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Mathews around 1950

Francis Patrick Matthews (March 15, 1887 – October 18, 1952) served as 49th United States Secretary of the Navy, during the administration of President Harry Truman. Matthews served during most of Truman's second term, from May 25, 1949 to July 31, 1951. He was also the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus from 1939 to 1945.


Born in Albion, Nebraska, Matthews spent most of his adult life in Omaha. He graduated from Creighton University in Omaha in 1913, then practiced law in that city from that time onward. He was active in business pursuits, civic and religious affairs and Democratic Party politics. From 1933 through 1949, he served as a consultant to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. During the Second World War, Mr. Matthews served as a Director and Vice President of the United Service Organizations (USO) and was also involved in war-relief work. He was Director (1941–1951) of the Department of Finance in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Following the war, he served briefly (1946–1947) on the President's Committee on Civil Rights.

Truman tapped Matthews in early 1949 to become Secretary of the Navy. Matthews entered the post in May 1949, at a time of internal turmoil in the Department of Defense resulting from significant funding reductions and controversial decisions on defense priorities. He served through the first year of the Korean War; during his two years in office, the federal government was massively increasing defense spending to meet international crises, and all the armed forces were under major strain as they simultaneously tried to meet the demands of a hot war in Asia and an intensive defense build-up in Europe. One of the key events of Matthews' time at the Navy Department was the so-called "Revolt of the Admirals," an intense controversy between the Navy and the Air Force over which service would be in charge of strategic bombing and the dropping of nuclear weapons. The Navy wanted to build huge flush-deck carriers (known as "supercarriers"), while the Air Force wanted to focus on the Convair B-36 bomber. Top Navy leaders "revolted" when they publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the Defense Dept.'s policies, and several senior admirals (including ADM Louis E. Denfeld, Chief of Naval Operations) were forced to resign, or did so in protest.

Matthews resigned the Navy post in July 1951 to become Ambassador to Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He died on October 18, 1952, during a visit to Omaha.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

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Religious titles
Preceded by
Martin H. Carmody
Supreme Knight
Succeeded by
John E. Swift
Government offices
Preceded by
John L. Sullivan
United States Secretary of the Navy
May 25, 1949 – July 31, 1951
Succeeded by
Dan A. Kimball

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