About Oveta Hobby (Culp)
Oveta Culp Hobby (January 19, 1905 – August 16, 1995) was the first secretary of the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, first commanding officer of the Women's Army Corps, and chairperson of the board of the Houston Post.
Early life and war service
She was born Oveta Culp in Killeen, Texas to Isaac William Culp and Emma Elizabeth Hoover. An autodidact, she briefly attended Mary Hardin Baylor College for Women, but did not graduate. She later attended the South Texas School of Law but did not graduate and never passed the bar examination. Beginning at age 21 and for the next several years she served as parliamentarian of the Texas House of Representatives. In 1931 she married William P. Hobby, the former Governor of Texas and the publisher of the Houston Post, and took a position as research editor at the Post. In ensuing years she became the newspaper's executive vice president, president, ultimately becoming its publisher.
During World War II she headed the War Department's Women's Interest Section for a short time and then became the Director of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps), which was created to fill gaps left by a shortage of men. The members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to be in Army uniform. Hobby achieved the rank of colonel and received the Distinguished Service Medal for efforts during the war. She was the first woman in the Army to receive this award.
Political career and later life
President Dwight D. Eisenhower named her head of the Federal Security Agency, a non-cabinet post, and she was invited to sit in on cabinet meetings. Soon, on April 11, 1953, she became the first secretary, and first female secretary, of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which later became the Department of Health and Human Services. This was her second time organizing a new government agency. Among other decisions and actions at HEW, she made the decision to approve Jonas Salk's polio vaccine.
She resigned her post in 1955 to return to Houston to care for her ailing husband. At the time of her resignation she was embroiled in controversies related to the polio vaccine Cutter Incident. Back in Houston, Hobby resumed her position with the Houston Post as president and editor and cared for her husband. She went on to serve on many boards and advisory positions with various civic and business institutions around the country. Seventeen colleges and universities, including Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania awarded her with honorary doctoral degrees. She died of a stroke in 1995, in Houston, and was buried at Glenwood Cemetery.
Her son William P. Hobby, Jr., served as Lieutenant Governor of Texas from 1973 to 1991. Her daughter Jessica was married to Henry E. Catto, Jr., the former United States Ambassador to Great Britain and was an activist for environmental causes and for the Democratic Party. Hobby’s grandson Paul Hobby narrowly lost the election for comptroller of Texas to Carole Strayhorn in the 1998 general election.
The library at Central Texas College is named after her.
A residence dormitory at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas is named after her.
The Oveta Culp Hobby Soldier & Family Readiness Center at Fort Hood, Texas is named for her.
An elementary school in Killeen, Texas (Killeen ISD) is named after her.
The U.S. Post Office issued an 84-cent stamp in her honor in 2011.