public service. Key features of the program include an annual lecture focusing on a major issue or issues of national and/or international concern, public service internships for Howard University students in selected government offices and private voluntary organizations, and visiting scholars.


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May 2000