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Hazel Reid O'Leary (born May 17, 1937) was the seventh United States Secretary of Energy, from 1993 to 1997. As of 2009 she is the first and only woman and first and only African American to hold the position.

Early life and education

Born Hazel Reid in Newport News, Virginiamarker, she was the daughter of doctors Russell E. and Hazel Reid. Her sisters are Edna Reid and Marina Morse; they also had brothers Louis and William Morse.

After earning a bachelor's degree at Fisk University in Nashvillemarker, O'Leary earned her law degree from Rutgers School of Law—Newark.

Marriage and family

Reid married John F. O'Leary on April 24, 1980. He was the former Deputy Energy Secretary and died in 1987. They had a son Carl together.


O'Leary worked as a prosecutor in New Jerseymarker and was later a partner in the consulting/accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrandmarker. During the Carter Administration, O'Leary was appointed assistant administrator of the Federal Energy Administration, general counsel of the Community Services Administration, and administrator of the Economic Regulatory Administration at the newly created Department of Energy.

In 1981, O'Leary and her husband established the consulting firm of O'Leary & Associates, where she served as vice president and general counsel. From 1989 to 1993, she worked as an executive vice president of the Northern States Power Company.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated O'Leary as Secretary of Energy.

In 2004, O'Leary was selected as President of her undergraduate alma mater, the historically black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennesseemarker.

Declassification of U.S. human radiation experiments

She won early plaudits for declassifying Cold War-era records showing that the U.S. Government had used American citizens as guinea pigs in human radiation experiments. This effort was in response to President Clinton's Executive Order 12891, which created the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE).

Political controversy

During O'Leary's term as Secretary of Energy, she was accused of traveling too frequently and spending lavishly on her accommodations. She apologized to Congressional committees in 1996 for spending which exceeded limits on the funds appropriated for travel, and resigned in January 1997.

Democratic political donor Johnny Chung claimed that O'Leary met with Chinese oil officials after Chung had given $25,000 to O'Leary's favorite charity Africare. FBImarker director Louis Freeh urged an independent investigation of the circumstances. Attorney General Janet Reno determined there was "no evidence" of wrongdoing by O'Leary .

In the black

O'Leary has led a major fundraising effort at Fisk University that has brought the school into the black after years of financial difficulties. She has helped the university recapture its place in competing for top students and financial support, and has attracted outstanding faculty.


  • Soylent Communications, "Hazel O'Leary" [23529]
  • "Panel Issues Subpoenas In Fund-Raiser Review", NY Times, August 25, 1997 [23530]
  • Bio from Daily Press, STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS, July 14, 2004.

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