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Georgia Neese Clark Gray

the first woman to serve as Treasurer of the United States

Georgia Neese Clark Gray

Georgia Neese was born in Richland, Kansas, on January 27, 1900. Her father was a self-made prosperous farmer and businessman who also happened to own most of the property in town and the town's only bank and general store. After graduating from the local high school in 1917, she attended a small Catholic college in Topeka before transferring to Washburn University; she graduated from Washburn with a degree in economics in 1921.

Hoping to become an actress, Neese moved to New York City after college and spent two years at Sargent's Dramatic School. She then enjoyed a ten-year career as an actress with major traveling stock companies. In 1929 she married her manager, George M. Clark. The couple divorced in the mid-1940's.

Clark's stage career ended in 1930, when she returned home to care for her ailing father. By the time of his death in 1937 the careers of most stage actors were ending due to the growing popularity of the movie industry, but, fortunately, Clark had a new career to fall back on.

Having become active in the Democratic Party upon her return to Richland, Clark soon began rising through the party ranks. By 1932 she was on a junior national committee, and was an active campaigner for Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1936 she was elected National Committee Woman in Kansas, and held that post until retiring in 1964. In addition to politics, she was also active in business. In 1935 she became cashier at the Richland State Bank, which had been founded by her father and her uncle; she became president of the bank upon her father's death. She also took over management of the family's general store and other family properties and businesses.

Clark's active participation in the Democratic Party did not go unnoticed on the national level, for she became a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and other influential women in Washington. Those women brought her to the attention of President Harry Truman, who on June 4, 1949, announced her nomination to replace the late William A. Julian as Treasurer of the United States. Clark's nomination was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate five days later, and she was sworn into office on June 21 -- she became the first woman to ever hold that post. Over the course of her tenure in office, the signature of "Georgia Neese Clark" appeared on some $50 billion in currency. She remained as Treasurer throughout the remainder of Truman's term, leaving office in 1953. That same year, she married Andrew J. Gray, a journalist and press agent.

5-dollar bill signed by Georgia Neese Clark
5-dollar bill signed by Georgia Neese Clark

After leaving the Treasurer's office, Gray returned to Kansas and resumed control of the family businesses. She remained active in Democratic Party politics until resigning from the National Committee in 1964. She moved the family bank to Topeka that same year and renamed it Capital City State Bank. She died in a Topeka retirement community on October 26, 1995.

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The Robinson Library >> United States >> 1901-1960 >> Individual Biography, A-Z

This page was last updated on June 21, 2018.