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National Affairs: THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT

6 minute read
TIME

Few nominees of a great American party were as little known nationally as Adlai Stevenson was six months before his nomination. In the week of Jan. 20, Stevenson burst into bloom. That week: 1) Truman called Stevenson to Washington, offered to support him for the presidency; 2) Stevenson appeared on TIME’S cover; 3) he made a good speech in New York to the National Urban League. The New York Times’s Arthur Krock called it “Stevenson Week.” In spite of this, and much subsequent publicity, Stevenson trailed far behind Kefauver and Eisenhower (but 1% ahead of Taft) in Gallup polls. Last week a lot of people were still asking, “Who’s Stevenson?”

The Man: Adlai* Ewing Stevenson stands 5 ft. 9 in., weighs 180 Ibs.. slightly inclined to spread at the waist. Dark hair receding to the middle of his skull; a quick smile, a rueful laugh, eyes that are inclined to bulge. Is a serious, thinking, worrying, hard-working,, self-criticizing introvert. A frugal man, he has an income of about $50,000 a year (mostly from his one-fourth interest in the Bloomington, Ill. Daily Pantagraph).

Ancestry: Paternal grandfather was Adlai Ewing Stevenson, a staunch Democrat who became known as “the headsman” because he swept some 40,000 Republican postmasters off the payroll as First Assistant Postmaster General during Grover Cleveland’s first term; was Vice President during Cleveland’s second term. Maternal great-grandfather: Jesse W. Fell, an Illinois pioneer, a staunch Republican, close friend of Abraham Lincoln. Jesse Fell sponsored the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Father Lewis Green Stevenson, a Democrat, was Illinois’ secretary of state in 1914-16.

Childhood: Born Feb. 5, 1900, in Los Angeles, where his father was assistant general manager of Hearst’s Examiner. When Adlai was six, the family returned to Bloomington, Ill., where Adlai and his sister Elizabeth (now Mrs. Ernest Ives of Chicago, wife of a wealthy retired U.S. diplomat) grew up. Not a sturdy boy, he often got into fights to prove that he was not a sissy, suffered a broken nose two or three times in that cause.

Education: Attended Bloomington public schools, Choate school, graduated from Princeton in 1922. Was something of a politician and a medium-sized man on the campus, managing editor of the Daily Princetonian. His nervous, hurrying habits (“a nice, harmless, pleasant guy,” a roommate recalls) brought him a nickname: “Rabbit.” Entered Harvard Law School, dropped out within two years because of low grades. Did better at Northwestern University Law School, was graduated in 1926.

Career: For 18 months, between Harvard and Northwestern, worked as a reporter and editor on the Bloomington Pantagraph, owned by his mother’s family. After graduation from Northwestern, entered law practice in Chicago. In 1933 he went to Washington as special counsel to the administrator of the new Agricultural Adjustment Act. Returned to law practice in Chicago in 1935, went back to Washington in 1941 to be special assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, a Republican. Later served as a special assistant to two Secretaries of State, Edward Stettinius and James Byrnes. Handled press relations at the San Francisco United Nations Conference, later was senior adviser to the U.S. delegation to the U.N. General Assembly.

Politics: When he returned to his Chicago law practice in 1947, Illinois Democrats picked him to run against Dwight Green, who seemed sure of reelection. Jacob (“Jack”) M. Arvey, Cook County Democratic chairman, accepted Stevenson, whom he had met only a few months before, as the sacrificial lamb. Stevenson swept into office over Green by the biggest margin any candidate ever piled up in Illinois (572,000 votes), while Harry Truman won the state by a slim 33,612. As governor, Stevenson sent state police out to stop commercial gambling downstate when local officials failed to act, lopped 1,300 political hangers-on off the state payroll, replaced patronage with a merit system in the state police force, overhauled the welfare program, pushed through 78 bills to streamline the state government.

Family: See preceding page.

Assets: Excellent mind, ready wit, sense of phrase, above-average oratorical ability, long experience on the fringe of Federal Government, a generally good record as a governor, acceptability to both the Northern and Southern wings of the Democratic Party, disassociation with corruption in Washington.

Liabilities: 1) The Alger Hiss Case.

He worked with or around Hiss in the U.S. Agricultural Adjustment Administration in 1933, in the State Department in 1945, at the United Nations Conference in San Francisco that year, at the United Nations General Assembly in London in 1946, and in New York a year later. In 1949, he signed a deposition that Hiss had a good reputation for loyalty, which became part of Hiss’s defense. His opponents contend that this was a positive act in Hiss’ defense, after the essential facts of Hiss’s disloyalty had been revealed by Whittaker Chambers before the House Un-American Activities Committee. 2) The divorce. 3) He is not well known to most U.S. voters. 4) Some corruption in his Illinois administration, in no way traceable to him, but to some of the men he appointed (e.g., he had to fire Charles W. Wray, superintendent of foods and dairies, who was later indicted for taking bribes to pass horse meat as beef).

Where He Stands. While he has not directly criticized the New Deal and Fair Deal in public, Stevenson has clearly indicated that he is a deviationist from the party line. When asked about campaign issues some months ago, he said: “I think that the domestic issues of the greatest importance . . . are inflation and national solvency. Closely related is federal spending, increasing federal debt and higher taxes. Can these trends be reversed? A third issue will be widespread disappointment with the revelations of abuse and public trust . . .” In discussing federal bureaucracy, he has referred to “the floodwaters sweeping towards the District of Columbia . . . the strong tidal drift towards monistic—and mammoth —government.” This is distinctly unDemocratic language.

On one issue, he is in open disagreement with Harry Truman. He believes there is some good in the Taft-Hartley Act, thinks it should be amended, not repealed.

On civil rights: “I feel very strongly that this is the first responsibility of the states themselves. If the states are unwilling or unable, then I presume there is no alternative to having the Federal Government [take action].”

Social welfare: “Government, through its public assistance and social welfare programs, should seek to enhance but not to supplant the duty of the individual and of the family to provide for their own health and welfare.”

On foreign policy, he has followed the Truman administration line, supporting its policies in Europe and Asia.

*Pronounced Add-lay, appears just once in the Bible (1 Chronicles 27: 29).

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