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William Franklin "Frank" Knox (January 1, 1874 – April 28, 1944) was an American newspaper editor and publisher. He was also the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1936, and Secretary of the Navy under Franklin D. Roosevelt during most of World War II.
William Franklin Knox was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were both Canadian: his father was from New Brunswick and his mother Sarah Barnard, was from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. When he was nine, his family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where his father ran a grocery store. He attended Alma College in Michigan, where he was a member of the Zeta Sigma Fraternity.
During the Spanish-American War, he joined the Army, and served in Cuba with the Rough Riders .
After the war, Knox became a newspaper reporter in Grand Rapids. This was the beginning of a career that included ownership of several papers.
He changed his first name to Frank around 1900. In 1912 as founding editor of New Hampshire's Manchester Leader, forerunner to the New Hampshire Union Leader, he supported Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive ticket. However, with that exception, he adhered to the Republican Party.
During World War I, Knox was an advocate of U.S military preparedness and then of participation in the war. When the U.S. declared war on Germany, he rejoined the Army. He reached the rank of Major and served as an artillery officer in France. After the war he returned to the newspaper business.
In 1930, Frank Knox became publisher and part owner of the Chicago Daily News.
In the 1936 election, he was the Republican nominee for vice president under Alf Landon. Landon and Knox were the only supporters of Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 to be later named to a Republican ticket. They lost in a landslide, winning just Maine and Vermont against the Democratic ticket of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President John Nance Garner.
Admiral Harold R. Stark and Secretary Knox reading on a train in the United Kingdom in 1943
During World War II, Knox again was an advocate of preparedness. As an internationalist, he supported aid to the Allies and opposed isolationism. In July 1940, he became Secretary of the Navy under Franklin D. Roosevelt; the Democratic president sought to create bi-partisan support for his foreign and defense policies following the defeat of France.
As Secretary, Frank Knox carried out Roosevelt's plan to expand the Navy into a force capable of fighting in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He traveled extensively to Navy installations worldwide.
Following a brief series of heart attacks, Secretary Knox died in Washington, D.C. on April 28, 1944 while still in office. He was buried on May 1, 1944 in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Posthumous honors and memorials
The Gearing-class destroyer USS Frank Knox (DD-742), commissioned in December 1944, was named in his honor.
On May 31, 1945 he received posthumously the Medal for Merit from President Harry S. Truman.
It seems probable that his Canadian roots led his widow, Annie Reid Knox in 1948 to endow several fellowships in his name - the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships - which allow scholars from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to pursue graduate study at Harvard University or allow recent graduates of Harvard University to travel and research in ex-commonwealth countries.
After the German massacre of civilians in the Czech village of Lidice in June 1942 in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Knox said
"If future generations ask us what we are fighting for [in World War Two], we shall tell them the story of Lidice."