Luther Hartwell Hodges (March 9, 1898 - Oct. 6, 1974)
Textile executive, North Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Luther Hodges significantly changed North Carolina -- including the creation of the Research Triangle Park and re-industrialization.
Born on March 9, 1898 in Pittsylvania County, VA, Luther Hodges' family
moved to North Carolina soon after his birth. Coming from tenant farmer
roots, Luther would go to work at 12 as an office boy for a Spray, NC,
textile mill (1910-1911). He graduated from Leaksville High School in 1915
and enrolled at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. He would work his way through the university, while still becoming president of the Student
Council and his senior class. Graduating in 1919 with a BA degree, Hodges went to work for
Marshall Fields and Company mills in Leaksville-Spray (now Eden) area --
serving as secretary to the general manager, personnel manager, general
manager for all Marshall Fields mills (1938) and vice president (1943).
During this period, Hodges also served as a member for the NC State Board of Education and the Highway and Public Works Commission.
In 1944, he volunteered for service and worked as price administrator for textiles, and then in 1945 served as a consultant to the U.S. Secretary of Agricultural and to the U.S. Army in occupied Germany.
Retiring in 1950 from Marshall Fields, Hodges headed the Industry Division of the Economic Cooperation Administration for West Germany, and then became a consultant for the State Department. Returning to North Carolina in 1952, he became a successful candidate for lieutenant governor being sworn in in January 1953. When Governor Umstead died in November 1954, Hodges assumed the Governorship. He was elected to a full-term in 1956.
During his six years as governor, Hodges kicked off a re-industrialization effort to recruit new businesses to the state. He built funding support for schools, including a system of community colleges. Hodges shepherded the creation of the Research Triangle Park and supported the state's first minimum wage law. He served as chairman of the Southern Governors' Conference and the Southern Regional Education Board.
After the 1960 Presidential elections, John Kennedy selected Hodges as U.S. Secretary of Commerce (1961-1965). He reorganized the department, pushing international trade and job/industrial development for American economically depressed areas.
Returning from Washington, DC, Hodges became a $1-a-year chairman for the North Carolina Research Triangle Foundation, while also lecturing at UNC Chapel Hill School of Business Administration. In 1967, he became president of Rotary International.
In 1922, Hodges married Martha Blakeney, who tragically died in a house fire in 1969. In 1970, he married Louise Finlayson.
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