Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900-1965)

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STEVENSON, Adlai Ewing

(b. 5 February 1900 in Los Angeles, California; d. 14 July 1965 in London, England), politician and diplomat who made an unsuccessful bid for a third Democratic nomination for president in 1960 and, as United Nations ambassador during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations, worked to advance the causes of nuclear disarmament, international peace, and Third World development.

Stevenson grew up in Bloomington, Illinois, one of two children of two prominent families. His paternal grandfather and namesake was a veteran Democratic officeholder who served under Grover Cleveland as vice president from 1893 to 1897. His maternal great-grandfather, Jesse Fell, was a close friend and supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Stevenson's father, Lewis Green Stevenson, mixed farming with politics, while his mother, Helen Louise Davis Stevenson, raised her son with a love of learning. Despite this, he was only a fair student and entered Princeton University in 1918 after failing its entrance examination three times. Following a short stint in the navy during World War I, he worked for his mother's family's Bloomington-based newspaper before earning a law degree from Northwestern University. Stevenson married Ellen Borden in Chicago in 1928. The couple had three sons, one of whom, his father's namesake, represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate from 1970 to 1981. The couple divorced in 1949.

Stevenson began his career in government as a lawyer for the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. In 1941 he became special assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, which in turn led to service under the secretaries of state Edward Stettinius and James Byrnes. Most notably, he was a key U.S. representative to the formative sessions of the United Nations (UN) from 1945 to 1947. Returning to Illinois, he was elected the state's governor on the Democratic ticket in 1948.

After resisting calls to run, Stevenson finally accepted the Democratic nomination for president in 1952. Vowing to "talk sense to the American people," he conducted a gallant campaign against his highly popular opponent, the Republican Dwight Eisenhower. Stevenson inspired millions through his ready wit, eloquent speeches, and idealistic approach to politics. Although he lost to Eisenhower by a landslide, he retained his stature as the leader of the Democratic Party's liberal wing. He remained a public figure after his defeat, decrying anti-Communist extremism and advocating a less confrontational foreign policy. After a bruising primary campaign, he won a second Democratic nomination against Eisenhower in 1956. During the fall campaign, he came out in favor of a nuclear test ban, federal aid to education, and a Medicare-like health program. Stevenson suffered a crushing second defeat that November; still, he lived to see many of his proposals become law in the following decade. Moreover, his attack on the conservative complacency of the Eisenhower administration anticipated John F. Kennedy's call to "get this country moving again" during the 1960 presidential campaign.

Many urged Stevenson to try for a third nomination in 1960. Though tempted, he recognized Kennedy's strength and hesitated to mount a campaign against him. Even on the sidelines, he continued to retain the support of many liberal party activists, who worked on his behalf. At the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, his supporters packed the galleries and loudly cheered his name, proclaiming themselves "Madly for Adlai." Delivering a memorable and dramatic speech, Senator Eugene J. McCarthy nominated Stevenson to be the Democratic nominee for president, eliciting a wild demonstration. Although Stevenson actively made a last-minute bid for delegate support, the party nominated Kennedy on the first ballot. Stevenson campaigned for Kennedy and held expectations of being chosen as secretary of state. After his narrow victory, though, Kennedy picked Dean Rusk for the post instead and asked Stevenson to become the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a cabinet-level position. Disappointed, Stevenson took his time in agreeing to accept the appointment.

The relationship between Kennedy and Stevenson proved to be less than comfortable. The president and his closest advisers found Stevenson long-winded and unrealistic at cabinet meetings; Stevenson in turn found Kennedy and his inner circle to be overconfident and sometimes ruthless. On a number of issues, such as representation of Communist China at the UN, Stevenson was more forward-looking than most of Kennedy's advisers. Despite these differences, Kennedy benefited from his UN ambassador's worldwide prestige, even if he gave his old rival little decision-making authority. He grew to respect Stevenson's coolness under pressure and willingness to defend policies he did not always fully support. For his part, Stevenson loyally supported Kennedy in public, though old friends detected frustration and unhappiness under the surface. He continued to surround himself with a loyal band of longtime aides and supporters, turning particularly to the planning expert Barbara Ward for advice on Third World issues.

In April 1961 Stevenson's diplomatic credibility was put to the test during the Bay of Pigs invasion. Continuing plans set in motion by Eisenhower, Kennedy agreed to support military action by Cuban exiles against Fidel Castro's regime. Briefing Stevenson shortly before the operation began, Kennedy's aides misled him as to the extent of U.S. involvement. On 14 April, during UN Security Council meetings called by Cuba, Stevenson passed on this deception to the world, claiming that "there will not be under any conditions … any intervention in Cuba by the United States armed forces." Events proved otherwise—the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency played an active part in the exiles' assault on Cuba, which was routed by Castro's forces at the Bay of Pigs on 16 April. Stevenson also had spread the false story that Castro's air force was in revolt, displaying photos at the Security Council of "Cuban" planes (actually repainted U.S. aircraft) supposedly flown to Miami by defecting pilots. When it became clear that the administration had misled him, he felt humiliated. "Now my credibility has been compromised, and therefore my usefulness," he told one friend. "Yet how can I resign at this moment and make things worse for the president?" In the end, he swallowed his misgivings and stayed on.

