|7th United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare|
May 16, 1968 - January 20, 1969
|President||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|John W. Gardner|
Wilbur Joseph Cohen
June 10, 1913
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||May 17, 1987 (aged 73)|
Seoul, South Korea
|Spouse(s)||Eloise Bittel (1938-present)|
|Education||University of Wisconsin, Madison (BA)|
Wilbur Joseph Cohen (June 10, 1913 – May 17, 1987) was an American social scientist and civil servant. He was one of the key architects in the creation and expansion of the American welfare state and was involved in the creation of both the New Deal and Great Society programs.
Cohen was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Bessie (née Rubenstein) and Aaron Cohen. He was known to by several nicknames. He was once dubbed "The Man Who Built Medicare" and John F. Kennedy tagged him "Mr. Social Security", although it was Frances Perkins, the first woman Secretary of Labor (under FDR), who was the architect of social security. The New York Times called him "one of the country's foremost technicians in public welfare." Time portrayed him as a man of "boundless energy, infectious enthusiasm, and a drive for action." He was a leading expert on Social Security and a member of Americans for Democratic Action.
On April 8, 1938, Cohen married Eloise Bittel. They had three sons: Christopher, Bruce and Stuart.
He was Director of the Bureau of Research and Statistics in charge of program development and legislative coordination with Congress for the Social Security Board (SSB), which was renamed the Social Security Administration in 1946.
President Lyndon B. Johnson elevated him to Under Secretary in 1965, and he served as the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from May 1968 to the end of Johnson's term, following the resignation of John W. Gardner. With a tenure of 249 days, Cohen became the shortest-ever secretary of that department, as the office was succeeded by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1980. Cohen also served a shorter tenure than any Secretary of Health and Human Services did, until 2017, when Tom Price, the first Secretary of Health and Human Services of the Trump administration, resigned after just 231 days, setting a new record for the shortest tenure.
In 1969, Cohen retired at the end of a Johnson's administration. In 1970, Cohen served as the president of the American Public Welfare Association (renamed the American Public Human Services Association in 1997). In 1971, Cohen was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board. In 1980 Cohen became a Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Cohen was a professor of Public Welfare Administration and lived for many years, established the Wilbur J. Cohen Collegiate Professor of Social Work professorship in his honor.
Cohen in the early days of Social Security with Maurine Mulliner, who was the Executive Secretary of the Social Security Board in 1935.
The Wilbur J. Cohen Building at the current US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.
John W. Gardner
| United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
May 16, 1968 – January 20, 1969
Robert H. Finch