Childhood & Early Life
Adlai Stevenson II was born in Los Angeles, United States to Lewis G Stevenson, who was a former Secretary of State of Illinois and Helen Louise Davis, a homemaker.
He was raised in an upper class family in the well-to-do neighbourhood of Bloomington, Illinois, where he went to the Bloomington High School for junior year.
He later attended the University High School in Normal, Illinois. Subsequently, he enrolled at The Choate School, a boarding school in Connecticut, where he actively participated in sports, theatre and also became the editor in-chief of the school newspaper, ‘The News’.
Upon graduating from Choate School in 1918, he served as a Seaman Apprentice in the Navy. He was not posted to work during the World War I as he was yet to complete his training.
In 1922, he graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. During his years at the university, he served as the managing editor of the publication, ‘The Daily Princetonian’. He was also a member of the American Whig- Cliosophic Society.
He attended Harvard Law School for a brief period of time but quit the same later as he did not find law interesting. He returned to Bloomington and contributed for the family newspaper, ‘The Daily Pantagraph’.
After he met, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr, he became interested in law and decided to continue his studies at the Northwestern University School of Law.
In 1926, he received his law degree and passed the Illinois State Bar examination. While he was studying, he would spend his weekends in Bloomington, managing and writing for the family newspaper - ‘The Daily Pantagraph’. He began his law career with the Chicago law firm, Moore & Sidley.
In July 1933, he was appointed as a special attorney and worked as an assistant to Jerome Frank, who at that time was the general counsel of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.
In 1934, he was employed as the chief attorney of the Federal Alcohol Control Administration. He was responsible for the regulation of the alcohol industry.
In 1935, he went to Chicago, where he practiced law and actively participated in civic activities. He also became the chairman of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies.
In 1940, he was appointed as the Principal Attorney and special assistant after Colonel Frank Knox became the Secretary of the Navy. His role was to write speeches, handle administrative duties, go on tours and represent the Navy on committees.
In 1944, as a part of the Foreign Economic Administration, he was on the mission to Sicily and Italy. The following year, he worked temporarily as a special assistant to the Secretary of State.
In 1945, appointed Deputy United States Delegate to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations Organization, he travelled to London. He worked in this position until the next year.
On January 10, 1949, he was appointed as the 31st Governor of Illinois. During his tenure, he was much appreciated and was known as an eloquent speaker.
In 1952, while he was the Governor of Illinois, then-President Harry S. Truman convinced him to run for the Democratic nomination for the post of the President. He was defeated by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower.
After he was defeated, he traveled to the Middle East, Europe and Asia and wrote about his travel experiences in the magazine, ‘Look’. In 1956, he again stood as a Democratic candidate for the presidential campaign but lost yet again to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1957, he continued his law practice along with Judge Simon H. Rifkind, with a law firm that was based in Washington, D.C. He also practiced in another law firm in Chicago.
In 1960, he stood for the third time as a candidate for presidential nomination but was defeated by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. He was appointed by Kennedy as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
In 1961, he faced humiliation after he disputed against the allegations of attacking Fidel Castro's Communist forces at the Bay of Pigs. On the other hand, he claimed that the forces behind the attacks were anti-Communist in Cuban migrants.
On October 25, 1962, he came to the limelight after his famous speech at the emergency session of the Security Council. He questioned Soviet representative Valerian Zorin about the installation of missiles in Cuba, which when the latter denied, he showed photographs as evidence of the same.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1928, he married socialite, Ellen Borden, with whom he had three children. Soon after the wedding, the couple became very popular in the social circles of Chicago. They divorced in 1949.
After his divorce, he did not remarry. However, he became romantically involved with some of the most prominent women in the social scene, including, Alicia Patterson and Marietta Tree.
He died at the age of 65. While he was taking a walk in London with Marietta Tree, he suffered a heart attack and died later the same day.
He was laid to rest at the Evergreen Cemetery, Bloomington, Illinois. His funeral was conducted in the Unitarian Church and prominent national figures were in attendance.
There is a statue of him at the Central Illinois Regional Airport, depicted as if he is waiting for a flight with a suitcase. The statue depicts him wearing a shoe with a hole.
His home, Adlai E. Stevenson II Farm in Mettawa, Illinois is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
He has been referred to in many contemporary television shows like, ‘The Simpsons’ and also a large number of films, some of which include, ‘Dr. Strangelove’ and ‘Thirteen Days’. He was also quoted on the drama series, ‘Boston Legal’.