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Charles Edison (1940) - Secretary of the Navy

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Charles Edison was born August 3, 1890, in West Orange, New Jersey, the son of the inventor Thomas Alva Edison. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1909 to 1913 and received a degree in electrical engineering.

Edison began his career (after a brief stint as a poet) at the Edison Illuminating Company, soon rising through the ranks to become manager of the Edison Phonograph Company and the Edison Storage Battery Company. In 1916, Charles Edison became chairman of all the related Edison industries, assuming the presidency of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., in 1926.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, Edison served as a member of the New Jersey State Recovery Board, as the state director of the National Emergency Council, and as a member of the National Industrial Recovery Board.

He also served as a regional director of the Federal Housing Administration (1934) and as assistant secretary of the Navy (1937-1939), though secretary Claude Swanson's constant illness required Edison to play de facto secretary of the Navy until Swanson's death in 1940 and his own appointment to the post.

Edison remained in the post only five and a half months before resigning to serve as governor of New Jersey (1941-1944). Constitutionally unable to run for a second term, Edison returned to the private sector. He died on July 31, 1969, in New York City

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

William E. Leuchtenburg

Professor Leuchtenburg is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His writings include:

The White House Looks South: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson (Louisiana State University Press, 2005)

The FDR Years: On Roosevelt and His Legacy (Columbia University Press, 1995)

The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-32 (University of Chicago Press, 1993)

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1940 (Harper Collins, 1963)