Melvin R. Laird |
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Melvin R. Laird


  • Fellow
  • 2003
Science, Civil Service, Government

Melvin R. Laird served nine terms in the U.S. Congress representing Wisconsin’s Seventh Congressional District, where he was Chairman, Republican House Minority, member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Republican Coordinating Council. Prior to this service, he was a member of the Wisconsin Senate from 1946–52 and Chairman, Wisconsin Legislative Council. Laird served in the U.S. Navy from 1942–1946 in the Pacific Fleet. The U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1969–73, Laird challenged the Nixon Administration on issues related to the Vietnam conflict and is largely credited with getting American troops out of the Vietnam War, as well as reducing military spending and changing the draft from a lottery to an “all-volunteer” force.

As a legislator, he championed medical research and co-authored bills to finance construction of the National Library of Medicine and centers for medical research on university campuses, including the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

Laird is currently a member of the Director’s Advisory Council of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and has been a director for a number of other companies. He’s also active with a range of nonprofit organizations such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Laird Foundation for Historic Preservation. Laird is the recipient of more than 300 awards, most notably the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Man of the Year awards from the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Mental Health, as well as numerous honorary degrees from a large number of colleges and universities.

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