Ann McLaughlin Korologos, who served as secretary of labor from 1987 to 1989, becoming only the second woman to hold the post, died Jan. 30 in Salt Lake City. She was 81.
Her stepson, Philip Korologos, said the cause of her death, in a hospital, was complications of meningitis.
Korologos’ time at the Labor Department was brief, just 14 months, but it came at the end of a long tenure within the Ronald Reagan administration. Known as Ann Dore McLaughlin at the time, she had joined the Treasury Department as a spokesperson in 1981 and spent three years as deputy secretary of the interior before her nomination to run the department in 1987.
Although her name was not widely known outside Washington, she was well regarded among political insiders from both parties, and her Senate confirmation went smoothly. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who was chair of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, praised her “strong record of public service.” She won confirmation by a vote of 94-0.
Her elevation to the Cabinet was seen as 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 who wielded significant influence over Cabinet nominations. Unlike the more ideological conservatives who dominated the administration early on, Baker was a pragmatic insider, and he chose Korologos because she fit the same mold.
Since the Labor Department was founded in 1913, only one other woman had held its top position: Frances Perkins, who served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945. Several women followed after Korologos, though, including her immediate successor, Elizabeth Dole. Dole’s appointment was the first time in U.S. history that one woman had replaced another from the same party in the same Cabinet position.
For all the bipartisan praise, Korologos was a loyal if not doctrinaire Reaganite, following the legacy of her predecessor, Bill Brock, another moderate former senator from Tennessee. She fought against union-backed bills to increase the minimum wage and mandate unpaid maternity leave. But she also supported affirmative action, describing it as a “business necessity,” and called for immigration reform to increase the labor supply.
And she was unafraid to take on one of Washington’s most pugnacious conservative commentators, John McLaughlin — her husband at the time.
In 1988, he invited her on his PBS program, “One on One,” joking beforehand: “We made a deal. She does ‘One on One,’ and I have to host a Cabinet spouse tea.”
Ann Marie Lauenstein was born Nov. 16, 1941, in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of Edward Lauenstein, who managed sales for defense contractors, and Marie (Koellhoffer) Lauenstein, a homemaker.
After graduating with a degree in English from Marymount College (later a 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 the college’s office of alumnae relations.
It was there, in 1968, that she met McLaughlin, who was a Jesuit priest at the time and had come to campus to speak. By then she had divorced Dore, and she and McLaughlin struck up a friendship.
Two years later, he hired her to run his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in Rhode Island, and in 1972 they both joined the campaign to reelect President Richard M. Nixon, he as a speechwriter and she as a spokesperson. After Nixon’s victory, she joined the administration as the director of press relations for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nixon’s resignation drove her back out of government, this time to the chemical company Union Carbide, where she worked as the 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 company, McLaughlin & Co., with her as president.
While McLaughlin pursued a career in conservative media, his wife reentered 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 U.S. ambassador to Belgium from 2004 to 2007. He survives her. Along with her stepson, she is also survived by her stepdaughters, Paula Cale Lisbe and Ann Bazzarone; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
After leaving the Labor Department in 1989, Korologos sat on a number of corporate boards, including those of Microsoft, Rand and Nordstrom. She was also chair of the Aspen Institute, a think tank, from 1996 to 2000, and later ran an art gallery near her home in Basalt, Colo.
Between 1989 and 1990 she oversaw the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, which was formed in response to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, by Libyan terrorists.
The commission’s report, delivered in 1990, criticized the government’s air travel security and recommended a list of changes to be made immediately — many of which were still not in place on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The sad truth,” Korologos wrote in the report, “is that the aviation security system administered by the FAA has not provided the level of protection the traveling public demands and deserves. The system is seriously flawed and must be changed.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.