Luther H. Hodges

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Luther Hodges
15th United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
January 21, 1961 – January 15, 1965
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byFrederick H. Mueller
Succeeded byJohn T. Connor
64th Governor of North Carolina
In office
November 7, 1954 – January 5, 1961
LieutenantLuther E. Barnhardt
Preceded byWilliam B. Umstead
Succeeded byTerry Sanford
22nd Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 8, 1953 – November 7, 1954
GovernorWilliam B. Umstead
Preceded byHoyt Patrick Taylor
Succeeded byLuther E. Barnhardt
Personal details
Luther Hartwell Hodges

(1898-03-09)March 9, 1898
Cascade, Virginia, U.S.
DiedOctober 6, 1974(1974-10-06) (aged 76)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Martha Blakeney
(m. 1922; died 1969)
Louise Finlayson
(m. 1970)
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Battles/warsWorld War I

Luther Hartwell Hodges (March 9, 1898 – October 6, 1974) was a businessman and American politician. After a career in textile manufacturing, he entered public service, gaining some state appointments. Elected as lieutenant governor of North Carolina in 1952, he succeeded to the Governor's office in 1954 after the death of the incumbent. He was elected in 1956 to a full four-year term, serving in total as the 64th governor of the state of North Carolina from 1954 to 1961.

In 1961 he was appointed as United States Secretary of Commerce under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, serving until 1965.[1] He returned to North Carolina and served as chairman of Research Triangle Park, a major facility established during his tenure as governor.


Hodges was born in Cascade,[2] Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on March 9, 1898. At the age of two, he moved with his family to Spray (which later merged with two other towns to become Eden, North Carolina). After growing up there, he lived much of his life in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

Hodges left for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at age 17, where he was a member of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, and moved back to Eden after graduation. He went to work at Carolina Cotton and Woolen Mills in Leaksville. In 1923, he helped form the Leaksville Rotary Club, which later became known as the Eden Rotary.

Carolina Cotton was later purchased by Marshall Field. Hodges continued to work for the company, working his way up from millworker to executive positions, until he retired to enter politics. In the 1940s, he gained gubernatorial appointments to the state Board of Education and the Highway and Public Works Commission. In 1945, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and to the U.S. Army in occupied Germany.[citation needed] He retired in 1950 and returned to North Carolina.[3]

Hodges's former residence in Washington, D.C.

Hodges ran for office as lieutenant governor in 1952 and was elected. He succeeded to the position of governor in November 1954 upon the death of Governor William B. Umstead in office.

Two years later, Hodges was elected on his own account to a full four-year term as governor. Because North Carolina had a one-term limit for governors at that time, Hodges had the longest continuous tenure in the office until the state constitution was changed and Jim Hunt was elected to a second term in 1980.

During his time in office, Governor Hodges promoted industrialization and education.[4] He helped gain support for the establishment of Research Triangle Park, intended to attract innovation and industry to the North Carolina Piedmont, and to strengthen connections among the three universities involved. After Hodges completed his tenure in 1965 as Secretary of the Department of Commerce, he returned to Chapel Hill. He was appointed as Chairman of Research Triangle Park. In 1967, he served a one-year term as president of Rotary International.

Civil rights[edit]

In 1959, Hodges became involved in the Kissing Case, where two young African-American boys (one aged 9, and one aged 7) had been convicted of rape because a white girl (aged 8) had kissed them each on the cheek. They had been sentenced to the state reformatory. A range of activists, civil rights organizations, Eleanor Roosevelt and President Eisenhower, in addition to the international press, pressured Hodges for clemency. After three months Hodges pardoned them, but refused to apologize.[5]: 118  [6] Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt "led an international campaign on their behalf."[5]: 118 [7]: 118 

Later years[edit]

He died on October 6, 1974, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is buried at the Overlook Cemetery in Eden, North Carolina. A monument was erected in his honor near a water fountain in Eden's Freedom Park.


Hodges's son, Luther H. Hodges Jr., was a prominent banking executive and United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lawrence Kestenbaum, ed. (nd), "Hodges, Luther Hartwell (1898-1974) — also known as Luther H. Hodges", Political Graveyard, retrieved January 19, 2017
  2. ^ NNDB
  3. ^ Barkin, Dan (August 2021). "A Tale of Two Legacies". Business North Carolina. pp. 8–9.
  4. ^ "Gallery of past presidents". Rotary International. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b Allida M. Black (1996), "Championing Civil Rights", Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism, Columbia University Press, retrieved January 19, 2017
  6. ^ Sue Sturgis (April 25, 2014), "Remembering Southern Black freedom fighter Mabel Williams", Facing South, Institute of Southern Studies, retrieved January 19, 2017
  7. ^ Allida M. Black (1996). Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231104050.
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by President of Rotary International
Succeeded by