January 29, 2013

Edgar F. Kaiser — Kaiser Permanente civic leader

Edgar F. Kaiser, president, Kaiser Industries Corporation; Henry J. Kaiser, founder and chairman of the board. Photo, 1962.

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian

Recently the Heritage team was asked to provide inspirational quotes from Kaiser Permanente’s founders for inclusion in a public sculpture park in Oakland, California. (We will have more to say about the park later this year.) We weighed in and uncovered something timely in sync with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Remembrance. The quote comes from Edgar F. Kaiser (1908–1981), Henry Kaiser's eldest son, who served on President’s John F. Kennedy's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

“The only kind of intolerance we can afford is intolerance of ourselves if we fail to bring forth from our own hearts and minds every last ounce of ingenuity and imagination and hard work needed to make equal employment opportunity not just the law of the land, but to make it the spirit, the intent and the actuality of our actions."

— Edgar F. Kaiser

Edgar is largely obscured in the shadow of his illustrious father, but he was a man of civic mind and of no small accomplishment in his own right. Back in 2008, Tom Debley, formerly Director of KP Heritage Resources, called out Edgar’s induction in the organization’s Diversity Hall of Fame in the internal newsletter, KP Chronicles.

“Edgar F. Kaiser was inducted into the Kaiser Permanente Diversity Hall of Fame at the 30th annual National Diversity Conference in December 2007. Edgar Kaiser was co-founder Henry J. Kaiser’s eldest son who, among other things, brought his father together with founding physician Sidney R. Garfield.

His role in early diversity efforts included hiring the first woman shipyard worker in U.S. history as well as workers with physical disabilities during World War II. He succeeded his father as chairman of the KP Health Plan and Hospitals Boards of Directors.”

In addition to the KP diversity award, in 1969 Edgar was awarded the national Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to low-income housing. He served four U.S. Presidents. John Kennedy named him to the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Lyndon Johnson chose him to head the President’s Committee on Urban Housing and to serve on his Advisory Committee on Labor-Management Policy. Gerald Ford appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Refugees, and Jimmy Carter selected him for the Advisory Committee on National Health Insurance Issues. We look forward to bringing his many accomplishments to light this year in these pages.