Knox died of a heart attack at 70, just a few months before his widow, Annie, accepted on his behalf the Legion's first posthumous Distinguished Service Medal. Had he lived one more year, the Navy secretary would have seen the nation claim victory in World War II.
John L. Sullivan, assistant secretary of the Treasury and a past department commander of the New Hampshire Legion, said of his close friend: "He served his country in three wars ... He died as he had lived, giving the last measure of his very being to the service of his country."
Knox fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I. He then helped organize The American Legion in New Hampshire and became its first department commander.
A conservative newspaper reporter and publisher, Knox was an active Republican and the party's vice-presidential nominee in 1936. Though he opposed the New Deal and Roosevelt's other domestic policies, he supported the president's foreign policy. Toward the end of his second term, in 1940, Roosevelt appointed Knox secretary of the Navy. He remained in the position until his death in 1944.
What a team they proved to be when the United States entered World War II. According to the Harvard University archives, "After Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Knox pressed for approval of the president's billion-dollar naval-expansion plan. When war finally erupted in Europe in 1939, Knox wrote front-page editorials calling for widespread support of Roosevelt's foreign-policy decisions, the repeal of the neutrality laws and a bipartisan cabinet."
The next year, after twice turning down FDR's offer, Knox became part of that bipartisan cabinet until his death.