Barr Notes

Do you know which Treasury Secretary served for the shortest period of time? No, then do I have a story for you.

Henry H. Fowler

Henry H. Fowler was a reluctant public servant but a dedicated one. In 1961 then Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon asked Fowler to be his Undersecretary.

Dillon needed a tested administrator and, as a Republican, also wanted Washington-wise Democrat Fowler to help push fiscal policies through a Democratic Congress. Fowler's job mainly consisted of being the chief lobbyist for the Administration's 1964 tax-cut bill. Once the bill was passed Fowler resigned in April 1964 citing financial issues.

In late 1964 Dillion resigned. He was appointed during the Kennedy Administration and told President Johnson that he would only stay until the new administration was well established. Johnson then asked Fowler to return to government but this time as the Treasury Secretary.

At Fowler's swearing in ceremony Johnson said this:

I know that Joe Fowler, after his year on the tax bill last year, had substantial reasons to decline this position. But I didn't give him that opportunity. I closed all the doors, watched my steps carefully--J. Edgar Hoover and I roamed all over this Nation for a long time while we had considerable speculations. And finally the day he was appointed I called him in this room about 1 o'clock and I said, "I have not come to ask, I have come to tell, and I want you to do the same thing. Would you mind going home now for lunch and telling Trudye that you are going to be named Secretary of the Treasury." And he said, "We had planned to leave for Europe on Tuesday--what do I say about that?" I said, "Don't bother me with details."

Fowler served as Secretary until December 20, 1968, only 28 days before the end of term. When asked about the timing Fowler said:

He called me back to be Secretary on April 1, 1965, and I served until December 20, 1968 when he knew I had to go back and start making bread for the family. I had a top-flight Deputy Secretary that he knew very well and he said, "Well, I'll let you go thirty days early."

Joseph W. Barr

That Deputy referenced by Fowler was none other than Joseph W. Barr. Barr finished out the remainder of Johnson's term as the Secretary of the Treasury. While Barr accomplished many great things while in government he'll be most famous in the coin collecting community as the man with the shortest term of any Treasury Secretary (only a mere 28 days).

Given his short period in office, his signature appears only on the one-dollar bill and because of that they have become quite collectible.