Ed Derwinski
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Ed Derwinski
Ed Derwinski
Ed derwinski.jpg
1st United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs

March 15, 1989 - September 26, 1992
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Position established
Jesse Brown
Administrator of Veterans Affairs

January 21, 1989 - March 15, 1989
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Thomas Turnage
Position abolished
Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs

March 24, 1987 - January 21, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
William Schneider
Reginald Bartholomew
Counselor of the United States Department of State

March 23, 1983 - March 24, 1987
PresidentRonald Reagan
James Buckley
Max Kampelman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 4th district

January 3, 1959 - January 3, 1983
William McVey
George O'Brien
Personal details
Edward Joseph Derwinski

(1926-09-15)September 15, 1926
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Oak Brook, Illinois, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Patricia van der Giessen
Bonnie Hickey
EducationLoyola University, Chicago (BS)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1944-1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

Edward Joseph Derwinski (September 15, 1926 - January 15, 2012) was an American politician who served as the first Cabinet-level United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, serving under President George H. W. Bush from March 15, 1989 to September 26, 1992. He previously served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1959 to 1983, representing south and southwest suburbs of Chicago.

Early life

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 15, 1926, to Sophia Zmijewski and Casimir Ignatius Derwinski, who died in 1947. Derwinski attended Loyola University of Chicago. Derwinski served in the United States Army in the Pacific Theater during World War II and in the postwar U.S. occupation of Japan. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 1951. He was a celebrated member of Alpha Delta Gamma National Fraternity.

Member of the House of Representatives

In 1957, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where he served one term before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958. He served 12 terms as a Republican representative from the 4th District of Illinois, a suburban region south and west of Chicago, eventually becoming ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. He also served as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly 1971-1972 and as chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Interparliamentary Union from 1970-1972 and 1978-1980.

First Secretary of Veterans Affairs

A Democratic redistricting plan after the 1980 Census carved up the 4th District, with only about 15% of its territory being retained and added to various territory from other districts; Derwinski and fellow Republican congressman George M. O'Brien were placed in the same district, and O'Brien won the 1982 primary on the strength of having more of his previous district included in the new configuration. After Derwinski's loss, President Ronald Reagan appointed him Counselor to the State Department. In 1987, Reagan appointed him Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology, where he served until the end of Reagan's term, shortly after which he was appointed Administrator of Veterans Affairs, in charge of the Veterans Administration, which was elevated to cabinet-level status as the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989, making Derwinski the first Secretary of Veterans Affairs.[1]


A Polish American, Derwinski was noted for his efforts on behalf of Eastern Europe throughout his career. Notably, he aided in the rehabilitation of the Serbian Royalist general Dra?a Mihailovi?. Mihailovi? had received the Legion of Merit for his resistance efforts against the Axis—but this information was marked "secret" at the behest of the State Department so as not to harm relations with Marshal Tito, the current ruler of Yugoslavia in 1967. Tito was Mihailovi?'s rival in World War II, and after Tito's forces emerged triumphant, Mihailovi? was accused of collaboration with the Nazis and executed. At the urging of airmen involved in Operation Halyard who had been saved by Mihailovi?'s forces and had heard rumors of the award to him, Derwinski insisted that the State Department make the text of President Truman's citation public, confirming that Mihailovi? had not collaborated.[2] Derwinski served as head of "Ethnic Americans for Dole/Kemp" during the 1996 presidential election.


Derwinski resided in Glen Ellyn, Illinois with his wife, the former Bonita Hickey, known as Bonnie. He had two adult children, Maureen and Michael, from his first marriage to Patricia Derwinski.

On January 15, 2012, Derwinski died at a nursing home from Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer. He was 85 years old.[3] Derwinski was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

On learning of his death, former United States Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) described Derwinski as "a giant in Illinois politics ... [H]e had incredible connections in all the different ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago, he was really loved by everybody on both sides".


  1. ^ "Edward J. Derwinski, first secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, dies". The Washington Post. January 18, 2012.
  2. ^ Freeman, Gregory A. (September 2007). The Forgotten 500. 80 Strand, London: Penguin Books. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-451-22212-1.CS1 maint: location (link)
  3. ^ "Edward J. Derwinski, first secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, dies". The Washington Post. January 18, 2012.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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