Alexis Herman

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Alexis Herman
Alexis osec.jpg
23rd United States Secretary of Labor
In office
May 1, 1997 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Robert Reich
Succeeded by Elaine Chao
Director of the Office of Public Liaison
In office
January 20, 1993 – February 7, 1997
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Cecile Kremer
Succeeded by Maria Echaveste
Director of the Women's Bureau
In office
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Carmen Rosa Maymi
Succeeded by Lenora Cole Alexander
Personal details
Born Alexis Margaret Herman
(1947-07-16) July 16, 1947 (age 70)
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Charles Franklin
Education Edgewood College
Spring Hill College
Xavier University, Louisiana (BA)

Alexis Margaret Herman (born July 16, 1947) is an American politician who served as the 23rd U.S. Secretary of Labor, serving under President Bill Clinton. Herman was the first African-American to hold the position. Prior to serving as Secretary, she was Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Herman grew-up in Mobile, Alabama. After college, Herman worked to improve employment opportunities for black laborers and women. She then joined the Carter administration, working in the Labor Department's Women's Bureau. She became active in Democratic politics, working in the campaigns of Jesse Jackson and then serving as chief of staff for the Democratic National Committee under Ronald H. Brown. Upon the election of Bill Clinton, she joined his administration.

Following the defeat of Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential Election, Herman remained active in democratic politics. She also became active in the corporate world, serving on the board of corporations such as Coco-cola and Toyota.

Early life and education

Herman was born on July 16, 1947 in Mobile, Alabama, the daughter of politician Alex Herman and schoolteacher Gloria Caponis.[1] Her father became Alabama's first black ward leader.[2] Alexis later recounted how members of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan assaulted her father when she was five years old.[3][4] When Herman was growing up in Mobile, schools were still racially segregated.[5] Her parents opted to send Alexis to parochial school in part because the teachers at the parochial schools included white nuns and priests, and thus would expose Alexis to greater diversity.[5] Alexis was also raised in a catholic household.[5]

Herman attended the Heart of Mary High School.[2] As a sophomore, Herman was briefly suspended for questioning the diocese's exclusion of black students from religious pageants in which white students competed.[2] After graduating high school, Herman attended Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and Spring Hill College in Mobile.[6][7] Herman transferred to Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she became an active member of the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority[8] and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1969.[9]


After college, returned to Mobile to help desegregate the parochial schools of Mobile, including her old high school.[10][2] Herman then worked for Catholic Charities in Pascagoula, Mississpi, where she advocated for a shipyard to train unskilled black laborers.[5] After Pascagoula, Herman moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she worked as a director of the Southern Regional Council's Black Women's Employment Program, a program designed to promote minority women into managerial or technical jobs.[2] Jimmy Carter met the young Herman while campaigning in Atlanta, Georgia and, after winning the White House in 1977, asked her to be Director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau. At age 29, she was the youngest person to ever serve in that position.[11]

In 1981, Herman left her job in the Labor Department and founded her own consulting firm - A.M. Herman & Associates.[2] The firm focused on helping corporations develop training programs.[2] She served as president of the company while remaining active in Democratic politics.[citation needed] Herman managed the convention team for Jesse Jackson in his 1984 and 1988 bids for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.[2] Her role working for Jackson's campaign led to Herman serving as chief of staff to Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown and later vice chair of the 1992 Democratic National Convention.[12][2]

After Bill Clinton's victory in the 1992 Presidential election, Herman became deputy director of the Presidential Transition Office.[13] She was later appointed director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, where she was responsible for the administration's relations with interest groups. In that role, Herman repeatedly organized informal dinners to subtly sell White House initiatives or assuage key groups.[14] As director, Herman made arrangements for public and private grieving following the death of Commerce Secretary, and Herman's former boss at the Democratic National Committee, Ronald Brown in a plane crash.[12]

Secretary of Labor

In December 1996, Bill Clinton announced his intention to nominate Herman as Secretary of Labor to replace outgoing Secretary Robert Reich.[10][12] Her nomination was initially opposed by Congressional Republicans.[citation needed] Labor unions publicly supported the nomination, although unions had mostly supported other potential nominees.[12] Herman's confirmation was delayed twice: first because of questions regarding Herman's role in organizing White House coffees Clinton used as fundraisers, then because of business opposition to a proposed executive order which Clinton eventually scrapped.[15] On April 30, 1997, the Senate voted to confirm by a vote of 85-13.[16] Herman was sworn in on May 9, 1997.[17] She became the first African American to and the fifth woman to serve in the position.[17][18] At the time of Herman's tenure, the Department of Labor employed 17,000 people and operated on a $39 billion annual budget.[19]

Herman's official U.S. Department of Labor portrait.

Herman he earned praise from her peers for her handling of the 1997 United Parcel Service (UPS) workers strike, the largest strike in the United States in two decades.[17][14] After the strike began in August, Herman met privately with the Teamsters President and the UPS Chairman to frame the issues. She was instrumental in talks, serving as a mediator.[14] The strike settled after fifteen days.[14]

Herman came under investigation for allegedly accepting kickbacks while working at the White House. She was the 5th cabinet officer be investigated by independent counsel. In 2000 the independent counsel concluded that Herman had broken no laws and cleared her of all wrongdoing.[20] She was also mentioned in connection with the Commerce Department trade mission controversy.[citation needed] Herman was active in Al Gore's 2000 campaign for President.[21] During the Florida election recount, Herman was part of team planning a transition to a Gore Administration, and ABC News and The New York Times considered her a likely candidate to remain in Gore's White House if he won.[22][21] She was replaced as Secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration by Elaine Chao.


