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Adlai E. Stevenson: A Brief Biography

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Early Years

Adlai Ewing Stevenson was born in Los Angeles, California to Lewis and Helen Stevenson. His parental grandfather was Adlai E. Stevenson the first, vice-president under Grover Cleveland. Adlai (the younger) was raised in Bloomington Illinois with his sister Elizabeth “Buffie” Ives. After high school he went to the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, where he participated in sports, acting and journalism.

Adlai Stevenson U-High Portrait, 1915. Photo courtesy of The Pantagraph.

Adlai Stevenson U-High Portrait, 1915. Photo courtesy of The Pantagraph.

College Years
In 1918, after Choate, he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed as a student at Princeton where he continued his writing pursuits. After Princeton, Adlai went to Harvard Law School under the prodding from his Father.*1 Adlai was not passionate about the law at this point and in his second year at Harvard he failed a few classes and flunked out. He was offered a chance to return in a year but it was not seriously considered by Adlai.
After Harvard Law School Adlai returned to Bloomington where he wrote for the Pantagraph. He became interested in law again a year or so after leaving Harvard while attending a friend’s wedding in Washington DC. Adlai had the opportunity to meet and talk to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Adlai spent the afternoon with Justice Holmes and when he returned home to Bloomington he decided to finish his law degree at Northwestern, attending classes during the week and returning to Bloomington on the weekends to write for the Pantagraph.

Early Career
In 1932 Adlai accepted a position as special attorney and assistant to the General Council of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration *2, a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program. After the breakout of WWII in 1939-40, Stevenson traveled to Chicago to become Chairmen of the Chicago Committee to Defend America. By aiding the allies, the organization sought to overcome US isolationism in WWII. This job led to another in Washington DC, as Principal Attorney in the office of the Secretary of the Navy in 1941 where Adlai proved himself a capable worker. During this time he wrote a report on the aftermath of wartime Italy which was heavily applauded, and he was offered several jobs as a result. He resigned from this post in 1944 after the death of his superior, Frank Knox.*3
In 1945 Stevenson accepted what he called a “temporary” position in the State Department*4. During this time he traveled with the American delegation to San Francisco to a preparatory conference that led to the founding of the UN. President Truman later appointed him deputy US representative to the Preparatory Commission. However, the head of the US delegation fell ill and Adlai replaced him. At this commission, the structure of the UN was determined by fourteen nations. Here, Adlai was applauded with the way he handled the Russians. His work at the Commission landed him appointments to the US delegations to the UN in 1946 and 1947.*5

Governor of Illinois
Stevenson was elected Governor of Illinois in 1948.*6 He worked hard despite his failing marriage which eventually ended during his term as Governor. During his term he doubled funding for public education, ended political appointments to the State Police and vetoed a state anti subversive (anti communist) squad*7, which he considered to be “more dangerous to ourselves than to our foes”.*8

Next Page

*1 McKeever, Porter. Adlai Stevenson:His Life and Legacy. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. Page 45

*2 McKeever, Porter. Adlai Stevenson:His Life and Legacy. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. Page 62

*3 McKeever, Porter. Adlai Stevenson:His Life and Legacy. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. Page 88-89

*4 McKeever, Porter. Adlai Stevenson:His Life and Legacy. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. Page 94

*5 Grolier's Biography available: http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/stevnsn.html

*6 Grolier's Biography available: http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/stevnsn.html

*7 Biography.com available: http://search.biography.com/print_record.pl?id=19769

*8 Grolier's Biography available: http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/side/stevnsn.html

 

 


McLean County UNA-USA
P.O. Box 1901, Bloomington, Illinois 61702
Jim Nelson, President jlnelso3@ilstu.edu, (309) 862-1844