12 January 2009

Engineer • Public Servant • Author

Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was the thirty-first President of the United States and is the most recent cabinet secretary to be elected President. Secretary of Commerce under Harding and Coolidge, Hoover won the election of 1928 by a wide margin despite having no prior elective office, campaigning on the economic success of the Republicans in the 1920's. Hoover's presidential honeymoon was short-lived as the stock market crash in September of 1929 marked the start of the Great Depression. Hoover wrestled with ways to combat the worsening economy but ended up, after four years, being unsuccessful. He raised tax rates across the board, with top income rates going from 25% to 63%, doubling estate taxes and raising corporate tax rates to counter declining government revenue. He signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which cut world trade in half, worsening the effects of the Great Depression. From the U.S. Bureau of Census: Unemployment was at 7.8% in 1930 when the Smoot-Hawley tariff was passed, but it jumped to 16.3% in 1931, 24.9% in 1932, and 25.1% in 1933.

Hoover was a mining engineer before becoming involved in politics. As chairman of the Colorado River Commission in the early 20's, he oversaw the development of the Boulder Dam to be renamed the Hoover Dam by congressional act while he was President in 1931. Following Roosevelt's victory in 1932, his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, succeeded in slowly removing Hoover's name from all literature relating to the Dam and did not mention or invite Hoover to the dedication speech in 1935. The name was not restored until another act of Congress in 1947.

Author of at least 16 books from mining textbooks to presidential history to fishing, Hoover writes in his book to children: "I did not "dream about becoming President" until forty-four years after I finished the eighth grade. I was busy on other things. Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one."

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