Charles W. Sawyer

Charles W. Sawyer
16th United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
May 6, 1948  January 20, 1953
Preceded by W. Averell Harriman
Succeeded by Sinclair Weeks
44th Lieutenant Governor of Ohio
In office
January 9, 1933  January 14, 1935
Governor George White
Preceded by William G. Pickrel
Succeeded by Harold G. Mosier
Personal details
Born (1887-02-10)February 10, 1887
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died April 7, 1979(1979-04-07) (aged 92)
Palm Beach, Florida, United States
Resting place Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Margaret Sterrett Sawyer
(1st wife)
Elizabeth De Veyrac Sawyer
(2nd wife)
Children Anne Johnston Sawyer
Charles Sawyer, Jr.
Jean Johnston Sawyer
John William Sawyer
Edward Milton Sawyer
Parents Edward Milton Sawyer
Caroline Butler Sawyer
Alma mater University of Cincinnati College of Law (1911)
Profession Politician
Religion Episcopalian

Charles W. Sawyer (February 10, 1887  April 7, 1979) was United States Secretary of Commerce from May 6, 1948 to January 20, 1953 in the administration of Harry Truman.


Sawyer was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on February 10, 1887, to Caroline (née Butler) and Edward Milton Sawyer. He served as a member of Cincinnati City Council from 1912 until 1916. Prior to his political career, he worked at the Cincinnati law firm of Dinsmore & Shohl.[1] Between World War I and World War II, he was a prominent Ohio Democratic politician. In the 1930s, a faction led by Sawyer vied with a faction led by Martin L. Davey for control of the state Democratic party.[2] He was the 44th Lieutenant Governor of Ohio from 1933–1935. In 1938, Sawyer was an unsuccessful candidate for governor.

Sawyer authored the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. [3]

He was also appointed as United States Ambassador to Belgium by Franklin D. Roosevelt and was Minister to Luxembourg during the difficult period from 1944 to 1946, at the beginning of the Belgian royal question concerning King Leopold III of Belgium.[4]

Sawyer (in the foreground) as Secretary of Commerce at a meeting of Truman's cabinet (February 1949)

While Secretary of Commerce, Sawyer was ordered by Truman to seize and operate the steel mills in 1952. This seizure was executed to prevent a labor strike which Truman believed would hamper the ability of the United States to proceed in the war in Korea.

When Sawyer returned to Cincinnati after serving President Truman, he joined the law firm of Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister, which had been founded by another prominent Cincinnati politician, Robert A. Taft, and became its managing partner.

In 1968, he authored Concerns of a Conservative Democrat (Southern Illinois University Press). Charles Sawyer served on the following commissions, Hoover Commission on Overseas Task Force, the Commission on Money and Credit, and the World's Fair Site Committee.

While Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Sawyer declared the first National Secretaries Week June 1-7, 1952. He designated Wednesday, June 4, as National Secretaries Day for this formerly male-dominated field of work turned female-dominated by sociocultural anamorphisms.

He died in April 1979, at age 92, in Palm Beach, Florida. He was buried at Spring Grove Cemetery near his birthplace in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Sawyer married his first wife, Margaret Sterrett Johnston, on July 15, 1918. He had five children (two daughters and three sons), Anne Johnston, Charles II, Jean Johnston, John William and Edward Milton Sawyer. Margaret S. Sawyer died in 1937.

Sawyer married his second wife, the former Elizabeth De Weyrac on June 10, 1942; they had no children.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charles W. Sawyer.
  1. Disnmore & Shohl firm history Archived September 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-02. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
  3. Sawyer, Concerns of a Conservative Democrat, Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 48-51.
  4. Charles W. Sawyer at Ohio History Central
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