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Iowa Official Registers


State of Iowa Official Register

 Thirty-Ninth Number, 1941-1942

~ transcribed by S. Ferrall for the IAGenWeb Special Project - Iowa History


Iowans in President's Cabinets

Pg 468 -471

Fifteen notable Iowa man have served in the cabinets of 13 Presidents of the United States; four as Secretary of Agriculture; three as Secretary of the Interior; three as Secretary of War; two as Secretary of Commerce; one as Secretary of the Navy; one as Secretary of the Treasury; and one is Postmaster General. One of the list held the distinction of serving 16 years, under three Presidents, which is the nation's record for this kind of public service.

The list of Iowa's Cabinet members, arranged chronologically, with brief biographies, is as follows:

James M. Harlan
James M. Harlan, of Mt. Pleasant, served as Secretary of the Interior in the cabinet of President Andrew Johnson in 1865 and 1866. A graduate of Asbury (now DePauw) University in Indiana, he was elected president of Iowa Wesleyan University, at Mt. Pleasant, in 1853; served as United States Senator from Iowa from 1855 to 1865, and returned to the Senate, from the Cabinet, serving a term from 1866 to 1872. He was a close associate of Abraham Lincoln, and his daughter Mary married Robert T. Lincoln, son of the martyred President. Secretary Harlan died in Mt. Pleasant in 1899.

William W. Belknap
William W. Belknap, Secretary of War in the two administrations of President Ulysses S. Grant, was born in New York, but made his home in Keokuk for a number of years. In 1861, He entered the Union Army as Major of the 15th Iowa Volunteers and was engaged at Shiloh, Corinth and Vicksburg, but became most prominent in Sherman's Atlanta campaign. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1864 and major general in 1865. He was collector of internal revenue in Iowa from 1865 to 1869, but on October 29th of that year was appointed Secretary of War by President Grant, to succeed General William Tecumseh Sherman. General Belknap served from that date until March 7, 1876, having been reappointed when Grant took office the second time. He died in 1890.

George W. McCrary
George W. McCrary served as Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes. He was born in Indiana, removing with his family to the Wisconsin Territory, of which Iowa was a part, when a year old. He studied law in Keokuk and was admitted to the bar in 1856. He was elected to the State Legislature in 1857 and from 1861 to 1865 served in the State Senate, where he was chairman of the committees on military affairs and the judiciary. He was a member of Congress from 1869 to 1877. He was secretary of war under President Hayes from 1877 to 1879, when he was appointed Justice of the United States Circuit Court. Later on, he was general counsel for the Santa Fe railroad until his death in 1890.

Samuel J. Kirkwood
Samuel J. Kirkwood, Iowa's Civil War governor, was Secretary of the Interior under President James A. Garfield. He was born in Maryland, moved to Ohio, and in 1855 established himself in milling and farming in Iowa. The next year he was a member of the Iowa State Senate and from 1860 to 1864 was Governor of Iowa during the Civil War he levied 48 regiments of volunteers and equiped them at $500,000 less than the usual cost. He was United States Senator from Iowa from 1865 to 1867 (completing the unexpired term of James Harlan, resigned) was again elected governor of Iowa in 1875 and from 1877 to 1871 was a member of the State Senate. He was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Garfield and served from March 4, 1881, to April 6, 1882, when he resigned. He died at Iowa City, September 1, 1894.

Frank Hatton
Frank Hatton, of Burlington, co-publisher with Robert J. Burdette of the Hawk-Eye, was assistant Postmaster General from 1881 to 1884 and the Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Chester A. Arthur from October 14, 1884, to March 4, 1885; the youngest Cabinet member since Alexander Hamilton, being 38 years old when appointed. He died in 1894.

James Wilson
James Wilson, of Tama and Ames, served as Secretary of Agriculture for 16 years, in the cabinets of Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft. He was born in Scotland, coming with his parents to the United States in 1851 and settling in Iowa in 1855. He was educated at Iowa State College, engaged in farming, and in 1861 was elected to the Iowa Legislature where he served for three terms, acting as Speaker of the House the last term. He was a member of Congress from 1873 to 1877; State Railway commissioner in Iowa from 1877 to 1883, and from 1883 to 1885 was again a member of Congress. He was a regent of Iowa State University from 1870 to 1874, and from 1890 to 1897 was Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and professor of agriculture at Iowa State College at Ames. He was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President McKinley in 1897, was reappointed by him when he took office the second time, was retained by President Theodore Roosevelt and reappointed by President Taft, remaining in office until Woodrow Wilson came in on March 4, 1913. During his regime the Department of Agriculture developed rapidly; Forest services were made, experiment stations were established and farm demonstration work was undertaken on a national scale. He died in 1920.

Leslie M. Shaw
Leslie M. Shaw, of Denison, served as Secretary of the Treasury in the two administrations of President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a native of Vermont, was graduated from Cornell College at Mount Vernon, and from the Iowa College of Law. He established a law practice in Denison, became president of one bank there and another in Manilla and took an active part in civic and political affairs. His effective work on the Republican side in the free silver campaign in 1896, when William J. Bryan was running for president against William McKinley, speaking an average of five hours a day some weeks and as high as seven hours for several consecutive days, led to his nomination and election the following year as Governor of Iowa. He was reelected two years later, doubling his plurality and multiplying his majority by four. He declined a third nomination. In 1898 he was president of the international monetary conference at Indianapolis. At the end of his second term as governor of Iowa he became Secretary of the Treasury in Theodore Roosevelt's Cabinet and held that position a little over five years -- the longest term in that office since 1841. He resigned in 1907 and was engaged in banking in New York City and Philadelphia until 1913, when he retired. He died in 1932.

