Symington, William Stuart

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William Stuart Symington, 1901–88, U.S. senator (1953–76), b. Amherst, Mass. He interrupted a successful business career in 1941 to accept a War Department assignment involving a study of airplane armament in England. After serving (1945–46) as administrator of the Surplus Property Administration he was appointed (Sept., 1947) by President Harry S. Truman to be the first secretary of the air force. He advocated a greatly increased air force as necessary for national defense, and when appropriations for his department were reduced he resigned (Apr., 1950) in protest. After serving (1951–52) as administrator of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Symington, a Democrat, was elected in 1952 as U.S. senator for Missouri. In his early years in the Senate, he was mainly preoccupied with the question of national defense and warned the nation of the danger of the Soviet lead in the missile race. Symington was easily reelected to the Senate in 1958, 1964, and 1970; in 1960 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

See biography by P. I. Wellman (1960).