Edward Stettinius Jr.

Edward Reilly Stettinius Jr. (October 22, 1900 – October 31, 1949) was an American businessman who served as United States Secretary of State under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman from 1944 to 1945, and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1945 to 1946.

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 22, 1900, the younger of two sons and third of four children of Edward R. Stettinius and Judith Carrington. His mother was a Virginian of colonial English ancestry. His father was of German descent and was a native of St. Louis, Missouri.[1]

The younger Stettinius grew up in a mansion on the family's estate on Staten Island and graduated from the Pomfret School in 1920, after which he attended the University of Virginia until 1924. He finished very few courses and never took a degree, Instead he spent his time on charitable outreach to poor families. He became a member of the secret Seven Society.[2]

On May 15, 1926, Stettinius married Virginia Gordon Wallace, daughter of a prominent family of Richmond, Virginia. They had three children: Edward Reilly and twins Wallace and Joseph.

In 1926, Stettinius began working at General Motors as a stock clerk, but his connections made for rapid advancement. He became assistant to John Lee Pratt, a friend of the family, and by 1931 he had become vice president of public and industrial relations. At General Motors, he worked to develop unemployment relief programs and came into contact with Franklin Roosevelt.

In the 1930s, Stettinius's work in the private sector alternated with public service. He served on the Industrial Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration (1933). In 1934 he returned to the private sector when he joined U.S. Steel, the nation's largest corporation; he eventually become chairman in 1938.[3]

He then returned to public service, serving on the National Defense Advisory Commission, as chairman of the War Resources Board (1939) and administrator of the Lend-Lease Program (1941).[4] He held the latter position until he became undersecretary of state in 1943. The poor health of Secretary of State Cordell Hull made him chair the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conference and, in December 1944, succeed Hull as Secretary of State. Stettinius was a member of the US delegation to the 1945 Yalta Conference.[5]

Truman thought Stettinius was too soft on communism, and had yielded too much to Moscow when he was Roosevelt's advisor at Yalta.[a] Truman had an old Senate friend in mind as a replacement, James F. Byrnes. Stettinius resigned as Secretary of State to accept the position of the first United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He chaired the United States delegation to the held in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, which brought together delegates from 50 Allied nations to create the United Nations. Charles W. Yost, who had been Under Secretary of State Stettinius' assistant in the State Department, was named Stettinius' Executive Secretary at the United Nations Conference. Stettinius resigned in June 1946, as he became critical of what he saw as Truman's refusal to use the UN as a tool to resolve tensions with the Soviet Union.[8]

For three years after his return to private life, he served as rector of the University of Virginia. In 1947, Stettinius and friend William Tubman, the president of Liberia, helped form the Liberia Company (now International Registries), a partnership between the Liberian government and American financiers to provide funds for the development of the African nation. During his retirement, Stettinius lived at his Virginia estate, The Horseshoe, on the Rapidan River.[9] He died of a coronary thrombosis on October 31, 1949, at the home of a sister in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 49, and was buried in the family plot in Locust Valley Cemetery, Locust Valley, New York.

Stettinius's voluminous archive of more than 1,000 boxes resides at the at the University of Virginia.

Stettinius, Edward R. Lend-Lease, Weapon for Victory. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1944. OCLC 394271