Military Wiki
Frank Knox
46th United States Secretary of the Navy

In office
July 11, 1940 – April 28, 1944
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Charles Edison
Succeeded by James V. Forrestal
Personal details
Born William Franklin Knox
January 1, 1874
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died April 28, 1944(1944-04-28) (aged 70)
Washington, D.C., United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Annie Reid Knox
Alma mater Alma College
Profession Publisher
Religion Congregationalist
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1898, 1917 - 1919
Rank Major
Battles/wars Spanish-American War

World War I

William Franklin "Frank" Knox (January 1, 1874 – April 28, 1944) was an American newspaper editor and publisher. He was also the Republican candidate in 1936, and Secretary of the Navy under Franklin D. Roosevelt during most of World War II.

Life and career

William Franklin Knox was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were both Canadian: his father was from New Brunswick and his mother Sarah Barnard, was from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.[1] When he was nine, his family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where his father ran a grocery store. He attended Alma College in Michigan, where he was a member of the Zeta Sigma Fraternity. During the Spanish-American War, he joined the Army, and served in Cuba with Theodore Roosevelt's famous Rough Riders, the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.[2] He was a member of Troop D commanded by Captain Robert Huston. As a member of D Troop, Knox fought in Cuba at the Battle of Las Guasimas, and the Battle of San Juan Hill.[3]

After the war, Knox became a newspaper reporter in Grand Rapids. This was the beginning of a career that included ownership of several papers. He changed his first name to Frank around 1900. In 1912 as founding editor of New Hampshire's Manchester Leader, forerunner to the New Hampshire Union Leader, he supported Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive ticket. However, with that exception, he adhered to the Republican Party.

During World War I, Knox was an advocate of U.S military preparedness and then of participation in the war. When the U.S. declared war on Germany, he rejoined the Army. He reached the rank of Major and served as an artillery officer in France. After the war he returned to the newspaper business.

Admiral Harold R. Stark and Secretary Knox reading on a train in the United Kingdom in 1943

In 1930, Frank Knox became publisher and part owner of the Chicago Daily News. In the 1936 election, he was the Republican nominee for under Alf Landon. Landon, Knox and former President Herbert Hoover were the only supporters of Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 to be later named to a Republican ticket. They lost in a landslide, winning just Maine and Vermont against the Democratic ticket of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President John Nance Garner. During World War II, Knox again was an advocate of preparedness. As an internationalist, he supported aid to the Allies and opposed isolationism. In July 1940, he became Secretary of the Navy under Franklin D. Roosevelt; the Democratic president sought to create bi-partisan support for his foreign and defense policies following the defeat of France.

When a new naval officer on Knox's staff told him "I'm no New Dealer", Knox replied "I fought the President with every resource at my command. But now I've squared my politics with my conscience and I'm proud to serve under such a great man. At that", Knox added, "it's a good thing to have a couple of fellows around here who aren't New Dealers!"[4] Knox carried out Roosevelt's plan to expand the Navy into a force capable of fighting in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He traveled extensively to Navy installations worldwide.

Following a brief series of heart attacks, Secretary Knox died in Washington, D.C. on April 28, 1944 while still in office. He was buried on May 1, 1944 in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.[5]

Posthumous honors and memorials

The Gearing-class destroyer USS Frank Knox (DD-742), commissioned in December 1944, was named in his honor.[6][7] On May 31, 1945 he received posthumously the Medal for Merit from President Harry S. Truman.[8]

It seems probable that his Canadian roots led his widow, Annie Reid Knox[5] in 1948 to endow several fellowships in his name - the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships - which allow scholars from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to pursue graduate study at Harvard University or allow recent graduates of Harvard University to travel and research in commonwealth countries.[2]


After the German massacre of civilians in the Czech village of Lidice in June 1942 in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Knox said

"If future generations ask us what we are fighting for [in World War Two], we shall tell them the story of Lidice."[5]

See also

  • List of U.S. political appointments that crossed party lines
  • Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships
  • Ed J. Davenport, handled public relations for Frank Knox, 1929–32


  1. J. Ernest Kerr, Imprint of the Maritimes, 1959, Boston: Christopher Publishing, p. 123
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Who is Frank Knox?", Harvard University.
  3. Theodore Roosevelt (1899). "Troop D Muster". CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  4. Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in Retrospect. Harper & Brothers. pp. 35. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "William Franklin 'Frank' Knox", Arlington National Cemetery.
  6. "Frank Knox (1874-1944)", Online Library of Selected Images, NHC.
  7. "USS Frank Knox", USN Ships, NHC.
  8. Sec. of War Henry Stimson's diary and papers May 31, 1945 - June 6, 1945


This article incorporates text in the public domain from the United States Department of the Navy.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Curtis
Republican vice presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Charles L. McNary
Government offices
Preceded by
Charles Edison
United States Secretary of the Navy
1940 – 1944
Succeeded by
James V. Forrestal

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