The first and only woman to hold the position of U.S. Secretary of Energy, Hazel Rollins Reid was born May 17, 1937 in Newport News, Virginia. During this time of public school segregation, Reid’s parents, hoping for better schooling opportunities, sent their daughter to live with an aunt in New Jersey. There Reid attended a school for artistically gifted students.
Reid entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1955 and graduated with honors four years later. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society at Fisk. Seven years later she received a law degree from Rutgers University and soon became an attorney in the New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office.
By the early 1970s Reid moved to Washington, D.C., where she became a partner at Coopers and Lybrand, an accounting firm. Soon she joined the Gerald Ford Administration as general counsel to the Community Services Administration which administered most of the federal government’s anti-poverty programs. President Ford later appointed Reid director of the Federal Energy Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs. In this position she became well known as a representative of the concerns of consumers who challenged the power and influence of the major energy producers.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Reid to head the Department of Energy’s Economic Regulatory Administration. Her agency included more than 2,000 employees who enforced price controls on numerous forms of energy. At this time she successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Fuel Use Act, which decreased the demand for natural gas and developed conservation programs that assisted low-income residents.
While working for the Carter Administration, Reid met her future husband, John F. O’Leary, who was at the time the nation’s deputy energy secretary. The two married in 1980 and together left the department to establish and manage their own energy-consulting firm, O’Leary Associates.
In 1989, following the death of her husband, Hazel O’Leary went to work for Northern