Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

George M. Humphrey (1953–1957): Secretary of the Treasury

George Magoffin Humphrey was the secretary of the treasury under President Eisenhower from January 21, 1953, to May 28, 1957. George Humphrey came into government work late in life. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1912 and was admitted to the bar that same year.

He worked as a lawyer in his father's firm until he became general counsel for the steelworks M. A. Hanna and Company in 1919. Humphrey rose swiftly through the ranks to become the firm's president in 1929 and chairman of the board in 1952, leading the company through a diversification into numerous interests including banking, copper, plastics, and natural gas. His experience dealing with the problems of a complex and successful business venture offered preparation for managing the finances of the United States.

As Eisenhower's treasury secretary, Humphrey was a strong supporter of the tax reform legislation that Congress passed in 1954 and its provisions for reduction of individual income tax and elimination of excess-profit taxation. He was particularly interested in reducing government spending as a way to combat inflation, and he delighted in a budget surplus in fiscal year 1956, the first time in five years that the federal budget was in the black.

Humphrey was one of a number of prominent businessmen brought into government by Eisenhower, and among these, he was perhaps the most influential, owing to his close friendship with the President. Following his resignation at the age of 67, Humphrey retired to Ohio until his death in 1970.