The death at age 93 of Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, stirs up a whole host of memories for people of a certain age – as many (and as mixed) as are stirred up by the death of Michael Jackson where a younger generation is concerned.
But it is worth mentioning, as well, that with McNamara’s passing, two members are left from the Cabinet of John F. Kennedy’s administration, which ended more than 45 years ago: Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz (who is, at 97, the oldest living ex-Cabinet member) and 89-year-old Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, whose late brother, Rep. Mo Udall, was tagged with the “too funny to be President” label back when Mike Huckabee was still fresh out of college.

The living members of Lyndon B. Johnson’s cabinet include Wirtz, Udall, Nicholas DeB. Katzenbach (who succeeded Robert Kennedy as Attorney General), Ramsey Clark (who succeeded Katzenbach), America’s first Secretary of Transportation Alan Boyd, and W. Marvin Watson, who is the last survivor of the 53 men who held the position of Postmaster General between Andrew Jackson’s raising it to Cabinet level in 1829 and its removal from the Cabinet in 1971.

There are eleven living former members of Richard Nixon’s Cabinet. These are Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Nixon’s last Secretary of State; Melvin Laird and James R. Schlesinger, respectively his first and last Secretary of Defense; William Saxbe, his last Attorney General; Walter J. Hickel, his first Secretary of the Interior; George P. Shultz, who was Secretary of Labor and later Secretary of the Treasury; Peter G. Peterson, Secretary of Commerce from 1972 to 1973; Frederick Dent, who succeeded Peterson; James D. Hodgson, Secretary of Labor after Shultz; Clifford Hardin, Nixon’s first Secretary of Agriculture; and James T. Lynn, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

It seems to be the case that former Cabinet members are living longer these days. James Farley, Roosevelt’s Postmaster General from 1933 to 1940 (who briefly challenged him for the Presidency in the latter year), was the last living member of his Cabinet when he died in 1976, thirty-one years after the end of FDR’s administration. Charles Brannan, the last survivor of the Truman Cabinet (in which he was Secretary of Agriculture), died in 1992, a few months short of forty years after that administration’s conclusion. On Jan. 2, 2001, eighteen days short of four decades after the end of the Eisenhower administration, came the death of William P. Rogers, the second and last Attorney General in (and last survivor of) Ike’s cabinet. (He was also RN’s first Secretary of State.)

As the years pass, one becomes aware of how whole eras of American politics seem to slip away before one’s eyes. The last person who was a prominent figure in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House, his daughter Alice Longworth, died as recently as 1980, toward the end of the Carter administration and over 70 years after her father left office. It’s now 64 years since Franklin Roosevelt died; at almost the same moment as Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett breathed their last came the passing of the 93-year-old Texan, Creekmore Fath, who, as a young Senate committee counsel, became a favorite of FDR’s and so was one of the very last figures left from the New Deal.