Asbury Francis Lever | 1875-1940

Asbury Francis Lever

A. Frank Lever was born January 5, 1875 near Spring Hill in Lexington County, South Carolina. The son of Francis Asbury Washington Lever and Mary Derrick Lever, Frank graduated with honors from Newberry College in 1895.

He taught school for a short while before 1897 when his political career started. He became secretary to Congressman J. William Stokes from the 7th Congressional District. While serving as secretary, Lever studied law and received his bachelor of laws from Georgetown University in 1899. The next year he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. In 1901, Lever was elected to the US. Congress after the death of his former employer, Congressman Stokes. He defeated some strong candidates, including the future Senator Ellison Smith.

On his election to the House, Lever sought and received membership on the Committee of Agriculture. He served as a member until 1910, when the Democrats regained a majority in the House. At this time, Lever had established himself as the most knowledgeable member and was appointed chairman of the Committee. He served in this capacity until he left the House in 1919.

Lever excelled as a leader on the Agriculture Committee. He sponsored and supported many acts of legislation which aided agriculture. Lever and Senator Smith co-authored the Cotton Futures Act. He also helped formulate the Federal Farm Loan act of 1916, which was the forerunner of the Farm Credit Administration.

LEVER, FRANCIS ASBURY. REP. FROM SOUTH CAROLINA, 1901-1919The legislation for which he is best remembered is the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. This established extension services at state agricultural colleges to aid the farmer with new techniques of farming. The Lever Act also helped transform the face of agriculture from 19th century modes to more modern and scientific 20th century modes of farming.

In 1918, Lever announced his intentions to run for the Senate seat of Benjamin Tillman. The thought at the time was that Lever could and would beat anyone running against him. He had all the necessary papers to file when an urgent message reached him at his Lexington home. President Wilson, worried about losing leadership in Congress during the war period, made a desperate plea to Lever not to run for the Senate, but to remain in the House and in his capacity as chair of the Agriculture Committee. This was a tragic mistake because Tillman won the election, but died soon after.

Lever left the House in 1919 to accept a position on the Federal Farm Loan Board offered him by President Wilson. He remained on the Board until 1922. In 1922, he was named president of the First Carolina Joint Stock Land Bank and served until 1929.

Although still in public life, Lever desperately wanted to get back into a position of political prominence. He ran, unsuccessfully, for the governorship of South Carolina in 1930 and for his old Congressional seat in 1932. When the Farm Credit Administration was formed in 1933, Lever was appointed director of public relations for the southeast. In this capacity, Lever made many speeches and addresses informing farmers of the Farm Credit Administration's duties and of the legislation that was important to the farmer. He served in this position until his death in 1940.

Frank Lever had other interests. He was a trustee of Clemson College and chairman of the board of trustees of Newberry College. Lever was active in Epsilon Sigma Phi, the honorary extension fraternity; the Tuberculosis Society (Lever was stricken with the disease and wanted to help eradicate it); and the Finnish Relief Fund of 1940. Lever started an extensive research project on Dr. Seaman A. Knapp intending to write a biography, however he died on April 28, 1940 before its completion. He is interred at Woodland Cemetery at Clemson University.