Thomas Perez and Alexis Herman participate in round table discussion of the U.S. Department of Labor's 2012 findings on Forced Labor and Human Trafficking, September 30, 2013

Herman served as co-chair of Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry's transition team during the 2004 presidential election.[23] As of 2008, she served as the co-chairperson (with James Roosevelt, Jr.) of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee.[24][25][26] Herman has also served on the boards of several major companies, including The Coca-Cola Company's Human Resources Task Force, Toyota's Diversity Advisory Board,[27] Cummins,[28] MGM Resorts International,[28] Entergy, Sodexo, and Prudential[citation needed] and is the chairman and CEO of New Ventures, Inc.[28]

Personal life

Herman was Queen of Carnival for the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (Mobile's African-American Mardi Gras umbrella organization) in 1974.[29][30][31] Her father had served as King of Carnival in his youth.[30]

Herman married physician Charles Franklin Jr. in February 2000.[32] President Clinton attended the ceremony.[33] Franklin had three children from previous marriages. Franklin died in 2014 following an extended illness.[34]

See also


  1. ^ Simmonds, Yussuf (May 29, 2008). "Alexis M. Herman - Los Angeles Sentinel". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved December 21, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Smothers, Ronald (December 21, 1996). "Alexis Herman: Social-Worker Roots and Political Experience". Retrieved January 13, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Cabinet Secretary Alexis Herman". March 15, 2007. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Alexis Herman recalls her father's beating by the KKK". USA TODAY. September 21, 2017. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d Wines, Michael (May 12, 1997). "Alexis Herman: Friends Helped Labor Nominee Move Up, Then Almost Brought Her Down". Retrieved January 15, 2018. 
  6. ^ Henry, Diana (Fall 2016). "Edgewood College Magazine". issuu. p. 7. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  7. ^ Bracks, Lean'tin (February 1, 2012). African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 9781578593804. 
  8. ^ "Notable Deltas". Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Archived from the original on January 20, 2010.  Retrieved December 12, 2007.
  9. ^ "Hall of Secretaries: Alexis M. Herman". United States Department of Labor. December 9, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b Lacey, Marc; Silverstein, Stuart (December 21, 1996). "Herman: A Power Behind the Throne". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved December 23, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Women in Government: A Slim Past, But a Strong Future". Ebony: 89–92, 96–98. August 1977. 
  12. ^ a b c d Merida, Kevin; Swoboda, Frank (December 21, 1996). " After Pitched Battle, Herman Wins Out". Retrieved December 23, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Clinton Presidential Transition, Dec 7 1992 | Video |". December 7, 1992. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c d Merida, Kevin (August 20, 1997). " For Alexis Herman, a Proving Ground". Retrieved December 27, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Herman Sworn in as Labor Secretary". Washington Post. May 10, 1997. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 23, 2017. 
  16. ^ Harris, John F.; Swoboda, Frank (May 1, 1997). " Herman Confirmed for Cabinet After Concession by President". Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c " Politics -- The Administration, Alexis M. Herman". 1998. Retrieved 2017-12-24. 
  18. ^ "Alexis M. Herman". Retrieved December 23, 2017. 
  19. ^ Mustard, David B. (2003). Racial Justice in America: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 124. ISBN 9781576072141. 
  20. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (April 6, 2000). "Labor Secretary Is Cleared in Inquiry on Kickbacks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 27, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b Seelye, Katharine Q.; Broder, John M. (November 23, 2000). "COUNTING THE VOTE: THE VICE PRESIDENT; Gore Has Decided to Start Engines of His Transition". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  22. ^ ABC News (December 3, 2000). "Bush Meets Congressional Leaders". ABC News. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  23. ^ Fournier, Ron (October 21, 2004). "Kerry maps postelection plan - The Boston Globe". Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Who's Who on the Rules and Bylaws Committee". Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  25. ^ MyDD: Vote Counting the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee Archived 2008-06-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ It's decision day for Democrats Archived May 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ "Workplace Diversity, Inclusion & Recognition". Toyota USA. Retrieved January 13, 2018. 
  28. ^ a b c "Alexis M. Herman: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg". Retrieved January 13, 2018. 
  29. ^ "". Archived from the original on February 24, 2014. Retrieved January 21, 2017. 
  30. ^ a b Hoffman, Roy (February 19, 2012). "MAMGA queen 1940 looks back at age 90 on the elegance and festivity of first black Mardi Gras". Retrieved January 16, 2018. 
  31. ^ Hoffman, Roy (January 19, 2010). "JaMarcus Russell to be crowned King Elexis I by Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association". Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  32. ^ Grove, Lloyd (February 15, 2000). "The Reliable Source". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 23, 2017. 
  33. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (February 2001). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  34. ^ "CHARLES L. FRANKLIN Jr.'s Obituary on The Washington Post". June 6, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2017. 

External links

  • U.S. Department of Labor Biography
  • Private Attorney Chosen To Investigate Alexis Herman, CNN, AllPolitics, May 26, 1998
  • Clinton questioned in Alexis Herman investigation, CNN, September 8, 1999
  • Jonathan Karl on the possible 'sleeper case' in the election dispute, CNN, December 3, 2000
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
Political offices
Preceded by
Cecile Kremer
Director of the Office of Public Liaison
Succeeded by
Maria Echaveste
Preceded by
Robert Reich
United States Secretary of Labor
Succeeded by
Elaine Chao
Retrieved from ""
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