What ever Happened to Herbert Hoover’s Kids?

by Spencer Howard

Visitors to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum often ask, what ever happened to the Hoovers’ kids?  Both of their sons lived productive lives, though neither achieved as much fame as their father.

Herbert Hoover Jr., Allan Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover. 1907

Herbert Charles Hoover was born in London on August 4, 1903.  He was named for his father, Herbert Clark Hoover, and his maternal grandfather, Charles Delano Henry, but throughout his life was known as Herbert Hoover Jr.  To their close friends and family, Herbert Sr. was known as “Bert” and Herbert Jr. went by “Herb.”

As a youth, Hoover Jr. took a keen interest in amateur radio. A severe case of influenza in 1918 left him with impaired hearing, but the scientifically inclined teenager built himself a hearing aid.

He followed in his parent’s footsteps attending Stanford University, where he studied engineering and received his B.A. in 1925.  He then earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and spent two years there as an instructor and researcher.

In 1928, Hoover Jr. was employed by the Guggenheim Fund for the Development of Aeronautics to survey West Coast air routes.  From 1929 through 1934, he worked as a technical consultant for Western Air Express (which became a subsidiary of Transcontinental and Western Air — TWA), helping to develop radio technology for pilot-to-ground and pilot-to-pilot communication.  In August 1930, allegations arose that Hoover, Jr. was using his connections through his father to influence the assignment of lucrative airmail contracts.  In an effort to prevent any political damage to the President or to Western Air, Hoover Jr. offered his resignation to the company, which they refused to accept.  A 1934 Senate investigation of airmail contracts cleared Hoover Jr. and Western Air of any wrongdoing.

In 1935, Hoover Jr. founded United Geophysical Company, which utilized radio technology for oil exploration, and in 1937 he founded Consolidated Engineering Corporation, which built scientific instruments for companies like United Geophysical.  He became a successful executive in a variety of oil-related businesses, and served as a consultant on oil matters to foreign governments including Venezuela, Iran, Brazil, and Peru.  In 1953, he was appointed Special Adviser on petroleum matters to the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles.  Hoover Jr. spent eleven months negotiating a deal between the U.S., Britain and Iran to resolve the crisis precipitated by the nationalization of the oil industry in Iran.

President Eisenhower was impressed with Hoover Jr’s. diplomacy and appointed him Undersecretary of State in 1954.  Dulles was often ill, so Hoover Jr. served as Acting Secretary of State on several occasions.  He was criticized for some of his early decisions, but by the end of his tenure was regarded as a capable stand-in for Dulles.  He retired from the State Department in 1957 and returned to private industry.

Hoover Jr. married Margaret Eva Watson in 1925. They had three children: Margaret Ann “Peggy” Hoover Brigham (1926-2011), Herbert “Pete” Hoover III (1927-2010), and Joan Ledlie Hoover Vowles (1930-2002). Hoover Jr. died on July 9, 1969 at his home in Pasadena, California after suffering from a stroke.

Despite living an interesting and notable life, no books have been written about Hoover Jr., and what little biographical information has been published is often in error.  Unfortunately, he left behind almost no papers, giving historians little to work with.

Herbert Hoover Jr., Herbert Hoover and Allan Hoover at their home in Washington, DC. 1928

Allan Henry Hoover was the youngest son of Herbert and Lou Hoover.  He was born July 17, 1907 in London, England.  Like his parents and older brother, he attended Stanford University majoring in economics, and subsequently attended Harvard Business School.  He worked in agriculture, mining, and finance, and lived for many years in Connecticut.

For much of his life, Allan Hoover served as a stand-in for his father.  In the 1920s, for example, he helped manage the “Hoover farm” in Kern County, California.  The farm was actually a large agricultural operation in which Herbert Hoover had purchased a major share in 1920.  The operation was never very profitable, and became something of a political liability when Hoover became President.

Allan Hoover took a lead role in preserving his father’s birthplace in West Branch, Iowa.  He purchased the birthplace cottage for the family in 1935 and acted as the liaison between the Hoover family and local groups in West Branch on matters involving the restoration of the cottage, the evolution of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, and the eventual construction of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum.  He was also active in the leadership of organizations that were important to his father, including the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, the Herbert Hoover Foundation, and the Boys Clubs of America.

Allan Hoover married Margaret Coberly in 1937.  They had three children:  Allan Hoover Jr. (1938-2013), Andrew Hoover (b. 1940), and Lou Henry Hoover (1943-2012).  He passed away November 4, 1993 and is buried near his paternal grandparents in West Branch.  He donated several collections of personal and family papers to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum that continue to provide scholars with invaluable insights into his life and the lives of his parents.

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