Military Wiki
James H. Douglas, Jr.
5th Secretary of the Air Force

In office
May 1, 1957 – December 10, 1959
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Donald A. Quarles
Succeeded by Dudley C. Sharp
Personal details
Born (1899-03-11)March 11, 1899
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA
Died February 24, 1988(1988-02-24) (aged 88)
Lake Forest, Illinois, USA
Political party Republican

James Henderson Douglas, Jr. (March 11, 1899 – February 24, 1988) was a lawyer and senior-level official in the United States Government. He was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, serving under both President Herbert Hoover and President Franklin Roosevelt. During the Eisenhower Administration, he served in the United States Department of Defense as Secretary of the Air Force and Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Early life

Douglas grew up in the Lake Forest area near Chicago, Illinois. His family was quite wealthy, having co-founded the Quaker Oats Company.[1]

He attended Princeton University where he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army in 1918. He was initially assigned to Camp Hancock, Georgia. World War I ended before he could join a unit in Europe. After the war he returned to Princeton where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1920. He attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge for a year prior to returning the United States to study law at Harvard University, graduating with a law degree in 1924.[1][2]

Law and public service

Douglas was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1925, and joined the Chicago law firm of Winston, Strawn & Shaw, but left the firm after only a year to pursue opportunities in the investment banking. He join investment banking firm of Field, Glore & Company in 1929.[1][2]

Near the end of the Hoover Administration, Secretary of the Treasury Ogden L. Mills recommended to President Hoover that Douglas be appointed as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Douglas began service as Assistant Secretary in February 1932. He continued in the position for a year under President Roosevelt. However, he did not agree with Roosevelt's monetary policies, and he resigned in June 1933. After leaving the Federal Government, he founded the Citizens Committee on Monetary Policy to oppose President Roosevelt's financial program.[1]

After serving as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Douglas returned to Chicago to practice law. He joined the law firm of Gardner Carton. In 1934, Douglas became a senior partner, and the firm was renamed Gardner, Carton & Douglas. The firm would later be acquired by the Philadelphia-based law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath.[3]

Douglas served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He had duty assignments in South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia, rising from Major (United States) to Colonel in three and a half years. Much of his service time was spent in senior Army Air Corps staff positions including deputy chief of staff of the Air Transport Command and chief of staff for Air Training Command. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his war time service.[1][2]

After the war, Douglas returned to Chicago to practice law with Gardner, Carton & Douglas where he remained a senior partner. He continued with the firm until March 1953 when President Eisenhower nominated him to become Under Secretary of the Air Force.[2]

Eisenhower Administration

Douglas quickly became was one of President Eisenhower key military advisors. He served as Under Secretary of the Air Force from 1953 until 1957. In May 1957, President Eisenhower appointed him as the fifth Secretary of the Air Force. He was the first Secretary of the Air Force to have previously served as a military air service officer.[1]

As Secretary of the Air Force, Douglas helped establish the United States Air Force Academy.[4] He authorized the Air Force Commendation Medal to replace the Army version of the award.[5] Douglas advised the President regarding a course of action in response to The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I in October 1957. He also reaffirmed the 1925 court-martial verdict against air power advocate Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. He said the court was correct to have been found Mitchell guilty of publicly attacking his superiors, but noted that time had proved Mitchell was right about the unique value of air power.[1] In April 1959, the secretary of the air force issued implementing instructions to USAF to deploy two Jupiter squadrons to Italy. The two squadrons, totaling 30 missiles, were deployed at 10 sites in Italy from 1961 to 1963. In October 1959, the location of the third and final Jupiter MRBM squadron was settled when a government-to-government agreement was signed with Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey concluded an agreement to deploy one Jupiter squadron on NATO's southern flank.[6] The deployment of US nuclear armed missiles in Turkey triggered the Cuban Missile Crises.

Douglas served as Secretary of the Air Force until the end of 1959. In January 1960, he became Deputy Secretary of Defense, filling the position left vacant since the sudden death of Donald A. Quarles in May 1959. He served as Deputy Secretary of Defense until the close of the Eisenhower Administration in January 1961.[1]

On January 18, 1961, President Eisenhower presented Douglas with the Medal of Freedom for his distinguished service to the United States. The citation recognized Douglas for his "many contributions to the nation's security". It also cited his "sound judgment, wise leadership and great devotion to his country", and his "firm and unyielding dedication to principles of good government".

Later years

When he left the Department of Defense, Douglas once again returned to his law practice in Chicago. He served on the board of directors for American Airlines, March & McLennan, Chicago Title and Trust Company, and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. He was a trustee of the University of Chicago for 55 years. Over his long career in law and government, Douglas was awarded honorary law doctorates from Princeton, Lake Forest College, and Grinnell College. He died of cancer in Lake Forest, Illinois on February 24, 1988. He was 88 years old.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 "James H. Douglas Jr. Dead at 88; Served Presidents and the Military", New York Times, February 28, 1988.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 United States Air Force senior executive biography, "James H. Douglas", Air Force Link, Air Force Historical Studies Office, February 17, 2008.
  3. "A History of Leadership and Innovation", Drinker Biddle, Gardner, Carton & Douglas web-site,, February 17, 2008.
  4. "James H. Douglas Jr., 88, lawyer, ex-Air Force chief", Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago, Illinois, February 25, 1988.
  5. Callander, Bruce D., "A Short History of Medals", Air Force Magazine, Vol. 86, No.12, Washington, D.C., December 2003.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Roswell Gilpatric
United States Under Secretary of the Air Force
March 3, 1953 – April 30, 1957
Succeeded by
Malcolm A. MacIntyre
Preceded by
Thomas S. Gates, Jr.
United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by
Roswell Gilpatric

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).