Willard Wirtz, a lawyer and longtime public servant who was secretary of labor under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, died April 24 at an assisted living facility in Washington. He had been in failing health, but the cause of death was not immediately known.
He was 98 and was the last surviving member of the Kennedy and Johnson cabinets.
Regarded by admirers as an icon of liberalism, Mr. Wirtz took to heart the plight of the jobless. "Maybe I do get emotional about the unemployment problem," he told an interviewer in 1962.
But, he said, "I think the situation is so deplorable in human terms that it warrants an indignant intolerance of any explanation for it in terms of any kind of economic analysis."
A gifted mediator, he was credited with a behind-the-scenes role in resolving many thorny labor-management disputes.
After serving as under secretary of labor at the start of the Kennedy administration, he was named to the top post in 1962 when Kennedy nominated then-Secretary Arthur Goldberg to the Supreme Court.
During his career at the Labor Department, Mr. Wirtz was credited with forestalling or ending several high-profile strikes, including a Longshoremen's strike and another affecting New York's newspapers.
In the Cabinet, Mr. Wirtz helped create programs and policies of Johnson's "War on Poverty." He was a vigorous advocate of retraining for workers to cut unemployment. He sought legislation to root out causes of joblessness and championed remedial education for school dropouts.