About Ray LaHood
LaHood in Brief
Ray LaHood is of Lebanese ancestry; his grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to Peoria, Illinois, in 1895. Born on December 6, 1945, LaHood’s parents, Ed and Mary, ran a working-class restaurant and tavern on Southwest Jefferson Street in Peoria. They raised three sons—Mike, Ray, and Steve. Part of a deeply religious family with strong ties to St. Bernard’s Parish, the LaHood boys grew up in the blue-collar East Bluff neighborhood where Ray attended St. Bernard's Grade School.
Following graduation from Spalding Institute, Ray worked his way through Canton Junior College (now Spoon River College), transferred to Bradley University, and graduated with a B.S. degree in education and sociology in 1971. He met his future wife, Kathy Dunk, at Bradley.
After graduation, Ray taught social studies to junior high school students in Pekin and Peoria for six years. It was during this time that Ray developed his passion for politics and public service. In 1972, at age 26, Ray moved his family to Rock Island to take a position as director for the Bi-State Planning Commission and then as chief planner for the Rock Island Youth Services Bureau.
In 1977, LaHood accepted a position as district administrative assistant to Congressman Tom Railsback, a Republican from Moline, leaving after Railsback lost a primary race in March 1982. Ray was appointed to the Illinois House of Representatives that year and served in this seat through the fall election—he came up short in his effort to be retained to the General Assembly.
Following his service in the State House, Ray and his family moved back to Peoria as LaHood joined the staff of U.S. House Minority Leader Robert Michel. Ray ran Michel's district offices and then, in 1990, became chief of staff, overseeing operations both on Capitol Hill and in Illinois.
When Michel announced his retirement in 1993, Ray decided to run for election to the 18th congressional district seat. After surviving a three-way Republican primary, LaHood won the general election during the historic election of November 8, 1994, which gave Republicans a majority in Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Serving in the U.S. House of Representatives
Ray LaHood gained national prominence during his 14 years in Congress. The nationally-respected publication Congressional Quarterly named him as one of 11 “freshmen to watch” during his first term, 1995-1996. As a testament to his parliamentary knowledge and even-handedness in conducting House proceedings, Ray was selected to chair the historic debate over the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in December 1998. LaHood also became known for his efforts to establish a higher level of civility, decorum, and bipartisanship in the House as a cosponsor of four “civility retreats.”
His committee assignments included the House Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Appropriations Committee.
The U.S. Department of Transportation
Ray LaHood became the 16th Secretary of Transportation on January 23, 2009. In nominating him, President-elect Obama said, “Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation.”
As Secretary, LaHood led an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget that oversaw air, maritime, and surface transportation missions.
On January 29, 2013, LaHood announced his decision to leave the Cabinet:
I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.
In thanking Ray for his service, the president said: “Years ago, we were drawn together by a shared belief that those of us in public service owe an allegiance not to party or faction, but to the people we were elected to represent. And Ray has never wavered in that belief.”
LaHood left the department in July 2013.
After the Department of Transportation
Ray LaHood currently serves as Senior Adviser to The Dirksen Congressional Center. Among his other positions, he co-chairs Building America’s Future founded in 2008 to push for improvements in the nation’s infrastructure. In January 2014, LaHood joined DLA Piper, a global business law firm, as a senior policy advisor in the firm’s D.C. and Chicago offices.
Ray and Kathy have four children—Darin, Amy, Sam, Sara—and are the proud grandparents of nine grandchildren.
Updated: June 18, 2014
About Ray LaHood
Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics
“It has been a tremendous honor and an unsurpassed personal privilege to serve in President Obama’s Cabinet as Secretary of Transportation. The story of my four-and-half years there will remind us of the challenges President Obama’s faced and why success has been mixed. In addition to reflecting on my time in the president’s Cabinet, this account will illuminate four historical events from my time in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Ray LaHood, September 2014
The first landmark is LaHood’s 1995 entry into Congress with the freshman class of the “Gingrich Revolution.” LaHood was notably one of only three Republicans not to sign Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.”
“I led efforts in the House to understand the causes of, and identify remedies for, the incivility in debate and personal conduct that have soured Americans on Congress,” LaHood said of the second milestone. “The coarseness in our politics continues to thwart our ability to overcome the public policy challenges that confront us today.”
LaHood also presided over the House during debate over the four articles of impeachment brought against President Bill Clinton—the third defining episode of his congressional career. The book will detail the events leading up to LaHood’s selection and the turmoil surrounding the collapse of the House Republican leadership in that period.
The fourth event discussed sheds light on LaHood’s service related to 9/11; he was on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, and the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. Although much of that story remains classified, LaHood’s book will include a treatment of his role in Congress’s investigation of the tragedy.
Frank H. Mackaman, who directs The Center’s work, will assist in the research and writing of the book. Mackaman, who holds a PhD in American History, has authored or edited several books and articles about Congress and the presidency. The most notable is Understanding Congressional Leadership published by Congressional Quarterly Press. Mackaman has taught courses on both subjects at the University of Michigan and Bradley University. A past director of the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum, he currently serves on the executive committee of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress.
About Ray LaHood
An Evening with Ray LaHood and Judy Woodruff
WTVP welcomes Judy Woodruff, co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour, for a special program taping as she interviews the Honorable Ray LaHood about his forthcoming memoir, Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics.
About Ray LaHood
Interview with Ray LaHood, Seeking Bi-Partisanship: My Life in Politics, November 23, 2015
Published on Nov 24, 2015
The Honorable Ray LaHood, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation (2009-2013) and U.S. Congressman (IL-18) (1994-2009) visited Eureka College November 23, 2015 to discuss his memoir, Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics, co-authored with Frank Mackaman of the Dirksen Congressional Leadership Research Center.
In this video, Secretary LaHood answered questions from John D. Morris, director of the Ronald W. Reagan Society of Eureka College for an hour long interview with audience questions. The event was held in the Melick Library on the campus of Eureka College.
Of note, while a member of congress, LaHood represented the district that includes Eureka College. He received an honorary doctorate from the college in 2002 when he served as commencement speaker. He was also the speaker at the Reagan Memorial ceremony at the Reagan Peace Garden following President Reagan's death in 2004.
Amazon book: http://goo.gl/S4csW8
About Ray LaHood
Ray LaHood on his Memoir, Seeking Bipartisanship
Ray LaHood talked about his book Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics, in which he chronicles his career in in Congress and his role in President Obama’s cabinet. He also spoke about partisanship in politics.
C-SPAN interview, December 11, 2015