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Martha and Luther Hodges Visiting Lecturer

The Luther H. Hodges, Sr. Lectureship in Cardiothoracic Surgery Fund was established in 1987 by Luther H. Hodges, Jr., BA ’57 as a memorial to his father, Luther H. Hodges, Sr., BA ’19, who served as the 64th Governor of North Carolina from 1954 to 1961 and U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1961 to 1965. Under his leadership, the Research Triangle Park was created and today is an international model of economic development and scientific advancement. The fund supports a lectureship in cardiothoracic surgery in the Department of Surgery at the UNC School of Medicine.

Luther Hodges
Luther Hodges, Governor of North Carolina 1954-1961

The “Businessman Governor” was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on March 9, 1898, and soon after his family moved the short distance across the border to Spray (present-day Eden), North Carolina, where his father took a job in a textile mill. Luther Hodges served as a second lieutenant in World War I and in 1919 graduated from the University of North Carolina. He returned to Spray to take a position as secretary to the general manager of the Marshall Field and Company mills.  In 1922 he married Martha Blakeney of Union County; they would have three children.

Hodges remained with Marshall Field all of his business career, rising from personnel manager to general manager and, from 1943 until his retirement in 1950, vice-president. While residing in North Carolina, he served on the State Board of Education and the State Highway and Public Works Commission. In 1944, while living in New York, he served as chief of the textile division for the Office of Price Administration. In 1952 Hodges, with his wide administrative and management experience, launched a bid for lieutenant governor and eventually won.  On November 7, 1954, Governor William B. Umstead died and Hodges became governor. Hodges served as governor for six years and two months, longer than any chief executive of North Carolina to that date.

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.” As governor Hodges sought to apply business management principles to state government, in part by creating the Department of Administration.

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. Thereafter his energies were directed largely to the Research Triangle Foundation, which he served as board chairman from 1965 to 1972. Hodges retired to Chapel Hill and died on October 6, 1974.


Martha Hodges

Martha HodgesMartha Blakeney (Hodges) was born September 12, 1897, and grew up in Monroe in Union County.  From 1914 to 1918 Martha Blakeney attended State Normal and Industrial College in Greensboro (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). After graduation, she taught for three years at Leaksville-Spray High School and during the last year served as principal as well. While at Leaksville-Spray High School, she met Luther Hartwell Hodges, an official at Marshall Field Mills. They were married June 24, 1922. She continued to teach after their marriage and did graduate work at Columbia University and at the University of Chicago.

While her husband was governor, Martha Hodges entertained often. As first lady she hosted teas, dinners, and musicals for many civic groups visiting the Executive Mansion. A steady stream of dignitaries was likewise entertained at the mansion. Her other duties as first lady included traveling with the governor, attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies, arranging the many flowers used in the large residence, and managing the mansion household and gardens.

In June of 1969 Martha died at the age of 71 years old.