Appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Continued in office under President Harry S. Truman
Edward Reilly Stettinius, Jr., served as secretary of state for exactly seven months during one of the most crucial periods in American history. His only biographer characterized him as “the secretary who was not secretary of state.” Eminent diplomatic historian Samuel Flagg Bemis dismissed him for being “a figurehead in policy behind whose handsome visage was Franklin D. Roosevelt who really controlled our diplomacy.” Yet, Joseph Grew, a veteran of 40 years service in the Department of State, observed that Stettinius “was the best chief I ever had.” Although he had many shortcomings a secretary of state, Stettinius was more than a mere figurehead. In his brief tenure, this talented administrator reorganized the Department of State, served as a spokesman for U.S. interests at the Yalta Conference, and played a vital role in the creation of the United Nations, only to be removed by President Harry S Truman at the moment of his greatest accomplishment.
Born in Chicago on October 22, 1900, Stettinius grew up in comfortable circumstances as the son of a partner in the Wall Street banking house J. P. Morgan & Company. Upon his graduation from the exclusive Pomfret School in Connecticut, Edward went on to the University of Virginia, where much to the chagrin of his family, he managed to earn only six credits in three and one-half years.
Stettinius took a job with General Motors after company vice president John Lee Pratt convinced him that his creative and humanitarian instincts could be fulfilled through a business career. He rose through the company rapidly. In 1933 Stettinius worked with the New Deal's National Recovery Administration, drafting codes designed to bring about economic recovery. The next year he accepted a position with United States Steel. Within four years he became chairman of the board, just in time to deftly handle a Justice Department investigation of monopolistic practice and steer the company through a major recession.
Rather than fighting the New Deal, as did so many in the corporate world, Stet-tinius endorsed much of it. His friendship with Roosevelt's advisor, Harry Hopkins, led the president to appoint him as head of the newly reconstituted War Resources