David Houston

David Houston, the last of three Treasury Secretaries appointed by Wilson, was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1866. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina in 1887 and his masters in political science from Harvard in 1892. In 1896, he published A Critical Study of Nullification in South Carolina and, like Wilson, was a college professor and president. Houston served as Wilson’s Secretary of Agriculture from 1913 until joining Treasury after Wilson turned to him to replace Carter Glass, who left the treasuryship after being elected to the US Senate.

During his short tenure as Treasury Secretary, Houston enjoyed considerable policy discretion due to the devastating effects of Wilson’s late 1919 stroke. Houston tried to rein in inflation, which had run in the double digits each year since 1917, by urging the Federal Reserve to increase its discount rate, the rate at which it lent to member banks. A large deflation and recession resulted, with the latter lasting until July 1921.

After leaving office with Wilson in early 1921, Houston became a corporate executive and director for AT&T, United States Steel, Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York and several other companies. He died in 1940 in New York City.

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