Sugarman died of cancer Nov. 2 at his Seattle home, The Seattle Times reported.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared his War on Poverty, Sugarman was named executive secretary of a commission to address childhood poverty.
Within a year, more than 500,000 children were enrolled in a summer program that included classroom activities, parent participation, family social services, nutrition and healthcare. In 1965, Head Start became a year-round program and Sugarman its director.
Sugarman's career in public service spanned four decades and included positions with the Civil Service Commission, the U.S. Bureau of the Budget, the State Department and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, where, as budget director, he oversaw the 1963 closure of Alcatraz Penitentiary, the federal maximum-security prison in San Francisco Bay.
He also served on Jimmy Carter's transition team.
As secretary of Washington state's social services in the 1980s, Sugarman enacted the country's first welfare-to-work program.
"He was a champion of children," said his widow, Candace Sullivan. "One of his greatest disappointments was that he never saw children's groups join forces and work together."