Governor Luther Hodges Dies

Governor Luther Hodges. Image from the State Archives.On October 6, 1974, former North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges died. After a career in business, Luther Hartwell Hodges made industrial development the hallmark of his administration and was instrumental in the establishment of the Research Triangle Park.

The “Businessman Governor” was born in 1898, to a tenant farmer. He served as a second lieutenant in World War I and graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill in 1919. He returned home to Spray (now Eden) to take a position as secretary to the general manager of the Marshall Field and Company mills. Hodges remained with Marshall Field, retiring in 1950 as a vice president. In 1952, Hodges launched a successful bid for lieutenant governor. In 1954, Governor William B. Umstead died and Hodges became governor; he was reelected in 1956.

His greatest success was the Research Triangle, the business park founded in 1956, which he called the “heart and hope of North Carolina’s industrial future.” Shortly after Hodges’s term as governor ended, President John F. Kennedy selected him as Secretary of Commerce. He served in that post until December 1964. For the rest of his life, his energies were directed largely to the Research Triangle Foundation, which he served as board chairman from 1965 to 1972.

Hodges is also the subject of a highway historical marker in Rockingham County.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.