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Oveta Culp Hobby

War has often times been described as a disease. There are many medications which can cure diseases, but immunizations help prevent diseases. For example, untold millions of people were spared from contracting polio by being immunized with Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine. The person who decided to legalize this vaccine was Oveta Culp Hobby, Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Appointed by President Eisenhower, she was the first secretary of this newly formed department and served as the only woman in the cabinet at that time, 1953-55.

A decade earlier, Mrs. Hobby became the Director of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps which transitioned into the Women’s Army Corps. When WWII infected the nation, the WAC inserted women into the nation’s armed forces during a time when they were most needed to fill non-combative jobs, infusing the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines with new concepts of equality and citizenship. An engraving in the WWII Memorial in Washington DC quotes Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby, “Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women… This was a peoples’ war, and everyone was in it.” In 1945, Colonel Hobby was the first woman to receive the US Army Distinguished Service Medal.

Pictures of Mrs. Hobby show a woman who looked sturdy, intelligent, self-confident and extremely competent. Her smile, whether broad and endearing or slight and composed, lends one to believe she had a wonderful sense of humor. Posed and well-dressed as a civilian as well as in uniform, her prettiness matured into classic beauty as she aged. She graced the cover of Time Magazine twice; in 1944 as “WAC’s Colonel Hobby” and again in 1953 as “Mrs. Secretary Hobby”.

Born Jan. 19, 1905 in Kileen, Texas to Isaac William Culp and Emma Hoover Culp, Oveta earned her undergraduate from Mary Hardin-Baylor College, Belton, TX and her law degree at University of Texas Law School (1927). She was also honored with a doctoral degree from the University of Houston in 1984. Beginning in 1925, she was the Assistant City Attorney of Houston and the Parliamentarian of Texas House of Representatives (1925-31 and 1939-41).

William Pettus Hobby (March 6, 1878 – June 7, 1964) was the youngest governor in the history of Texas. He served as Lt. Governor from 1914 until he took over after James Edward Ferguson was removed from office. As the 27th governor, he ran against and defeated Ferguson again in 1918. In 1931, he married Oveta Culp. Together, they ran the Houston Post (as well as the KPRC radio station and KPRC-TV television station) until his death and then she continued as director and chairman until the paper was sold to the Toronto Sun Publishing in 1985. They had two children: William Pettus Hobby, Jr. (Lt. Governor of Texas from 1973 – 91) and Jessica Hobby Catto.

Mrs. Hobby authored four books. Mr. Chairman – Rules and examples in story form of parliamentary procedures written expressly for use in schools and clubs was published in 1937 by the Eonomy Company (ASIN B000863IHB). Around the World in 13 Days with Oveta Culp Hobby was self-published in 1947 (ASIN B0007HXBBO). Infant Care – Children’s Bureau Publication, 1951 (ASIN B0012VRKUY) and Letter to State and Territorial Governors Offering Resources of US Department of Health Education and Welfare to help States develop action programs for the White House Conference on Education 1954 (ASIN B0007G15MY) were both published by the US Department of Health Education and Welfare.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Hobby has served on several boards: Texas State Teachers College, Federal Security Agency (which later became the Dept. of Health Education and Welfare), American Association of Newspaper Editors, Texas Newspaper Publishers Association, and the Texas Medical Center. She also has three locations named in her honor: a residence dormitory at Texas A&M University, an elementary school in Ft. Hood, and a library at the Central Texas College.

Mrs. Hobby suffered a stroke and passed away August 16, 1995 and is buried at the Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.

Oveta Culp Hobby was a boost to the nation as the first Director of the Women’s’ Army Corps and as the first woman to receive the US Army’s Distinguished Service Medal, and as the first Secretary of the Dept. of Health Education and Welfare.

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