Hodges, Luther Hartwell, 1898-1974


Hodges, Luther Hartwell, 1898-1974


Bio: Luther Hartwell Hodges (1898-1974) was a textile executive, governor of North Carolina, and Secretary of Commerce. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina in 1919, served briefly at the end of World War I, and then went to work at a North Carolina mill owned by Marshall Field and Company, the large Chicago-based retailer. Within four years, Hodges became general manager of all Marshall Field's domestic and international mills. He assumed the position of vice-president in charge of manufacturing in 1943.

Hodges returned to North Carolina in 1947. During the 1930's and 1940's, he had become interested in politics, serving as an advocate for the textile industry and as a member of various governmental advisory committees or commissions in North Carolina. Hodges's appointment in 1944 to head the textile-pricing program of the Office of Price Administration (OPA) during World War II, and his selection as a special consultant to the secretary of agriculture, reflected his growing influence on the national level.

In 1950, Hodges ended his long career with Marshall Field and took charge of the industry division of the Economic Cooperation Administration, part of the Marshall Plan. He also affiliated himself at the state level with the progressive wing of the Democratic party in North Carolina, which promoted economic development through transportation, improved education, and incentives for industry but held strongly to racial segregation.

He ran for lieutenant governor in 1952 and then became governor when Governor William B. Umstead died, winning his own four-year term in 1956. In 1960 he endorsed John F. Kennedy, a candidate Hodges believed would commit himself to economic development and moderation on racial matters. He campaigned actively throughout the South for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket, and when Kennedy took office in January 1961, Hodges became his secretary of commerce. After the assassination, he agreed to finish his term under President Johnson, resigning in January 1965.


LBJ Connection: Governor of North Carolina; Secretary of Commerce, 1961-1965