Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Jesse H. Jones (1940–1945): Secretary of Commerce

Jesse Holman Jones was born April 5, 1874, in Tennessee. He never received any secondary schooling, going to work in the lumber business and establishing the South Texas Lumber Company in Houston, Texas, in 1902. During World War I, Jones served as director of general military relief in Europe from 1917 to 1918.

During the presidential administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jones was named a member of the National Emergency Board in 1933 and served as director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) from 1933 to 1939. He became chairman of the executive committee of the Export-Import Bank of Washington in 1936 and was named administrator of the Federal Loan Agency in 1939.

Jones then became a part of Roosevelt's cabinet, serving as secretary of commerce from 1940 to 1945. Through a special congressional exemption, he continued to run the RFC until his resignation in 1945. He returned to Texas as publisher of the Houston Chronicle, and he wrote Fifty Billion Dollars (1951). Jesse Jones died on June 1, 1956, in Texas.