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Lewis B. Schwellenbach
5th United States Secretary of Labor

In office
July 1, 1945 – June 10, 1948
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Frances Perkins
Succeeded by Maurice J. Tobin
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington

In office
November 20, 1940 – June 30, 1945
Appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by J. Stanley Webster
Succeeded by Samuel Marion Driver
United States Senator
from Washington

In office
January 3, 1935 – December 16, 1940
Preceded by Clarence Dill
Succeeded by Monrad Wallgren
Personal details
Born Lewis Baxter Schwellenbach
(1894-09-20)September 20, 1894
Superior, Wisconsin
Died June 10, 1948(1948-06-10) (aged 53)
Washington, D.C.
Resting place Washelli Cemetery
Seattle, Washington
Political party Democratic

Lewis Baxter Schwellenbach (September 20, 1894 – June 10, 1948) was a United States Senator from Washington, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and the 5th United States Secretary of Labor.

Education and career[]

Born on September 20, 1894, in Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, Schwellenbach moved to Spokane, Washington with his parents in 1902, attending the Spokane elementary and high schools. He received a Bachelor of Laws in 1917 from the University of Washington School of Law. He was an assistant instructor at the University of Washington from 1916 to 1917. He entered service during World War I as a Private in the 12th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army in 1918 until his discharge as a Corporal in 1919. He was admitted to the bar and entered private practice in Seattle, Washington from 1919 to 1935. He was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for Governor of Washington in 1932.[1][2]

Congressional service[]

Schwellenbach was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from January 3, 1935, to December 16, 1940, when he resigned. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1940, having been appointed to the federal bench. He was a delegate to the Inter-Parliamentary Union at The Hague, Netherlands in 1938.[1]

Federal judicial service[]

Schwellenbach was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 6, 1940, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington vacated by Judge J. Stanley Webster. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 1940, and received his commission on November 20, 1940. His service terminated on June 30, 1945, due to his resignation to become Secretary of Labor.[2]

Secretary of Labor[]

The official portrait of Lewis B. Schwellenbach hangs in the Department of Labor

Schwellenbach (2nd from left) at a meeting of the Truman cabinet, (August 1945).

Schwellenbach was appointed United States Secretary of Labor by President Harry S. Truman and served from July 1, 1945, until his death in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. on June 10, 1948.[1][2][3] He was interred in Washelli Cemetery in Seattle.[1]

Events of Schwellenbach's tenure as Secretary[]

During Schwellenbach's tenure as Secretary, fear of post war unemployment brought the United States Congress to pass the Employment Act of 1946, which made promotion of maximum employment the Nation's top priority. Schwellenbach promoted abolition of war time wage and price controls. He had to deal with a post war wave of strikes. The Republican 80th United States Congress passed the Taft–Hartley Act. Staff cuts were made at the United States Department of Labor. The Conciliation Service was removed from the Department of Labor and established as the independent Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). During his term, the Department's international work was institutionalized; the Office of International Labor Affairs (now the Bureau of International Labor Affairs) was established as a unit in the Office of the Secretary.[3]

Personal life[]

Schwellenbach's brother, Edgar W. Schwellenbach, served as a Justice of the Washington Supreme Court.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Lewis B. Schwellenbach at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Schwellenbach, Lewis Baxter - Federal Judicial Center". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Hall of Secretaries: Lewis B. Schwellenbach - U.S. Department of Labor". 
  4. "State Supreme Court Justice Schwellenbach Dies Sunday At 70", Port Angeles Evening News (September 23, 1957), p. 6.


  • Time, October 15, 1945 (A likeness of Schwellenbach was on the cover)
  • Truman, David McCullough ISBN 0-671-45654-7
  • Department of Labor archives

External links[]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Clarence Dill
Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Washington (Class 1)
Succeeded by
Monrad Wallgren
United States Senate
Preceded by
Clarence Dill
United States Senator (Class 1) from Washington
Served alongside: Homer Bone
Succeeded by
Monrad Wallgren
Legal offices
Preceded by
J. Stanley Webster
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
Succeeded by
Samuel Marion Driver
Political offices
Preceded by
Frances Perkins
United States Secretary of Labor
Succeeded by
Maurice J. Tobin

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