American President A Reference Resource ↑ Gerald Rudolph Ford Front PageJohn A. Knebel (1976–1977): Secretary of AgricultureJohn Albert Knebel was born October 4, 1936, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1959 and in 1962 earned his M.A. from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Knebel received his law degree from American University in 1965 and practiced law with the Washington, D.C., firm of Howrey, Simon, Baker and Murchison from 1965 to 1968. He was a member of the American, Federal, and District of Columbia Bar Associations, and he was chairman of the General Counsels Committee of the Federal Bar Association. Prior to his appointment in the Gerald Ford administration, Knebel served as general counsel to the department of agriculture and general counsel to the Small Business Administration (1971-1973). Before serving with the SBA, he was assistant counsel to the House Committee on Agriculture (1969-1971). Earlier, he was a legislative assistant to Congressman J. Ernest Wharton of New York (1963-1964). President Gerald Ford appointed John Albert Knebel Secretary of the Department of Agriculture on November 4, 1976, following the abrupt resignation of Earl Butz. After his brief service to the administration, Knebel returned to the practice of law, and served as the head of the American Mining Congress.