Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Frederick B. Dent (1974–1975): Secretary of Commerce

Frederick Baily Dent was born on August 17, 1922, in Cape May, New Jersey. In 1940, he graduated high school from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and then attended Yale University. At Yale, he studied as a liberal arts major with a focus on political institutions, while serving as a member of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps on campus. In June 1943, Dent earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree and a commission in the United States Naval Reserve. World War II quickly led to active duty in the Navy after graduation. He was assigned to a patrol craft escort converted for central control work and amphibious landings.

Following his naval service, Dent started work as a textile salesman for Joshua Baily & Company, his family's company. In September 1947, he was transferred to Mayfair Mills, an affiliate of the company in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Eleven years after his transfer, Dent was elected president of Mayfair Mills. He was also a member of the Business Council and served as president on the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon appointed Dent as secretary of Commerce. He held that position until 1975 when President Gerald Ford appointed him Special Representative for Trade Negotiations, with Cabinet rank. Following the Ford administration, Dent returned to his job as president of Mayfair Mills.

Shannon Torgersen contributed to the writing of this entry.