About Edward Reilly Stettinius, Jr.
Edward Reilly Stettinius, Jr. (October 22, 1900 – October 31, 1949) was United States Secretary of State under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, serving from 1944 to 1945.
Stettinius was born in Chicago, the younger of two sons and third of four children of Edward Reilly and Judith (Carrington) Stettinius. His mother was a Virginian of colonial English ancestry. His father, Edward R. Stettinius, Sr. (1865-1925), of German descent, was a native of St. Louis. A successful businessman, he became president of the Diamond Match Company (1909–1915) in Barberton, Ohio. He was retained by the banking house of J. P. Morgan and Company in 1915 to organize a department to finance sales of munitions to Britain and France during World War I. His success led to becoming full partner in 1916. He was described by his contemporaries as possessing “a meticulous, almost obsessive, attention to detail” and an “almost terrifying sense of responsibility.”
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, leaving without a degree; while at Virginia he became a member of the secret Seven Society. On May 15, 1926, he married Virginia Gordon Wallace, daughter of a prominent family of Richmond, Virginia. They had three children: Edward Reilly, and the twins Wallace and Joseph.
In 1926, Stettinius began working at General Motors as a stock clerk. His rise was meteoric. He first became assistant to John Lee Pratt, a friend of the family, and by 1931 he had become a vice president in charge of public and industrial relations. At General Motors he worked to develop unemployment relief programs, and through this he came into contact with Franklin D. Roosevelt.
During the 1930s, Stettinius' work in the private sector alternated with public service. He served on the Industrial Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration (1933), but in 1934 he returned to the private sector when he joined US Steel where he eventually become a chairman of the board in 1938.
He then returned to public service as chairman of the War Resources Board (1939) and administrator of the Lend-lease Program (1941). He held the latter position until he became undersecretary of state in 1943. In November 1944 Stettinius succeeded Secretary of State Cordell Hull due to Hull's poor health. In this capacity, he helped arrange the Dumbarton Oaks conference accompanied the US delegation to the Yalta Conference. Roosevelt's personal approach to foreign policy prevented Stettinius from making major contributions at these conferences.
Stettinius, as chairman of the US delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization, was instrumental in the formation of the United Nations and was present at its official founding on June 26, 1945. Soon afterward, President Truman required Stettinius to resign as Secretary of State. He was offered the position of United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Stettinius resigned from this position in June 1946, after which 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. Charles W. Yost, Stettinius' aide, in the State Department and at the conference, followed him as UN Ambassador twenty-six years later.
Prematurely white-haired, with dark eyebrows, blue eyes, tanned face, and a quick smile, Stettinius was striking in appearance and inspired goodwill. For three years after his return to private life he served as rector of the University of Virginia. A longtime friend of William Tubman, the president of Liberia, he helped form (1947) and headed as board chairman the Liberia Company, a partnership between the Liberian government and American financiers to provide funds for the development of that African nation. He lived during his retirement at his estate on the Rapidan River, Virginia. He died of a coronary thrombosis 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 was a character in Robert Conroy's Red Inferno: 1945.