When she takes over as president of the Heritage Foundation in January, Kay Coles James will make history as the first Black woman to lead the conservative think tank.

Coles will officially become the Heritage Foundation president on  Jan. 1, and one of her top priorities is growing the conservative movement by recruiting women, minorities and youth.

Kay Coles James will officially become the first Black Woman President of the Heritage Foundation on Jan. 1. (Courtesy Photo/heritage.org)

James, a Heritage trustee since 2005, will head the influential Washington think tank after spending most of her career in public service.

Most recently, the 68 year-old Hampton University alumna worked on President Donald Trump’s transition team for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

She served under President George W. Bush as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and on Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Children. She also served as the secretary of Health and Human Resources in Virginia and on that state’s Board of Education.  She is founder and president of the Virginia-based Gloucester Institute, which trains and grooms African-American leaders.

The Heritage Foundation has played crucial roles in creating policy during Republican administrations. As a candidate, Trump developed his list of potential Supreme Court nominations from Heritage’s recommendations.   

Heritage prizes free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, national security and traditional values—James dubbed the think tank a bulwark against the left and a battleship for liberty.

“I thank God that The Heritage Foundation exists,” James said in a Dec. 19 speech to staff. “To guide America to renewed greatness. And to take the fight to liberalism. That’s why I consider it such an awesome privilege to serve as your next president.”

Heritage hired James after a seven-month search that included hundreds of candidates. She will become the sixth president in the organization’s 44-year history, succeeding Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage’s founder and interim president.

James is the right person to be the think tank’s intellectual voice and face for the future, Feulner told staff.

“Under Kay’s leadership, we won’t miss a beat—at a time when Heritage must be fully engaged in the policy debate,” Feulner said.