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Niles (Neyhus), David K.

NILES (Neyhus), DAVID K.

NILES (Neyhus), DAVID K. (1890–1952), U.S. presidential aide. Born in Boston to immigrant Russian parents, Niles went to work in a local department store. He regularly frequented Ford Hall's Sunday forum of public lectures and discussions, and caught the eye of the forum's director, George W. Coleman, who eventually made him his assistant. During World War i, when Coleman went to Washington as an official in the Labor Department, Niles accompanied him as an aide. After the war he continued his association with Ford Hall, of which he was appointed associate director in 1924. Through his work there he became acquainted with numerous political figures, as a result of which he took part in La Follette's 1924 presidential campaign on the Progressive ticket. In subsequent elections, he was active in the Democratic Party, working for Smith in 1928 and Roosevelt in 1932. In 1935 he returned to Washington as labor assistant to Harry Hopkins, director of the Works Progress Administration and an intimate of President Roosevelt. He remained with Hopkins when the latter was made secretary of commerce in 1938. By then a member of the White House's inner circle, Niles helped to engineer the third-term "draft" of President Roosevelt in 1940 and was appointed assistant to the president in 1942. In this capacity, he performed the functions of a political trouble-shooter, an unofficial dispenser of patronage, and a liaison man with organized labor and various racial and religious minority groups. He remained in the post when President *Truman took office in 1945 and is said to have been instrumental in helping to shape Truman's ultimately positive stand on the partition of Palestine, which led to swift U.S. recognition of the State of Israel in May 1948. With his characteristic aversion to publicity, however, which often caused him to be labeled by the press as a political "mystery man," Niles publicly referred to his interest in Israel only once in the course of his career. That was in his letter of resignation from office in 1951, in which he gave his desire to visit Israel as a private citizen as one of the reasons for his retirement.

bibliography:

Steinberg, in: Saturday Evening Post (Dec. 24, 1949), 24, 69–70; New York Times (May 22, 1951), 20.

[Bernard Sternsher]

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