Anthony J. Celebrezze: Italian of the Week

220px-CelebrezOn September 4, 1910, Anthony J. Celebrezze was born in Anzi, Italy. When he was two years old, he and his family moved to the United States and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. When he was a teenager, Anthony began to work on a railroad. He decided to continue his education and attended John Carroll University and Ohio Northern University, graduating with his law degree in 1936. He passed the Ohio bar the same year and joined the Ohio Unemployment Commission shortly after that. When World War II erupted, Anthony served in the United States Navy.

After the war ended, Anthony returned to Ohio and to a life of public service. In 1950, he ran for an Ohio Senate seat and won. Even though he won reelection in 1952, he decided to resign his seat. It was then that he decided his hometown of Cleveland needed him most. He successfully campaigned for mayor of the city and served until 1962.

JFKWHP-ST-318-1-62It was in 1962 that Anthony made history. President John F. Kennedy asked him to join his cabinet and appointed Anthony as the United States Secretary for Health, Education, and Welfare. He became the first Italian American to serve in a presidential cabinet. During his tenure, Anthony helped establish and create the Medicare Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Clean Air Act, and the Head Start program.  He continued to serve in this post until 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Anthony to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Judge Celebrezze served until his death on October 29, 1998.

Sources: Ohio History Connection, Ohio Northern University College of Law, The New York Times

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