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Herbert Hoover

(1874—1964) American Republican statesman

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US Republican statesman and thirty-first president of the USA (1929–33).

Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, to Quaker parents, who were both dead by the time he was nine years old. Herbert went to live with a maternal uncle in Newburg, Oregon, where he was educated at the Quaker academy. He graduated from Stanford University as a mining engineer in 1895 and his subsequent engineering career, which took him to Australia, China, India, Africa, Canada, and Britain, won him a worldwide reputation and considerable wealth. In China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion (1900), Hoover became involved in war relief work, an experience that stood him in good stead as head of Allied relief operations in London during World War I. On the entry of the USA into the war in 1917 President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover national food administrator. In the immediate postwar period he was responsible for the distribution of food to the starving millions in European countries hit by famine.

Hoover entered politics in 1921 as secretary of commerce to President Warren G. Harding (1865–1923) and continued in this position under President Coolidge. During his extended period in office (1921–29) he radically reorganized the department and served as chairman on commissions that led to the construction of the Hoover Dam and the St Lawrence Seaway. On Coolidge's decision not to run for re-election in 1928, Hoover campaigned successfully for the Republican nomination and won a massive victory over his Democratic opponent, Alfred E. Smith, in the presidential election. Just seven months after his inauguration in March 1929, Hoover found himself faced with the immediate and long-term problems resulting from the stock market crash and the Great Depression. His decision to supply federal aid only to public works and financial institutions, leaving the support of the unemployed masses to private charities and local government, earned him widespread criticism and severely marred the humanitarian reputation he had built up through his wartime relief work. In the 1932 election he was soundly defeated by the Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

During World War II, Hoover became involved in relief work once again; in 1946 President Truman appointed him coordinator of food supplies to avert the threat of postwar famine. He subsequently led the two Hoover commissions (1947–49; 1953) aimed at streamlining federal government procedures, eliminating waste, and improving efficiency. Having retired from active politics at the age of eighty, he devoted the rest of his life to writing and public speaking on international and national affairs.

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