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Lewis B. Schwellenbach

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Lewis B. Schwellenbach
Schwellenbach in 1940
5th United States Secretary of Labor
In office
July 1, 1945 – June 10, 1948
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byFrances Perkins
Succeeded byMaurice J. Tobin
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
In office
November 20, 1940 – June 30, 1945
Appointed byFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byJ. Stanley Webster
Succeeded bySamuel Marion Driver
United States Senator
from Washington
In office
January 3, 1935 – December 16, 1940
Preceded byClarence Dill
Succeeded byMonrad Wallgren
Personal details
Lewis Baxter Schwellenbach

(1894-09-20)September 20, 1894
Superior, Wisconsin
DiedJune 10, 1948(1948-06-10) (aged 53)
Washington, D.C.
Resting placeWashelli Cemetery
Seattle, Washington
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseAnne Duffy (1935–1948)
EducationUniversity of Washington (LLB)
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1918-1919
Unit12th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War I

Lewis Baxter Schwellenbach (September 20, 1894 – June 10, 1948) was a United States senator from Washington, a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and the 5th United States Secretary of Labor.


Born on September 20, 1894, in Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, Schwellenbach moved to Spokane, Washington with his parents in 1902, attending the Spokane elementary and high schools. He received a Bachelor of Laws in 1917 from the University of Washington School of Law. He was an assistant instructor at the University of Washington from 1916 to 1917.


Schwellenbach entered service during World War I as a Private in the 12th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army in 1918 until his discharge as a corporal in 1919. He was admitted to the bar and practiced in Seattle, Washington from 1919 to 1935. Schwellenbach served as state commander of the American Legion[1] and president of the University of Washington's alumni association,[2] and was a delegate to numerous county and state conventions.[3][4] His prominence as a result of these leadership roles caused the Democratic Party to consider him for state offices including attorney general and governor.[5] He was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for Governor of Washington in 1932.[6][7]

Congressional service[edit]

Schwellenbach was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from January 3, 1935, to December 16, 1940, when he resigned. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1940, having been appointed to the federal bench. He was a delegate to the Inter-Parliamentary Union at The Hague, Netherlands in 1938.[6]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Schwellenbach was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 6, 1940, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington vacated by Judge J. Stanley Webster. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 1940, and received his commission on November 20, 1940. His service terminated on June 30, 1945, due to his resignation to become Secretary of Labor.[7]

Secretary of Labor[edit]

The official portrait of Lewis B. Schwellenbach hangs in the Department of Labor
Schwellenbach (2nd from left) at a meeting of the Truman cabinet, (August 1945).

Schwellenbach was appointed United States Secretary of Labor by President Harry S. Truman and served from July 1, 1945, until his death in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 1948.[6][7][8] He was interred in Washelli Cemetery in Seattle.[6]

During Schwellenbach's tenure as Secretary, fear of post-war unemployment brought the United States Congress to pass the Employment Act of 1946, which made promotion of maximum employment the Nation's top priority. Schwellenbach promoted abolition of wartime wage and price controls. He had to deal with a post-war wave of strikes. The Republican 80th United States Congress passed the Taft–Hartley Act. Staff cuts were made at the United States Department of Labor. The U.S. Conciliation Service was removed from the Department of Labor and established as the independent Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). During his term, the Department's international work was institutionalized; the Office of International Labor Affairs (now the Bureau of International Labor Affairs) was established as a unit in the Office of the Secretary.[8]

Personal life and death[edit]

Schwellenbach's brother, Edgar W. Schwellenbach, served as a Justice of the Washington Supreme Court.[9]

He married Anne Duffy in 1935 and they remained together until his death in 1948.[10][11]

Schwellenbach died on June 10, 1948. He was buried at Washelli Cemetery in Seattle.


  1. ^ "Schwellenbach Is Legion Leader". Tacoma Ledger. Tacoma, WA. September 3, 1922. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ "Washington Alumni Returns to Campus". The Bellingham Herald. Bellingham, WA. December 19, 1928. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ "Titlow Has Whip Hand". Tacoma Ledger. Tacoma, WA. May 16, 1920. pp. 1, 4 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "King Democrats Eye Dry Issues". Spokane Chronicle. Spokane, WA. Associated Press. June 13, 1930. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ Hunt, Lester M. (July 25, 1924). "Withdraws for Sake of Legion". Tacoma Ledger. Tacoma, WA. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ a b c d United States Congress. "Lewis B. Schwellenbach (id: S000160)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  7. ^ a b c "Schwellenbach, Lewis Baxter - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  8. ^ a b "Hall of Secretaries: Lewis B. Schwellenbach - U.S. Department of Labor". www.dol.gov.
  9. ^ "State Supreme Court Justice Schwellenbach Dies Sunday At 70", Port Angeles Evening News (September 23, 1957), p. 6.
  10. ^ Madera Tribune, Volume LVI, Number 87, 10 June 1948
  11. ^ Official Congressional Directory: 74th Congress, 2nd Session (1936)

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Washington (Class 1)
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by United States Senator (Class 1) from Washington
Served alongside: Homer Bone
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of Labor
Succeeded by