I am sad to share the news of the passing of Barbara Everitt Bryant, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau and the first woman to hold that office, at age 96. Dr. Bryant was a trailblazer and a champion of quality survey methods.
Dr. Bryant began her 38-year career in survey research at age 44, following two decades in which she raised three children, participated in part-time and volunteer work, and completed graduate studies. She directed national research for three Presidential commissions: President Gerald Ford’s Commission on Observance of International Women’s Year (1975-77), President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on World Hunger (1980) and President Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Americans Outdoors (1986). She also managed survey studies and consulting projects for media, transportation, education and healthcare organizations.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed her Director of the Census Bureau – the first woman to lead our agency, and one of only two women to do so. During her tenure, she oversaw the enumeration of the 1990 census and the Census Bureau’s response to the undercount issues. She also worked to improve the quality of economic statistics and led the Census Bureau away from pencil-and-paper interviewing and towards computer-assisted data collection. Before leaving our agency in 1993, she recounted some of her experiences from this time to the Census Bureau’s oral history program.
After her public service ended, Dr. Bryant took a position at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where she was both a research scientist and director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index. She was active in the American Marketing Association, serving on its board and foundation board, and the American Association of Public Opinion Research. She was a board member of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and a fellow of the American Statistical Association.
We mourn the loss of this groundbreaking Census Bureau leader and share our sorrow at her passing with her family, including her three children, Linda, Randal and Lois; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.