For forty or so years, from the 1930s to the mid-1970s, Desmond Hobart Houghton was one of South Africa’s most prominent economists, based throughout his academic career at Rhodes University. He belonged to the liberal school of economists who believed in the free market and modernization theory, being particularly influenced by Walt Rostow’s stages of growth model, which he applied to South Africa. The rural economy, migrant labor, and regional development, with a particular focus on the Eastern Cape, were his major research interests. He authored a standard text on the South African economy. This article charts his career and thinking.