Unprecedented Power shows how Jesse Jones and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation restored the economy during the Great Depression, built massive, cutting-edge industries in time for the Allied Forces to fight and win World War II and made money for the federal government at the same time. No wonder Kirkus Reviews said Unprecedented Power “holds enormous relevance today.”
Next to President Roosevelt, Jesse Jones was considered to be the most powerful person in the nation throughout the Great Depression and World War II. Largely forgotten today, he helped define Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency as one that in many instances provided positive, profound and enduring results for the nation in a financially astute and responsible manner. Jesse Jones’s successful efforts and methods to preserve capitalism and democracy during two of the most tumultuous and dangerous periods in United States history deserve attention today.
According to author Steven Fenberg, Jones understood he would prosper only if his community thrived, a belief that directed him to combine capitalism and public service to develop his hometown of Houston, to rescue his country and to save nations. As we grapple with the role of government, unemployment, financial insecurity for many, crumbling infrastructure and reliance on other nations for vital resources, Unprecedented Power offers models for today by looking at successes from the past.
As he sought to restore the nation’s devastated economy, Jesse Jones said in a 1937 Saturday Evening Post article, “In my opinion, the key to the situation confronting us today is intelligent, cordial, friendly, determined cooperation between government and business—government and all the people. It cannot be sectional; it cannot be class [driven]; it cannot be political. It cannot be achieved if we let ourselves believe that our government is our enemy.”
What Readers Are Saying:
“In this meticulously researched, briskly written biography, Steven Fenberg reconstructs the signal life and career of a man he calls '[t]he most powerful person in the nation during the Great Depression and World War II—next to Franklin Roosevelt (p. 1). Fenberg makes a strong case for Jones’s influence and, in so doing, not only recovers the forgotten history of this key player but also intervenes forcefully in contemporary historical and political debates about the New Deal and the nature of American politics. Fenberg’s biography makes clear just how deeply invested in saving capitalism the New Deal was. Jones’s career illustrates the New Deal and wartime mobilization programs for what they were: the close collaboration between business and government (p. 263). Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good illuminates the complex workings of that partnership and the formative role of businessmen in shaping it. Recovering the history of a largely forgotten New Deal figure, Fenberg’s biography reminds readers just how much New Dealers accomplished and how they accomplished it.”—Journal of Southern History
“Unprecedented Power is the story of a Tennessee kid turned Texas businessman, who, with some help, shapes the largest city in the South, helps the United States survive the Great Depression, and, while he’s at it, mobilizes the nation to win World War II… Inlaid in Jesse Jones’s biography is the suggestion that government can—if it chooses—ignite the economy without falling headlong into socialism… An economic turnaround story like Fenberg’s reads almost like a fairytale. Only it isn’t.”--The Texas Observer
"Given his unprecedented power—which provides the apt title of Steven Fenberg’s meaty new biography—it is 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' . . . Fenberg’s comprehensive biography should revive interest in this remarkable capitalist and public servant."--Wilson Quarterly
“Prior to the publication of Unprecedented Power, journalists and acquaintances of the powerful Texan had written the only biographies of Jones. For those who want to know how Jones viewed the world in which he operated, this is the book for them.”-- Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“Roosevelt chose Jones to head the RFC, which rapidly morphed into a leading institution of the New Deal, with chief responsibility for getting the economy back on track. By 1934, Jones faced problems similar to issues today… [Unprecedented Power is] a somewhat forgotten page of U.S. history that holds enormous relevance today.”--Kirkus Reviews
“Fenberg expands on the PBS special he produced a decade ago and offers insight into a man whose economic and political acumen would come in very handy today.”--Austin Chronicle
“If you don't know about Jesse H. Jones and the heavy hands he played in Houston and Washington in the last century, you should read this book.”--Dallas Morning News
“Fenberg may be the ultimate authority on Jones.”--OutSmart Magazine
“If ever a man personified the word titan, it was Jesse H. Jones. His influence was felt around the nation and the world when he was a chief architect of the plans that restored the U.S. economy during the Great Depression and militarized industry in time to win World War II. Steven Fenberg’s biography, “Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good,” is a compelling story of a Houstonian who wielded power in ways that helped build his city and his country into powerhouses. It is a must read for those wanting to learn how a great nation -- and a great man -- can respond to difficult challenges.--James A. Baker, III; 61st U.S. Secretary of State
"Jesse Jones is one of those vital figures who has inexplicably slipped into the historical shadows. Now Steven Fenberg has given us a wonderful new biography of a man who played a critical role in the most tumultuous years of the American Century, bringing Jones back to vivid life."--Jon Meacham, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and the bestselling Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of An Epic Friendship
“If ever a man personified the word titan, it was Jesse H. Jones. His influence was felt around the nation and the world when he was a chief architect of the plans that restored the U.S. economy during the Great Depression and militarized industry in time to win World War II. Steven Fenberg’s biography, Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good, is a compelling story of a Houstonian who wielded power in ways that helped build his city and his country into powerhouses. It is a must read for those wanting to learn how a great nation -- and a great man -- can respond to difficult challenges.”--James A. Baker, III; 61st U.S. Secretary of State