Jesus H. Jones
Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good.
By Steven Fenberg.
Texas A&M Univ. Press. 611 pp. $35
He rode out of Texas in the depths of the Depression and was credited, during his reign as chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), with saving American capitalism and mobilizing the nation for World War II. “You’d better see Jesse” became a mantra in New Deal Washington, referring to the pug-faced, fast-drawling Houston banker named Jesse Holman Jones.
Under Jones’s watch, the RFC and its subsidiaries lent hundreds of billions (in today’s dollars) to farmers, banks, railroads, and city and state governments, as well as various “incubator” enterprises, such as the Rubber Reserve Company, which pioneered synthetic rubber. Given his unprecedented power—which provides the apt title of Steven Fenberg’s meaty new biography—it’s no wonder that in 1941 Time magazine dubbed Jones the second most powerful man in Washington (after President Franklin D. Roosevelt). Roosevelt himself teasingly called him “Jesus H. Jones.”
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Mark Reutter is a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and a former Wilson Center fellow. He edited Railroad History for eight years and is the author of Making Steel—Sparrows Point and the Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might (1988, rev. ed. 2004).more from this author >>
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