The Honorable Hazel R. O’Leary was the first black person and first woman to serve as the Secretary of Energy. Under President Jimmy Carter, O’Leary was named to help lead a regulatory division of the newly created Department of Energy. President Bill Clinton announced his intention to nominate O’Leary in 1992 and in January 1993, her nomination was swiftly approved. With strong GOP opposition to the new department, O’Leary had the daunting task of managing the government agency with limited resources yet still excelled.
One of O’Leary’s biggest accomplishments was declassifying Cold War documents that revealed the government performed radiation experiments on human subjects. She also pushed for nuclear testing regulation and helped reveal some of the abuses made by major nuclear power plants and the dangers they posed to the environment. She resigned in 1997 after false allegations of misconduct and returned to her alma matter to become president.
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