In late 1961 Kennedy helped persuade Stevenson to forgo a bid for the U.S. Senate and remain at his UN post. Simmering conflicts in India (involving the Portuguese colony of Goa) and what was then the Belgian Congo kept him occupied into the early months of 1962. Many of these issues had cold war implications, and Stevenson frequently was opposed by his Soviet counterpart, Valerian Zorin, at Security Council meetings.

Tensions between the two superpowers escalated dramatically in October of that year, when the Kennedy administration learned that Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads were en route to Cuba. Stevenson participated in cabinet discussions about how to respond to this threat, arguing in favor of a diplomatic rather than a military response. While supporting the idea of a Cuban blockade, he also advocated making conciliatory gestures, including the removal of obsolete American missiles from Turkey and Italy and the evacuation of the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Stevenson's overall goal was to link the solution of the Cuban crisis to larger arms control issues with the Soviets. Kennedy's inclination, though, was to take a harder line. On 22 October the president made the crisis public, announcing a "quarantine" of Cuba and harshly warning the Soviets of the risk of nuclear war.

Stevenson vigorously advanced this position at UN Security Council meetings that followed. Mindful of the tainted evidence presented by the U.S. during the Bay of Pigs affair, he still presented a convincing case to the world that the Soviets were equipping bases in Cuba for offensive missile capability against the American mainland. In measured but firm language, tinged at times with anger, he submitted a resolution demanding the withdrawal of all missiles from Cuba. Angered by evasive answers from Zorin during a Security Council session, he stated that he would wait for a clear-cut response "until Hell freezes over." Ultimately, the missiles were withdrawn. Stevenson's performance during the crisis won considerable praise, including personal thanks from Kennedy.

Despite his tough talk to the Russians, Stevenson still drew criticism from some quarters as an "appeaser" who was soft on Communism. Reports that he had favored trading "U.S. bases for Cuban weapons" during cabinet meetings appeared in the press, causing Stevenson to doubt Kennedy's continued support. Loathed by the extreme Right, he was spat upon during a visit to Dallas, Texas, in the fall of 1963. The incident was ugly enough for him to consider warning Kennedy to postpone his own visit to the city. (Three weeks later, the president was assassinated in Dallas.)

Remaining at his UN post under President Lyndon B. Johnson, Stevenson grew increasingly isolated from foreign policy decision-making. Although he was a believer in the containment of Communism, he felt uneasy with the direction of Johnson's policies in Vietnam. In late 1964 he attempted to initiate negotiations between North Vietnam and the United States; these efforts were stymied by the Johnson administration, which then blamed Stevenson for not keeping diplomatic channels open. Once again, the UN ambassador considered quitting and then elected to stay. His doubts about American involvement in Southeast Asia increased during early 1965, though he refrained from speaking out publicly.

On 14 July 1965 Stevenson collapsed from a massive heart attack during a visit to London. His body was taken to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and placed in the Bethlehem Chapel, where thousands of mourners came to pay their respects. His body also lay in state in Springfield, Illinois, under the capitol dome, before burial at Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington, Illinois. Five days before his death, he had delivered a memorable speech in Geneva at a UN conference. Pleading for world unity, he spoke of Earth as "a little space ship … preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft." It proved a fitting epitaph to a career largely dedicated to promoting international peace. Stevenson was mourned as a brilliant, inspiring statesman who, despite being denied the presidency, exemplified the highest ideals in public service.

Stevenson's papers are available in Walter Johnson, The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson, 8 vols. (1972–1979). Manuscript material is held by the Princeton University Library. Papers from Stevenson's term as governor of Illinois are at the Illinois State Historical Library. Among Stevenson biographies, John Bartlow Martin, Adlai Stevenson of Illinois (1976) and Adlai Stevenson and the World (1977), are the most thorough. Jean H. Baker, The Stevensons: A Biography of an American Family (1996), offers a more critical, revisionist view. Also valuable are Kenneth S. Davis, The Politics of Honor (1967), and Porter McKeever, Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy (1989). The events of the 1960 Democratic convention are detailed in Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1960 (1961). An obituary is in the New York Times (15 July 1965).

Barry Alfonso

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Adlai Ewing Stevenson was a lawyer, statesman, and unsuccessful democratic party candidate for the presidency in 1952 and 1956. An eloquent and witty speaker, Stevenson served as chief U.S. delegate to the united nations during the Kennedy administration.

