Strauss, Lewis Lichtenstein
STRAUSS, LEWIS LICHTENSTEIN
STRAUSS, LEWIS LICHTENSTEIN (1896–1974), U.S. governmental official, navy rear admiral, and banker. Strauss was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and grew up in Richmond. He became a traveling salesman for his family's wholesale shoe business. In 1917 he presented himself to Herbert Hoover, who was then organizing volunteers in the cause of Belgian relief. Strauss remained with the volunteers, and when Hoover became head of the Food Administration, Strauss became his secretary, later accompanying him on several European missions. Strauss caught the attention of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., which hired him in 1919. In 1923 he married Alice Hanauer, daughter of a partner in the firm, and in 1929 he himself became a partner. Avidly keeping abreast of technological developments, Strauss was an initial investor in Kodachrome. His interest in the atom was spurred by the deaths of his parents from cancer, and he funded the construction of a surge generator to produce isotopes for cancer treatment. From 1926 Strauss was in the Navy Reserve and was called to duty in 1941, becoming adviser to Navy Undersecretary Forrestal. He directed the development of the radar proximity fuse, conceived the Big "E" war production incentive program, and in 1945 was promoted to rear admiral by President Truman. In 1946 Truman appointed him to the Atomic Energy Commission (aec) where he served through 1950. He was reappointed by President Eisenhower in 1953, this time as chairman. Strauss, who was then president of Temple Emanu-El, New York City, opened the first meeting under his chairmanship with a prayer, "that the fruits of our labor be peace and not war."
Strauss was thrust into public controversy twice during his tenure. In 1953 the White House suspended the security clearance of commissioner J. Robert *Oppenheimer. Strauss eventually voted against Oppenheimer's reinstatement but sought to have him retained in the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study and other nuclear undertakings. The second controversy flared a year later, when the aec engaged the Dixon-Yates combine to erect a power plant in West Memphis, Arkansas. Strauss, a deeply conservative Republican, was eager then to admit private industry into the atomic field. But liberals saw in the Dixon-Yates contract a threat to the Tennessee Valley Authority and public power. They attacked the contract so vigorously that in 1955 President Eisenhower canceled it. In 1959 Eisenhower nominated Strauss secretary of commerce, but the Senate refused to confirm him. Soon thereafter he returned to private life.
Fortune (Jan. 1955); New York Times (Feb. 25, 1959); L. Strauss, Men and Decisions (1962).