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    Civil Service History

    Celebrating TR's 160th Birthday

    This week, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management celebrates the 160th birthday of the father of today's civil service, Theodore Roosevelt. 

    Theodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy Roosevelt or TR, lived a life of service, accomplishment, and adventure.

    Throughout his life, Roosevelt wore many hats: TR served as New York City Police Commissioner, was appointed Assistant U.S. Navy Secretary under President McKinley, and founded the volunteer cavalry known as the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. He was also elected Governor of New York and later, President of the United States.

    But perhaps most importantly to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Theodore Roosevelt served as U.S. Civil Service Commissioner from 1889 to 1895, where he fought to ensure a federal hiring system rooted in fairness and equal access and protection for all.

    As Civil Service Commissioner, he aggressively led efforts to investigate fraud and political abuse in government and expose corrupt government officials.

    One week into his job, he recommended the removal of examination board members in New York for selling test questions to the public for $50.

    Later, during his tenure as our nation’s 26th President, Roosevelt worked to broaden the scope of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 by establishing a merit-based civil service system.

    TR believed civil service reform should be based on three principles:

    ·       Opportunities should be made equal for all citizens;

    ·       Only those who have merit should be appointed to federal jobs; and

    ·       Public servants should not suffer for their political beliefs.

    During his administration, President Roosevelt prioritized modernizing the Federal Government. Some of his reforms established the foundation for the modern merit system, including:

    ·       Position-classification based on duties;

    ·       The establishment of the modern job survey in Federal Service; and

    ·       Requirements for stricter compliance of restrictions against political activity by Federal officials.

    Evidence of TR’s reforms can still be seen today.

    In the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the merit system principles were codified into law, which states,

    ...to provide the people of the United States with a competent, honest, and productive workforce...and to improve the quality of public service, Federal personnel management should be implemented consistent with merit system principles.

    Today, the merit system principles exist as framework for accountability to ensure Federal employees behave responsibility and work toward mission success.  

    In 1992, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Washington Headquarters was named the “Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building,” in honor of TR’s contributions and dedication to our civil service system.

    This week, we continue to honor Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy and his impact on the modern civil service system by remembering his 160th birthday.

    Please be sure to join in the conversation on social media by using #TRFact and #TR160, so that together, we can celebrate and remember Theodore Roosevelt’s service to our country and his lasting impact on our nation’s civil service.  


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