Luther Hartwell Hodges

58th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1954 to 1961

Date Born: March 9, 1898

Date Died: October 6, 1974

Place Born: Pittsylvania County, VA

Place Buried: Overlook Cemetery in Eden, NC

Residence: Leaksville, NC, Chapel Hill, NC.

Occupation: Textiles Manufacturing


Luther Hartwell Hodges was born on March 9, 1898 in Cascade, Pittsylvania County, VA, son of John James Hodges and Lovicia (Gammons) Hodges. When he was two years old, his parents moved across the state line to Spray, NC, which later merged with Draper to become Eden, in Rockingham County, NC. When he was seventeen years old, he went to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he graduated in 1919. One source asserts he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War I.

After college, Luther Hartwell Hodges returned to Rockingham County and went to work at Carolina Cotton and Woolen Mills in Leaksville, which was later purchased by Marshall Field & Company. He remained with this company, working his way up from millworker to executive positions, until he retired to enter politics in 1952.

On June 24, 1922, Luther Hartwell Hodges married Martha Elizabeth Blakeney, daughter of Rochel Edward Blakeney and Margaret Ann (Houston) Blakeney of Union County; they had three children. Martha Hodges died in a house fire in 1969.

In 1923, Luther Hartwell Hodges helped to form the Leaksville Rotary Club, which later became known as the Eden Rotary Club. In the 1940s, he was appointed to the NC Board of Education and the Highway and Public Works Commission. In 1945, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and to the U.S. Army in occupied Germany.

In the general election of 1952, Luther Hartwell Hodges was elected by the people as the next Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, and he served under Gov. William Bradley Umstead.

Upon the death of Gov. William Bradley Umstead on November 7, 1954, Luther Hartwell Hodges was sworn in as the next Governor of North Carolina. He won re-election during the general election of 1956, and served another four years, until January 5, 1961. During his time in office, Gov. Hodges promoted industrialization and education, while attempting to limit racial tension. Research Triangle Park was established while he was governor.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as Secretary of Commerce, which he held until 1965. He returned to Chapel Hill, NC and served as Chairman of the Research Triangle Park. In 1967, he served a one-year term as President of Rotary International.

In 1970, Luther Hartwell Hodges married a second time, to Louise B. Finlayson.

Luther Hardwell Hodges died in Chapel Hill, NC on October 6, 1974, and he was buried in the Overlook Cemetery in Eden, NC.


Luther Hartwell Hodges (9 March 1898 – 6 October 1974) was the Democratic governor of the state of North Carolina from 1954 to 1961 and United States Secretary of Commerce from 1961 to 1965. He was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on March 9, 1898, and moved with his family to Spray (which later merged with two other towns to become Eden, NC) when he was two years old, living much of his life there in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Hodges left for UNC-Chapel Hill at age 17, and moved back to Eden after college.

He then went to work at Carolina Cotton and Woolen Mills in Leaksville, which was later purchased by Marshall Field. He remained with the company until he retired to enter politics. In 1923, he helped form the Leaksville Rotary Club, which later became known as the Eden Rotary. In the 1940s, he was appointed to the state Board of Education and the Highway and Public Works Commission. In 1945, he served as a consultant to the US Secretary of Agriculture and to the US Army in occupied Germany.

Hodges worked his way from mill-work to executive positions in industry; at the same time, he was an active supporter of vocational education programs in North Carolina. He was elected the state's lieutenant governor in 1952 and succeeded to the position of governor in November of 1954 upon the death of Governor William B. Umstead. Two years later, he was elected on his own to a four-year term as governor. Because North Carolina had a one-term limit for governors at that time, Hodges had the longest continuous tenure in the office until Jim Hunt succeeded in getting the state constitution changed.

Research Triangle Park was established while he was governor. When he left his Washington post in 1965, he returned to Chapel Hill and was chairman of Research Triangle Park. In 1967, he served a one-year term as president of Rotary International, the only North Carolinian ever to hold the title, which is carried by only 100 people worldwide. During his time in office, Governor Hodges promoted industrialization and education, while attempting to limit racial tension. He died in Oct. 6, 1974, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is buried in the Overlook Cemetery at Eden, North Carolina.


Luther Hartwell Hodges, governor of North Carolina, was born in Pittsylvania County, VA on March 9, 1898. His education was attained at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1919. He established a successful business career with the Marshall Fields Mills. He started out working as a Secretary to the manager, and eventually became Vice President of Manufacturing. He also served on several commissions including, the State Vocational Education Board (1929 to 1933) as well as serving on the State Highway Commission (1933 to 1937). He served as Director of the textile division of the Office of Price Administration in 1944; was the special consultant to the secretary of agriculture in 1945; and he chaired the 1948 International Convention. Hodges first entered politics as the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, a position he held from 1953 to 1954. On November 7, 1954 Governor William Bradley Umstead died in office, and Hodges, who was the Lieutenant Governor at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. He went on to win a term of own in 1956. During his tenure, industrial development was promoted; a textile mill strike was dealt with; a selective school integration plan was initiated; and a minimum wage bill was authorized. After leaving the governorship, Hodges secured an appointment to serve in President Kennedy’s cabinet as Secretary of Commerce, a post he held from 1961 to 1965. He later served as board chairman of the Research Triangle Foundation, as well as serving as the President of the Rotary International in 1967. Luther H. Hodges passed away on October 6, 1974, and was buried in the Overlook Cemetery in Eden, NC.

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