Sherman Adams, Governor, White House Chief of Staff

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Llewelyn Sherman Adams

Birthdate: (87)
Death: 1986 (87)
Immediate Family:

Son of Clyde Henry Adams and Winnie Marion Adams

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Immediate Family

About Sherman Adams, Governor, White House Chief of Staff

Llewelyn Sherman Adams (January 8, 1899 – October 27, 1986) was an American politician, best known as White House Chief of Staff for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the culmination of a relatively short (18-year) political career that also included a stint as Governor of New Hampshire. He lost his White House position in a scandal over a vicuña fur coat.

Early life

Born in East Dover, Vermont, Adams was educated in Providence, Rhode Island public schools, graduating from Hope High School. He received an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College (1920), having taken time off briefly for a six-month World War I stint in the United States Marine Corps. He then went into the lumber business, first in Headville, Vermont (1921), then to a combined lumber and paper business in Lincoln, New Hampshire. He also was involved in banking.

Political beginnings

Adams entered state politics as a Republican legislator (1941–44; Speaker of the House, 1944). He served a term in the United States House of Representatives (1945–47), making a failed effort to capture the 1946 Republican gubernatorial nomination in New Hampshire. He lost to incumbent Charles M. Dale; he later won this office in 1948.

New Hampshire governorship

When Adams took office as governor, New Hampshire was suffering post-war recession. He called for frugality and thrift in both personal and state expenditures. Retirees were (and are) a significant part of New Hampshire's population; Adams called for increased state aid for the aged, and for legislation which would enable the state's seniors to qualify for Federal Old Age & Survivors Insurance. In 1950 he formed a Reorganization Committee to recommend changes in state operations, and he called for the legislature to act on the recommendations.

Adams's clipped New Hampshire twang and calls for frugality made him a virtual poster boy for Republican balanced budget values of the time. He served as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Governors (1951–52), and was then asked to be White House Chief of Staff for the new Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the first person in this position to enjoy the explicit title of "Chief of Staff."

White House Chief of Staff

Adams took his role as Chief of Staff very seriously; with the exception of Cabinet members and certain NSC advisors, all requests for access to Eisenhower had to go through his office. This alienated traditional Republican Party loyalists. Adams was one of the most powerful men in Washington D.C. during the six years he served as Chief of Staff to President Eisenhower. Because of Eisenhower's highly formalized staff structure, it appeared to many that he had virtual control over White House staff operations and domestic policy (a 1956 article in Time entitled "OK, S.A." advanced this perception). The extent of internal strife between strong willed personalities was chronicled in his 1961 memoir "First Hand Report". Among the heated conflicts within the Eisenhower administration were the best method to handle flamboyant personalities such as U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and anti-Communist crusader Whittaker Chambers. Adams was a frequent broker of such controversies. When Adams resigned in 1958, and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles departed the next year, the administration went into a two year period that lacked direction. Author and movie critic Michael Medved wrote a book on Presidential aides called The Shadow Presidents. He mentioned Adams was probably the most powerful Presidential Chief of Staff in history. He told of a joke that circulated around Washington in the 1950s. Two Democrats were talking and one said "Wouldn't it be terrible if Eisenhower died and Nixon became President?". The other replied "Wouldn't it be terrible if Sherman Adams died and Eisenhower became President!".

Overcoat scandal

Adams was pressured to resign in 1958, when a House subcommittee revealed Adams had accepted an expensive vicuña overcoat and oriental rug from Bernard Goldfine, a Boston textile manufacturer who was being investigated for Federal Trade Commission violations. Goldfine, who had business with the federal government, was cited for contempt of Congress when he refused to answer questions regarding his relationship with Adams. The story was first reported to the public by muckraking journalist Jack Anderson.

Then Vice-President Richard Nixon stated that he was assigned the onerous responsibility of telling Adams that he had to resign. He regretted the necessity, as Adams' career in politics ended and he went "off... to operate a ski lodge" without any judicial findings. In the The Nixon Interviews, Nixon argued that he was unable to fire the White House staffers involved in the Watergate scandal, much as President Eisenhower was unable to directly fire Adams. However, according to Time Magazine's September 29, 1958 article on Adams, the job of firing Adams actually fell to Meade Alcorn, not Nixon.

Post-political life

Adams returned to Lincoln, New Hampshire where he started Loon Mountain Corporation, today a major ski resort. He died in 1986. His remains are buried at Riverside Cemetery, also in Lincoln.


Adams was married to Rachel White in 1923. They had one son, Samuel, and three daughters, Jean, Sarah, and Marion

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Sherman Adams, Governor, White House Chief of Staff's Timeline

Age 87