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David Franklin Houston

In office
March 6, 1913 – February 2, 1920
Preceded by James Wilson
Succeeded by Edwin T. Meredith

In office
February 2, 1920 – March 3, 1921
Preceded by Carter Glass
Succeeded by Andrew W. Mellon

Born February 17, 1866(1866-02-17)
Monroe, North Carolina, U.S.
Died September 2, 1940 (aged 74)
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of South Carolina
Harvard University
Profession Politician

David Franklin Houston (February 17, 1866 – September 2, 1940) was an American academic, businessman and politician.


Early life

Born in Monroe, North Carolina, he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1887 and went on to do graduate work at Harvard University, where he received a M.A. in political science in 1892.

Higher education

Houston taught political science at University of Texas. He became an adjunct member of the faculty in 1894 and was named dean of the faculty in 1899. He then became president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) from 1902 until 1905. In 1905 he returned to UT to become that institution's president, serving until 1908. During his tenure at UT Austin, the school opened a doctoral program and a law school.

Houston left Texas to serve as chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, a position he held from 1908 to 1913. During his tenure he established the School of architecture and strengthened the Medical School through partnerships with Children's and Barnes hospitals. He left the University to become the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Under President William McKinley he was on the board of visitors of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Later in life, he was an overseer of Harvard University and on the Columbia University board of trustees.


Houston served President Woodrow Wilson as United States Secretary of Agriculture from 1913 to 1920 when he became United States Secretary of the Treasury until 1921.

During his time as Agriculture Secretary many important agricultural laws were passed by the U.S. Congress, including the Smith-Lever Act, the Farm Loan Act, the Warehouse Act, and the Federal Aid Road Act.

Houston came to theTreasury Department as World War I was ending and his brief tenure was marked by stormy controversies over federal monetary policies. As ex officio Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, he issued severe warnings and, increased rediscount rates in order to prevent the inflation that the European allies were experiencing. Houston predicted a fall in U.S. prices, particularly of farm products, after the optimism of the Armistice wore off. He pushed for easier credit for farmers and urged them to produce less.

But when prices fell more dramatically than expected in 1920, farm spokesmen unfairly accused Houston of deliberately wrecking agrarian prosperity. Abroad, England and France were pushing to cancel their war debts. Houston, the U.S. Congress and the President, against cancellation, converted the short-term debts to long-term loans. Houston resigned at the end of Wilson's term, after only a year in office.


After leaving the U.S. federal government, Houston became President of Bell Telephone Securities and a vice president at AT&T. Houston also served as a director of the AT&T, the Guaranty Trust Company and the United States Steel Corporation. He was president of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York for 10 years.


Houston published A Critical Study of Nullification in South Carolina (1896) to establish his place in academia. He later published a two-volume memoir of his experiences as a cabinet member, Eight Years with Wilson's Cabinet.

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Winfield Scott Chaplin
Chancellors of Washington University in St. Louis
1908 – 1917
Succeeded by
Frederic Aldin Hall
Preceded by
William Lambdin Prather
President of the University of Texas at Austin
1905 – 1908
Succeeded by
Sidney Edward Mezes
Political offices
Preceded by
James Wilson
United States Secretary of Agriculture
March 6, 1913 – February 2, 1920
Succeeded by
Edwin T. Meredith
Preceded by
Carter Glass
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Woodrow Wilson

February 2, 1920 – March 3, 1921
Succeeded by
Andrew W. Mellon


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