Stevenson was born on February 5, 1900, in Los Angeles, California, and moved with his family to Bloomington, Illinois, in 1906. He graduated from Princeton University in 1922 and studied law at Northwestern University. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1926 and established a successful law practice in Chicago.

By the early 1930s Stevenson had set his sights on public service, following the course of his grandfather, Adlai E. Stevenson, who was vice president of the United States during the administration of President grover cleveland (1893–1897). Stevenson joined the new deal administration of President franklin d. roosevelt in 1933, serving as special legal adviser to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. In 1934 he became general counsel for the Federal Alcohol Bureau.

Though Stevenson returned to his Chicago law practice in 1934, he remained an active civic leader. He headed the Chicago Bar Association's Civil Rights Committee and became the chair of the Chicago chapter of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. This committee, composed of prominent business and civic leaders, worked to overcome U.S. isolationist foreign policy and provide aid to Great Britain and France at the beginning of world war ii.

Stevenson rejoined the Roosevelt administration in 1941 as special assistant to the secretary of the Navy, and in 1943 he led a mission to Italy to establish a U.S. relief program. In 1945 Stevenson moved to the state department, where he became a key participant in the establishment of the United Nations (U.N.). He was senior adviser to the U.S. delegation at the first meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in London in 1946 and was a U.S. delegate at meetings of the assembly in New York in 1946 and 1947.

In 1948 Stevenson returned to Illinois and ran as the Democratic candidate for governor. He was elected by the largest majority ever recorded in the state. He proved an effective chief executive, revitalizing the civil service, establishing a merit system for the hiring of state police, improving the care of patients in state mental hospitals, and increasing state aid to public education.

When President harry s. truman announced that he would not seek reelection in 1952, Democratic leaders urged Stevenson to seek the nomination. Although Stevenson declined to campaign for the nomination, the 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago drafted him as their presidential candidate. Stevenson ran a vigorous campaign but proved no match for the Republican candidate and popular war hero, General dwight d. eisenhower. Eisenhower easily defeated Stevenson in 1952 and again in 1956.

Stevenson spent the 1950s practicing law in Chicago and serving as a spokesperson for the Democratic Party. At the 1960 Democratic

National Convention in Los Angeles, a small group of liberals again sought to draft Stevenson for president. The effort failed and Senator john f. kennedy of Massachusetts was nominated.

Kennedy appointed Stevenson U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and gave him cabinet rank. Stevenson was deeply disappointed, however, believing he was the best-qualified person to serve as secretary of state. Despite his disappointment, Stevenson carried out his role at the United Nations with distinction. During the cuban missile crisis of October 1962, Stevenson had a dramatic confrontation with the Soviet Union's delegate, telling the delegate he was prepared to wait "until Hell freezes over" for an answer to his question about Soviet missiles in Cuba.

"The essence of a republican government is not command. It is consent."
—Adlai Stevenson

Stevenson died on July 14, 1965, in London, England.

further readings

Broadwater, Jeff. 1994. Adlai Stevenson and American Politics: The Odyssey of a Cold War Liberal. New York: Twayne.

Martin, John Bartlow. 1977. Adlai Stevenson and the World. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

——. 1976. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois: The Life of Adlai Stevenson. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Stevenson, Adlai E. 1972–79. The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson. Ed. by Walter Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown.

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Adlai Ewing Stevenson

Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900-1965), American statesman and diplomat, was twice Democratic candidate for president.

Adlai Stevenson was born in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 5, 1900, of a family prominent in Bloomington, Ill. He was the grandson of Adlai E. Stevenson, the vice president under Grover Cleveland. Graduating from the public schools, he attended Choate Academy, an eastern private school. He finished Princeton University in 1922 and graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1926. Admitted that year to the Illinois bar, he began law practice in Chicago. He early showed studious tastes, especially for history and international affairs.

Stevenson became familiar with farm needs and policies around Bloomington. He combined intense faith in democracy with a strong desire to encourage thinking upon the issues of the time. His principles were also influenced by work in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal administration. He worked for the Chicago Foreign Policy Association and the Chicago Bar Association and helped to promote the civil rights movement. In 1946-1947 he served as United States delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

In 1948 Stevenson was elected governor of Illinois. His administration of the state, though ambitious and vigorous, was hampered by Republican legislative opposition and a division of sentiment between rural and industrial Illinois. Nevertheless, having attracted wide attention through speeches and articles, he was nominated for president on the Democratic ticket in 1952. Though defeated by Dwight Eisenhower, he maintained his place as leader of the Democratic party, representing its more studious, liberal element.

