Northern Illinois University Press

Hugh S. Johnson and the New Deal

John Kennedy Ohl

"This book by John Kennedy Ohl is an excellent study, thoroughly researched and well written, of both Hugh Johnson and his relationship to the New Deal.... [It] should be a definitive biography of Johnson, a highly useful source for students of the New Deal, and required reading for advocates of self-regulation of business."—Journal of Economic History

Hugh Samuel Johnson, the first director of the National Recovery Administration, protégé of Bernard Baruch, columnist, speaker, and exponent of industrial self-government, was a man of immense influence during the early years of the New Deal. In this, the first biography, Ohl traces Johnson's complex life from childhood in the emerging American West, where Johnson went to a school that his father had physically moved into their Oklahoma territory, developed an appreciation of music that would stand him in good stead—and win him the singing companionship of United Mine Workers leader John L. Lewis in years to come—and decided, rather ruthlessly, to set out on a military career.

Ohl follows the young West Pointer through four years of highjinks and a coinciding, if startling, development of deep dedication to the military ideals of loyalty to enterprise and to one's comrades. He discusses—with wide knowledge of archival sources on the public men and women of the World War I and interwar periods—Johnson's initial military successes, his role in designing the draft, his frustrations with domestic military bureaucracy, his postwar entry into business, and his meeting and friendship with Baruch.

Johnson followed "the Boss" toward a meeting with FDR's brain trusters and eventually to the high position of NRA administrator, a post he filled with energy, a high and colorful profile, and deep commitment. Johnson's frenzied pace—he directed the formulation, for example, of more than 500 fair trade codes during his year and a half in the old Commerce Building—his vehement and picturesque language, and his hard verbal fighting and hard drinking led to his dismissal by Roosevelt. Leaving behind his codes, minimum-wage and maximum-hour negotiations, and his strike interventions, Johnson continued to serve and admire Roosevelt through some months during the formulation of the New York City WPA. His disillusionment with Roosevelt and his columns and speeches that followed provide insight into the evolution of the New Deal and, later, the opposition to both the president and his programs.

(1985) 386 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-110-0
cloth $35.00

Table of Contents

1 Early Stuff
2 A Strong Right Arm
3 Director of Purchase and Supply
4 The Moline Plow Company
5 Serving the Chief
6 Into the Saddle with NRA
7 Codifying Industry
8 Public Man and Private Complications
9 Wars and Dead Cats
10 The Price Problem
11 Labor Policy
12 Peck's Bad Boy
13 Exit Johnson
14 A Good Soldier
15 In Opposition

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-110-0
cloth $35.00