Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles F. Adams (1929–1933): Secretary of the Navy

Charles Francis Adams was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, on August 2, 1866. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President, and the great-grandson of John Adams, the second President.

Adams received his Bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1888, and in 1892 he received his law degree from Harvard. Before studying law in Boston and passing the bar in 1893, he traveled around Europe. Adams then practiced law in Boston. He was elected to the Quincy city council in 1893, and in 1896 he was elected mayor of Quincy. He held two terms as Quincy mayor. He was elected treasurer of Harvard University in 1898, and in this role, he significantly increased the college's trust funds. He also became involved in numerous business corporations.

Adams was a well known yachtsman. In 1914, he won the America's Cup as skipper of the boat Resolute; he repeated that victory in 1920. In 1939, he won the King's, Astor, and Puritan Cups, an unprecedented accomplishment.

In 1929, President Herbert Hoover appointed Adams as secretary of the Navy. Secretary Adams introduced a naval construction program to bring the American Navy to par with other naval powers, especially Britain, and he asked for budget increases to expand the Navy's resources. The Great Depression worsened during the years he served, however, and Congress did not allocate the money he requested. President Hoover obstructed many of Adams's plans for naval expansion, and this caused a rift between the two men. Adams played a significant role in the London Naval Conference of 1930, where he worked to balance U.S. naval strength with Britain and Japan.

When Hoover lost his bid for reelection, Adams returned to private life, going back into the business world and continuing yachting. He died in Boston on June 11, 1954. The Destroyer U.S.S. Charles Francis Adams was named for him.