Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles Edison (1940–1940): Secretary of the Navy

Charles Edison was born August 3, 1890, in West Orange, New Jersey, the son of the inventor Thomas Alva Edison. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1909 to 1913 and received a degree in electrical engineering.

Edison began his career (after a brief stint as a poet) at the Edison Illuminating Company, soon rising through the ranks to become manager of the Edison Phonograph Company and the Edison Storage Battery Company. In 1916, Charles Edison became chairman of all the related Edison industries, assuming the presidency of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., in 1926.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, Edison served as a member of the New Jersey State Recovery Board, as the state director of the National Emergency Council, and as a member of the National Industrial Recovery Board.

He also served as a regional director of the Federal Housing Administration (1934) and as assistant secretary of the Navy (1937-1939), though secretary Claude Swanson's constant illness required Edison to play de facto secretary of the Navy until Swanson's death in 1940 and his own appointment to the post.

Edison remained in the post only five and a half months before resigning to serve as governor of New Jersey (1941-1944). Constitutionally unable to run for a second term, Edison returned to the private sector. He died on July 31, 1969, in New York City