Few people know that for eight years Richard Nixon presided over the first federal program using the leverage of government contracts to open jobs for minority workers. In 1953, President Eisenhower, acting on the advice of a task force in the Truman administration, issued an Executive Order declaring that all government contractors must not "discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin" and that all subcontracts must contain the same provision.
The committee created to implement this pronouncement was chaired by the Vice President. Other members included Attorney General William Rogers, Secretary of Labor James Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas Pike, George Meany, Walter Reuther, President James Nabrit, Jr., of Howard University, and other government officials and prominent interested citizens. The key staff members were the people who had drawn up the nondiscrimination plan under President Truman. I was employed as executive vice chairman in 1956 and 1957.
The diverse interests of the committee members proved somewhat contentious, but as chairman Richard Nixon gave a fair hearing to every voice and permitted no one to dominate the discussion. Having always done his homework, his leadership was surefooted.
Because the committee's work was fervently opposed in some quarters, I was advised to hire a secretary in whom...