Stevenson, Adlai, II

Stevenson, Adlai (Ewing), II

(1900–65) governor, government official; born in Los Angeles, Calif. (grandson of vice-president Adlai E. Stevenson). After studying history and literature at Princeton University (1918–22), he worked at the Bloomington, Ill., Daily Pentagraph while earning a Northwestern University law degree. He joined a conservative Chicago law firm, Cutting, Moore, and Sidley, in 1927, taking time out to work as special counsel for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (1933–35) and serving as president of the Chicago Council of Foreign Relations. He returned to Washington during World War II as attorney for Navy Secretary Frank Knox (1941–44). Special assistant to Secretary of State Edward Stettinus Jr., (1945–47), he mustered public support for the United Nations at the San Francisco conference, subsequently serving as senior adviser for the first General Assembly meeting. As Democratic governor of Illinois (1949–53), he doubled funding for public education, ended political appointments to the state police department, and vetoed a state "antisubversive" squad. Drafted for president at the 1952 Democratic convention, he campaigned eloquently for principled politics, but lost to General Eisenhower. After traveling in Asia and the Middle East, he published A Call to Greatness (1954). Campaigning for president again in 1956, he championed the suspension of nuclear testing and focused on race relations and conservation issues, but he lost heavily to the popular Eisenhower. After founding the Democratic Advisory Council in 1957, he returned to his Chicago law firm. As President Kennedy's United Nations ambassador (1961–65), he was largely ignored during the Bay of Pigs invasion planning and was later foiled by Lyndon Johnson after trying to initiate peace talks with Hanoi. Greatly admired by liberals, he proved to be one of America's "lost causes" as a national political leader. He died of a heart attack while walking alone on a street in London.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.