Birth of Adlai Stevenson II 

U.S. #1275 was issued just three months after Stevenson’s death.

Adlai Stevenson II was born on February 5, 1900, in Los Angeles, California.

Stevenson came from a prominent political family. His grandfather, Adlai Stevenson I, had served as Vice President under Grover Cleveland. One of his uncles had been a friend and campaign manger for Abraham Lincoln, and his father had been Secretary of State of Illinois.

In high school, Stevenson was an active student, playing on the tennis team, acting in the theater, and serving as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy, but didn’t finish his training until it was too late for him to join in World War I. From there Stevenson went on to Princeton, where he was again editor of the newspaper and a member of several clubs. Stevenson earned a degree in literature and history, and at his father’s request, went to Harvard Law School. However, he was bored with law and eventually left the school.

U.S. #1275 FDC – 1965 Stevenson First Day Cover.

After leaving Harvard, Stevenson worked for the newspaper his family owned in Illinois, the Bloomington Daily Pantagraph. Within a year of leaving Harvard, Stevenson found a renewed interest in law after talking to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. So he finished his law degree at Northwestern University and opened a law practice in Chicago.

U.S. #3185e from the 1930s Celebrate the Century sheet.

In 1933, Stevenson took his first public office, serving as special counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Commission, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs. With the repeal of prohibition later that year, Stevenson then became chief attorney for the Federal Alcohol Control Administration.

Stevenson then returned to his law practice before serving as chairman of the Chicago Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. In that role he raised support and money for the Allies fighting against Nazi Germany. During World War II, Stevenson served as special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and led a mission on policies for the occupation of Italy. After the war, he was an alternative delegate to the United Nations.

U.S. #1383 was issued on Eisenhower’s 79th birthday.

Stevenson was elected governor of Illinois in 1948, winning the election by the largest plurality in the state’s history. During his four-year term, he accomplished a great deal, including changes to state police hiring and operations, fought illegal gambling, instituted highway improvements and passed welfare legislation. His popularity made him an obvious choice for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1952, but he refused to campaign. During the campaign, Stevenson became known for his intelligent, high-quality speeches. He was nominated anyway, but was unsuccessful in the election. Stevenson was nominated again in 1956, but was defeated again by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

U.S. #1287 from the Prominent Americans series.

Stevenson became a prominent public speaker and supporter of the Democratic Party. During the national convention in 1960, he secretly sought the nomination once again, but lost to Senator John Kennedy. After the convention, Stevenson used his speaking talent to campaign for Kennedy. When JFK won the election, he asked Stevenson if he would like to be ambassador to Britain, attorney general, or ambassador to the United Nations. The statesman chose the last option.

Stevenson supported U.S. foreign policy, though he sometimes disagreed with Kennedy’s plans. Stevenson was not briefed on the Bay of Pigs Invasion and lost credibility when he insisted the U.S. was not behind it. After Kennedy was assassinated, Stevenson continued in his role as U.N. ambassador during Johnson’s administration.

U.S. #928 was issued to commemorate the 1945 U.N. Peace Conference.

In 1965, Stevenson went to Geneva, Switzerland for the annual meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. After the conference he went to London to meet with the British Prime Minister. While walking the streets of London on July 14, he suffered a heart attack and died later that day.

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  1. I was 29 when my wife and I went down to the train station in Dayton, Ohio, in early 1953 to see his campaign train as he campaigned in upstate New York. He made a brief speech from the platform on the end of the observation car, making the comment that he was so pleased to meet us all in Syracuse (oops – Syracuse was the next stop; he was in Dayton). He was an articulate and clear speaker, a delight to listen to. But he was too intellectual for many voters. He was an excellent Ambassador to the United Nations.

  2. This article misses one of the high points of Stevenson’s tenure as U.N. ambassador. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Stevenson grilled and embarrassed the Russian ambassador about the presence of offensive missiles being installed in Cuba. This helped rally the American people behind President Kennedy in the ensuing weeks.

  3. I was 6 years old in 1956 the day after the election and was walking to school in South Buffalo when I overheard the “big kids” talking about the election. I knew that Eisenhower had won but didn’t know why. One of them said ” Did you see how many votes that Eisenhower got?” I thought that he said boats and at the appropriate time in my first grade class explained to my fellow students how the election was won. I still have the visual image of Ike in a harbor bringing in the boats. By the way, my parents “boated” for Stevenson which why I brought this up

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