Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Claude A. Swanson (1933–1939): Secretary of the Navy

Claude Augustus Swanson served as secretary of the Navy to President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1939. Swanson was born March 31, 1862, in Swansonville, Virginia. He attended the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now the Virginia Polytechnic Institute) and graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1885. He received his law degree from the law school of the University of Virginia in 1886.

Swanson began his career in a law office in Chatham, Virginia, before becoming a U.S. Representative from Virginia's Fifth District (1893-1906). He resigned in January 1906 to become governor of Virginia, serving from 1906 to 1910. Swanson returned to Washington as a U.S. senator from Virginia, initially being appointed to fill the vacancy left by the death of John W. Daniel; he was subsequently elected to the post and remained there from 1910 to 1933.

In the Senate, Swanson was chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, and the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy. He was also a ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served as a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference (1932). He became Roosevelt's secretary of the Navy in 1933 and died in office on July 7, 1939.