Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack swore in Dr. Joe Leonard, Jr., as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights on April 6, 2009. Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 2, 2009, Assistant Secretary Leonard has a strong academic, legislative and working history in civil rights.
Assistant Secretary Leonard is a native of Austin, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in American history with a specialization in civil rights history from Howard University, Washington, DC; an M.A. degree from Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA; and a B.A. degree from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX.
Before joining USDA, Assistant Secretary Leonard served as Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) under the leadership of Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI)). While at the CBC, Leonard managed the daily activities of the Caucus and helped guide the legislative policy for its 43 congressional members.
Prior to his role at the CBC, Assistant Secretary Leonard served as the Executive Director of the Black Leadership Forum, an umbrella organization of 32 member groups that together work to develop and implement progressive public policies for social change. He has also served as the Washington, DC Bureau Chief of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Director of the Arthur Fleming Institute of the Center for Policy Alternatives.
Assistant Secretary Leonard and his wife, Dr. Natasha Cole-Leonard are proud parents of a 8-year-old son, Cole.