Edwin T. Meredith
Edwin T. Meredith, Secretary of Agriculture in the cabinet of President Woodrow Wilson, was born in Avoca, Iowa, in 1876. He was educated at Highland Park College, in Des Moines and published the Farmer's Tribune from 1896 to 1902. He started Successful Farming, a monthly agricultural paper, on a national basis, in 1902 and later on added Better Homes & Gardens, another national publication. He became a director of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and busied himself in finance and politics, in addition to his publishing work. He was a candidate for Governor of Iowa and United States Senator from Iowa, on the Democratic ticket, but was unsuccessful. President Wilson appointed him Secretary of Agriculture, in which post he served from January, 1920, to March 4, 1921. Secretary Meredith died in 1928.

Henry C. Wallace
Henry Cantwell Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture in the cabinets of Presidents Harding and Coolidge, was born in 1866, son of Henry Wallace, whom President Theodore Roosevelt appointed as a member of his country life commission and who was one of the most famous agricultural editors and educators in the United States for many years. Henry C. Wallace was graduated from Iowa State College at Ames. Following which he became a tenant on one of his father's farms, on the same terms as the last tenant, who had failed. He succeeded. Specializing in dairy farming, he returned to Ames, after five years of farm work, and completed two years of college work in one. He was appointed an assistant professor in the dairy department. Then, securing a small farm paper, in conjunction with Dean Charles F. Curtiss, he embarked upon the profession of the agricultural journalism. Five years after the unexpected death of his father, "Uncle Henry," as he sat in the front pew of a church in Des Moines, Henry Cantwell Wallace was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Harding. Upon the death of the latter, Secretary Wallace was reappointed by President Coolidge. He died in 1924.

Herbert C. Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce in the cabinets of Presidents Harding and Coolidge, 1921 to 1929. He was born at West Branch, Iowa, August 10, 1874. Becoming an orphan at an early age he was brought up in the Pacific West, attending Lee Leland Stanford University. He engaged in mining in various parts of the world, with marked success. During the World War he was chairman of the American Relief Commission in London and later was Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. He served as United States Food Administrator 1917 to 1919. After his Cabinet services he was elected President of the United States in 1928, the first man born west of the Mississippi River to have attained this high position. He was defeated for reelection in 1932.

Curtis Dwight Wilbur
Curtis Dwight Wilbur, born at Boonesboro, Iowa, on May 10, 1867, served as Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet of President Coolidge. Most of his public career found him a resident of the state of California, but he never lost opportunity to pay tribute to the state of his birth. He served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of California; was appointed Secretary of the Navy, by President Coolidge, in 1924, and served until 1929; following which he became judge of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ray Lyman Wilbur
Ray Lyman Wilbur, born in Boonesboro, Iowa, on April 13, 1875 (a brother of Curtis D. Wilbur, Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of President Coolidge) was Secretary of the Interior in the cabinet of President Hoover. Little of his mature life was spent in Iowa, but he is claimed by the state, by reason of his nativity. He was president of Leland Stanford University in California, securing a leave of absence in order to accept the cabinet portfolio tendered him by President Hoover on March 4, 1929. He was connected with United States food administration and in various ways rendered splendid public service.

James William Good
James William Good, born near Cedar Rapids in 1866, became Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Herbert Hoover. He was elected to Congress in 1909 and served until 1921. He was chairman of the Appropriations Committee during the World War, voted for the increase of soldier's pay but against the soldier's bonus. He was Secretary of War from the day of President Hoover's inauguration, March 4, 1929, to the day of his death, November 18, 1929.

Henry Agard Wallace
Henry Agard Wallace, son of Secretary Henry Cantwell Wallace, and grandson of Henry Wallace, editor for many years of Wallace's Farmer, served as Secretary of agriculture in the first two terms of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was born in Adair County in 1888 and educated in Iowa State College at Ames. He served as editor of Wallace's Farmer for many years and later as editor of the combined Wallace's Farmer and Iowa Homestead. He was Secretary of the Cornbelt Meat Producers Association for a number of years. When President Roosevelt assumed office on March 4, 1933, he tucked Henry A. Wallace into his Cabinet and continued him there on his second term. He was elected vice president in 1940.

Harry L. Hopkins
Harry L. Hopkins, who became secretary of commerce under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in February 1939, was born in Sioux City in 1890. He was graduated from Grinnell College and began his career in the service of the poor and needy as supervisor of the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor; later was executive secretary of the board of child welfare from 1918 to 1922; division manager of the American Red Cross at New Orleans for 1922 to 1924; director of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association and executive director of the New York State temporary relief administration. President Roosevelt appointed him federal administrator of emergency relief in 1933. Two years later he placed him in charge of the Works Progress Administration, where he continued until he became secretary of commerce in the President's Cabinet, resigning in 1940.


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