Biographical sketches

Henry Stimson

Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950) held cabinet level positions under four presidents, including Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman, during his long career of public service. After receiving a law degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Stimson practiced law in New York for several years. He entered public service in 1906 when he became a federal district attorney in New York. In 1911, he became the Secretary of War under President William Howard Taft, a political move designed to unify a divided Republican Party. Unfortunately for Stimson and Taft, the Republican Party remained divided which resulted in a lop-sided Democratic victory in the presidential election of 1912.

Following his tenure as Secretary of War, Stimson divided his time between his private law practice and public service which included a brief enlistment in the army during World War I and an appointment as governor general of the Philippines in 1928. He accepted his second cabinet post in 1929 when he became the Secretary of State in the Hoover administration, a position he held throughout Hoover's four years in office. Stimson returned to his law practice following Hoover's defeat in 1932.

In 1940, with war raging in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the surprise move of appointing Stimson, a longtime Republican, as his new Secretary of War. The appointment was a gesture towards national unity as the United States prepared for the possibility of entry into the war. Stimson would serve as Secretary of War for the length of the conflict, first under Roosevelt and then under President Truman.

After Roosevelt's death, Stimson was one of the first in the Truman administration to advocate reaching out to President Hoover for advice, particularly in dealing with the looming food crisis in Europe. Having served in Hoover's cabinet, Stimson was also one of the few men in a position to initiate this contact. Stimson approached both Truman and Hoover with this idea in early May of 1945, which helped pave the way for the first meeting between the two presidents on May 28.

After a long career of serving his country and ready for retirement, Stimson submitted his letter of resignation on September 5, 1945, three days after the Japanese signed the formal surrender document. For more information see: American National Biography v.20 (1999) p. 787-90, and David F. Schmitz's Henry L. Stimson: The First Wise Man.

 


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