JFKWHP-KN-20337 (crop): Meeting of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (Pictured Center: Special Assistant to the President for Civil Rights Harris Wofford), 2 March 1962

Harris Wofford, Special Assistant to President Kennedy, served principally as Coordinator of Federal Civil Rights Policy for the White House. He organized and headed the subcabinet group on civil rights, designed to promote civil rights action by federal agencies and departments, to survey and encourage progress in minority hiring and promotion, and to coordinate interdepartmental cooperation on civil rights issues. Mr. Wofford was largely responsible for John F. Kennedy’s highly publicized call to Coretta Scott King after her husband was arrested and jailed on trumped up charges during civil rights demonstrations in 1960. Despite initial protests from campaign manager Robert Kennedy, the call turned out to be crucial in winning the vote of African Americans in an extremely close election.

In 1962, Mr. Wofford left the White House to relocate to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in order to oversee African operations of the Peace Corps and to head its Ethiopian program. Mr. Wofford returned to the United States in 1964 to serve as Associate Director of the Peace Corps. In 1965, he joined Martin Luther King, Jr. for the historic voting rights protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

1926 Born, New York, New York

1944-1945 Aviation trainee, U.S. Army Air Force

1948 B.A., University of Chicago

1949 Study Fellow, India

1950 Study Fellow, Israel

1953-1954 Assistant to U.S. Ambassador Chester Bowles

1954-1958 Law Associate, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C.

1954 L.L.B., Yale University

1954 J.D., Howard University

1958-1959 Legal Assistant, Commission on Civil Rights

1959-1960 Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

1960-1962 Legal Assistant to John F. Kennedy

1962-1964 Special Representative for Africa and Director of Ethiopian Program, U.S. Peace Corps, Washington, D.C.

1964-1966 Associate Director, Peace Corps

1967-1970 President, State University of New York College at Old Westbury

1970-1978 President, Bryn Mawr College

1978- Counsel, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis

1992 United States Senator from Pennsylvania


It’s Up to Us: Federal World Government in Our Time, 1946.
Road to the World Republic: Policy and Strategy for Federalists, 1948.
India Afire (with wife, Clare Wofford), 1951.
Report of the U.C. Commission on Civil Rights (co-editor), 1959.
Embers of the World: Conversations with Scott Buchanan (editor), 1970.
Of Kennedys and Kings: Making Sense of the Sixties, 1980.


Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2004.