Stevenson ran against Eisenhower again in the presidential race of 1956. A lonely, thoughtful man, with a tinge of melancholia which made him seem unhappy despite his warm humor and flashing wit, he appeared colorless compared with Eisenhower. He later declared that one of his principal disappointments in 1956 was the failure to provoke a real debate on the issues. Stevenson's contribution to public discussion was, nevertheless, large and unique, for he appraised the importance of issues in the revolutionary new era.

After John F. Kennedy was elected president, Stevenson made no secret of his wish to be appointed secretary of state. Made ambassador to the United Nations instead, he was deeply disappointed. He felt humiliated when, as America's UN representative, he had to explain and defend policies and actions of other men, some of which, like the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in April 1961, he did not approve. But he was an immovable supporter of the United States against Soviet policies and threats and especially distinguished himself in refuting and denouncing the U.S.S.R.'s position in UN debate. On Oct. 25, 1962 he demanded that the Soviet ambassador to the UN state honestly whether the U.S.S.R. was placing missiles and sites in Cuba. When Soviet Ambassador Zorin replied evasively, "I am not in an American courtroom, sir," Stevenson thundered, "You are in the court of world opinion right now." While still ambassador to the United Nations, Stevenson died suddenly in London on July 14, 1965.

Further Reading

Bert Cochran, Adlai Stevenson: Patrician among the Politicians (1969), views Stevenson as a member of an American ruling upper class. Other biographical works include Kenneth Sydney Davis, The Politics of Honor: A Biography of Adlai E. Stevenson (1957; rev. ed. 1967); Stuart Gerry Brown, Conscience in Politics: Adlai Stevenson in the 1950's (1961) and Adlai E. Stevenson, a Short Biography: The Conscience of the Country (1965); Herbert J. Muller, Adlai Stevenson: A Study in Values (1967); and Richard J. Walton, The Remnants of Power: The Tragic Last Years of Adlai Stevenson (1968). Composite views of Stevenson are offered by Alden Whitman and the New York Times as Portrait: Adlai E. Stevenson: Politician, Diplomat, Friend (1965), and Edward P. Doyle, As We Knew Adlai: The Stevenson Story by Twenty-two Friends (1966). Also useful is Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Prospect for America: The Rockefeller Panel Reports (1961). □

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Adlai Ewing Stevenson, 1900–1965, American statesman, b. Los Angeles; grandson of Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1835–1914). A graduate (1922) of Princeton, he received his law degree from Northwestern Univ., was admitted (1926) to the bar, and practiced law in Chicago. He entered government service as special counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (1933–34) and later served as assistant general counsel to the Federal Alcohol Bureau (1934) and as an assistant to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy (1941–44). In 1945 he became special assistant to Secretary of State Stettinius and attended the San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations. He was a member of the U.S. mission to the UN General Assembly in 1946 and 1947. In 1949, Stevenson was elected Democratic governor of Illinois by an unprecedented majority; his record of reforms in office brought him national prominence, and he was drafted (1952) to be the Democratic presidential candidate. Despite an eloquent campaign, he was decisively defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1956, Stevenson campaigned actively and successfully for renomination but was defeated by Eisenhower by an even greater margin. In 1960 he was a more reluctant contender for the Democratic nomination, which he lost to John F. Kennedy. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, with cabinet rank. He held this position until his death. Despite his electoral defeats, Stevenson won enormous respect and admiration as an eloquent spokesman for liberal reform and for internationalism. Stevenson's works include A Call to Greatness (1954), Friends and Enemies (1959), and Putting First Things First (1960). His papers were edited by Walker Johnson (8 vol., 1972–79). His oldest son, Adlai Ewing Stevenson 3d, 1930–, b. Chicago, served as U.S. senator from Illinois (1970–81). He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Illinois in 1982 and 1986.

See biographies of the elder Stevenson by K. S. Davis (1957, repr. 1967), S. G. Brown (1961), H. J. Muller (1967), and B. Cochran (1969); J. H. Baker, The Stevensons (1996).

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Adlai Ewing Stevenson, 1835–1914, Vice President of the United States (1893–97), b. Christian co., Ky. He practiced law at Bloomington, Ill., and was twice (1874, 1878) elected to the U.S. Congress as a Democrat. He was First Assistant Postmaster General during Grover Cleveland's first term (1885–89) and Vice President during his second. In 1900, Stevenson again ran for Vice President on the Democratic ticket, this time with William Jennings Bryan. After losing this election he later ran (1908) for governor of Illinois but was defeated.

See studies by R. Sievers (1983) and P. McKeever (1989).

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Stevenson, Adlai Ewing (1900–65) US politician, grandson of vice president Adlai Stevenson. Instrumental in setting up the United Nations, he remained as the US delegation's advisor (1946–47), before being elected governor of Illinois (1949). He was the unsucessful Democratic candidate in 1952 and 1956 against Eisenhower. He was appointed US ambassador to the United Nations in 1961.