Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

David Franklin Houston (1920–1921): Secretary of the Treasury

Born in Union County, North Carolina, on February 17, 1866, David Houston earned a B.A. from the University of South Carolina (1887) and pursued graduate study in political science and economics at Harvard (1892). He taught political science at the University of Texas from 1894 to 1902, becoming president of Texas A&M University in 1902. He next assumed the presidency of the University of Texas at Austin.

Houston also became chancellor of Washington University, helping that school gain prominence in the Midwest. It was through Colonel Edward House that Houston met Woodrow Wilson, an occasion that took place when Wilson was governor of New Jersey.

Houston served as agriculture secretary in the cabinet of President Wilson from 1913 to 1920. Houston had intended to serve in that post for only two years, due to "financial reasons," but ended up remaining for seven. He would oversee the expansion of production of food for domestic and foreign consumption while also addressing problems of rural life. In the depressed climate following World War I, Houston provided Europe with food from American farmers. When Treasury Secretary Carter Glass resigned from the cabinet, Wilson tapped Houston to take his place. David Houston died on September 2, 1940.