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Department of Labor, Washington D.C. (1956-1963)

After teaching for ten years, Howard Jenkins, Jr., decided to move on. At that time he was active in the Bar Association, Labor Law Section, and gave a talk at a meeting in Washington where he was critical of the Labor Department’s delivery of legal services. Stuart Rothman happened to be in attendance at that meeting and later contacted Jenkins. He persuaded Jenkins to take a leave of absence from teaching and become a special assistant to him in the Solicitor’s Office of the U.S. Department of Labor.

At the time, Congress was attempting to develop stronger controls over the internal affairs of trade unions. These efforts culminated with the enactment of the Landrum-Griffin Act in 1959. Because Jenkins was substantially involved in the drafting of the Landrum-Griffin Act, he was chosen as Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Regulation at Bureau of Labor Management Reports (BLMR). The BLMR is a part of the Department of Labor that ensures compliance with the Landrum-Griffin Act. In 1962, Jenkins became Assistant Commissioner of the BLMR and the highest ranking African American attorney in the federal government.

Working closely with a succession of Secretaries of Labor – James P. Mitchell, Arthur Goldberg, and Willard Wirtz – Jenkins was well qualified to be a nominee for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Willard Wirtz and Arthur Goldberg were Howard’s primary sponsors when John Fitzgerald Kennedy became president. With enthusiastic support from the Colorado delegation – Representative Byron Rogers and Senators Gordon Allott and Peter Dominick – Jenkins was sworn in to the NLRB on August 29, 1963.