A great friend of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum died on September 15. Professor Ellis Hawley mentored generations of undergraduate and graduate students from 1957 to his retirement in 1994. He began his career on faculty of North Texas State University, moving to Ohio State University, and ending his career at the University of Iowa from 1969-1994. Focusing on the history of American economic institutions and business-government relations during the period from 1915 to 1940, Hawley wrote a number of seminal books exploring the topics from The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly to (with others) Herbert Hoover and the Crisis of American Capitalism. Using the manuscript materials at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Hawley encouraged his students to mine the riches contained in the Hoover archive. His own writings were important correctives in providing a more nuanced and clearer understanding of Herbert Hoover’s policies as Secretary of Commerce and President. Colleagues held Hawley is high regard, creating the Ellis W. Hawley Prize for the best historical study of the political economy, politics, or institutions of the United States, in its domestic or international affairs, from the American Civil War to the present. Awarded annually since 1997 by Organization of American Historians, the prize reflects the esteemed stature that Hawley held in the profession.
I first met Ellis at an opening reception of one of the temporary exhibits at the museum. He was quiet and understated, said little but nothing seemed to escape his notice. It was rare that Ellis did not attend the programs and exhibit openings at the museum. His intellectual curiosity that inspired generations of students remained in force to the moment of his death. Along with fellow colleague Lawrence Gelfand, a historian of international relations, both advised the library on assembling conferences to explore new topics related to Hoover and his times as well as editing conference papers into published proceedings. Hawley also wrote two important review essays, evaluating publications on Hoover, most recently in 2019. Declining health prompted a relocation to Longmont, Colorado Atria Senior Living. He was 91.