Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Frank Knox (1940–1944): Secretary of the Navy

William Franklin Knox was born January 1, 1874, in Boston, Massachusetts, and received a bachelor's degree from Alma (Michigan) College in 1898.

He began his career in the U.S. Army, serving as a member of the "Rough Riders" regiment during the Spanish-American War in Cuba. Knox returned to Michigan to work for the Grand Rapids Herald, first as a reporter, then as city editor, and finally as circulation manager. In 1901, he bought and became publisher of the Lake Superior Journal and remained at that post until 1912, when he moved to Massachusetts and began the Progressive Party newspaper, the Manchester Leader.

Knox served in the Army during World War I as an artillery officer with the Seventy-eighth Division of the American Expeditionary Force (1917-1919) and was henceforth known as "Colonel Knox."

Knox rode his great success in the newspaper business onto the Republican presidential ticket in 1936 as Governor Alf M. Landon's vice presidential candidate. Despite a massive electoral defeat, Knox gave increasing support to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign and military policies and, after declining once, accepted a cabinet position as secretary of the Navy (1940-1944). In that capacity, he oversaw the vast naval construction program during the Second World War. Frank Knox died in office on April 28, 1944, in Washington, D.C.