Ann McLaughlin Korologos, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Labor, dies in Salt Lake City

Ann McLaughlin Korologos, who served as Secretary of Labor from 1987 to 1989, becoming only the second woman to hold the office, died in Salt Lake City on January 30. She was 81.

Her stepson Philip Korologos said the cause of death in a hospital was complications of meningitis.

Korologos’ tenure at the Labor Department was brief, only 14 months, but it came at the end of a long tenure in the Reagan administration. Known then as Ann Dore McLaughlin, she had joined the Treasury Department as Spokesperson in 1981 and was Deputy Home Secretary for three years before being appointed Head of the Department in 1987.

Though her name was little known outside of Washington, she was well regarded by political insiders from both parties, and her Senate confirmation went smoothly. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who served as chair of the Senate Labor and Personnel Committee, praised her “strong record in public service.” She won the confirmation by a vote of 94-0.

Her promotion to the cabinet was believed to be the work of Howard H. Baker Jr., a former Republican senator from Tennessee who had been brought into the White House as chief of staff in early 1987 and wielded significant influence over cabinet nominations. Unlike the more ideological conservatives who dominated the government early on, Baker was a pragmatic insider, and he chose Korologos because she fit in the same box.

Since the creation of the Department of Labor in 1913, only one other woman has held its top position: Frances Perkins, who served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945. However, Korologos was succeeded by several wives, including her immediate successor, Elizabeth Dole. Dole’s appointment marked the first time in US history that a woman replaced another from the same party in the same cabinet position.

For all the bipartisan praise, Korologos was a loyal, if not doctrinaire, Reagan supporter, inheriting the legacy of her predecessor, Bill Brock, another moderate former Tennessee senator. She fought union-backed bills to raise the minimum wage and mandate unpaid maternity leave. But she also supported positive action, calling it a “business imperative” and calling for immigration reform to increase labor supply.

And she wasn’t afraid to take on one of Washington’s most combative conservative commentators, John McLaughlin – her then-husband.

In 1988, he invited her to appear on his PBS program One on One, previously joking, “We made a deal. She’s doing ‘one on one’ and I have to host a cabinet tea.”

Ann Marie Lauenstein was born on November 16, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey, to Edward Lauenstein, who directed sales for defense contractors, and Marie (Koellhoffer) Lauenstein, a homemaker.

After graduating in English from Marymount College (later part of Fordham University) in Tarrytown, New York in 1963, she worked in public relations in Manhattan for several years, married William Dore in 1965 and later returned to Marymount to run for office College Alumnae Relations Office.

It was there in 1968 that she met McLaughlin, then a Jesuit priest who had come to the campus to speak. By then, she had divorced Dore, and she and McLaughlin formed a friendship.

Two years later he hired her to lead his unsuccessful US Senate campaign in Rhode Island, and in 1972 they both joined the campaign for President Richard M. Nixon’s re-election, he as speechwriter and she as speaker. After Nixon’s victory, she joined the government as public affairs director for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Nixon’s resignation drove her back from government, this time to the chemical company Union Carbide, where she worked as assistant director of government relations.

Her friendship with McLaughlin eventually turned romantic; He left the priesthood and they married in 1975. Two years later they opened a public relations firm, McLaughlin & Co., with her as president.

While McLaughlin was pursuing a career in the conservative media, his wife rejoined the government after Reagan’s election in 1980. They divorced in 1992; he died in 2016.

In 2000, she married Tom Korologos, a Salt Lake City native who served as US Ambassador to Belgium from 2004 to 2007. He outlives her. Along with her stepson, she is also survived by her stepdaughters Paula Cale Lisbe and Ann Bazzarone; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

After leaving the Department of Labor in 1989, Korologos has served on a number of corporate boards, including those of Microsoft, Rand, and Nordstrom. She also served as chair of the Aspen Institute, a think tank, from 1996 to 2000 and later ran an art gallery near her home in Basalt, Colorado.

Between 1989 and 1990, she oversaw the Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, formed in response to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, by Libyan terrorists.

The commission’s 1990 report criticized the government’s air safety and recommended a list of changes that should be made immediately – many of which were not yet in effect as of September 11, 2001.

“The sad truth,” Korologos wrote in the report, “is that the FAA-managed aviation security system does not provide the level of protection that the traveling public demands and deserves.” The system is seriously flawed and needs to be changed.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. Ann McLaughlin Korologos, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Labor, dies in Salt Lake City

Justin Scacco

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