Edward Stettinius Jr.

For his father, president of Diamond Match Company and Assistant Secretary of War, see Edward R. Stettinius.
Edward Stettinius Jr.
48th United States Secretary of State
In office
December 1, 1944  June 27, 1945
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry Truman
Preceded by Cordell Hull
Succeeded by James F. Byrnes
1st United States Ambassador to the United Nations
In office
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Inaugural Holder
Succeeded by Herschel Johnson (Acting)
Personal details
Born Edward Reilly Stettinius Jr.
October 22, 1900
Chicago, Illinois
Died October 31, 1949(1949-10-31) (aged 49)
Greenwich, Connecticut
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Virginia Gordon Wallace
Children Edward R. "Ed" Stettinius, III
Wallace Stettinius
Joseph Stettinius
Parents Edward R. Stettinius
Education University of Virginia
Profession Businessman
Religion Episcopalian

Edward Reilly Stettinius Jr. (October 22, 1900 – October 31, 1949) was an American businessman who served as United States Secretary of State under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman from 1944 to 1945, and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1945 to 1946.


Edward Reilly Stettinius was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 22, 1900, the younger of two sons and third of four children of Edward R. Stettinius and Judith Carrington. His mother was a Virginian of colonial English ancestry. His father was of German descent, and was a native of St. Louis.[1]

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.[2] On May 15, 1926, Stettinius 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, but his connections made for rapid advancement. He became assistant to John Lee Pratt, a friend of the family, and by 1931 he had become 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 chairman of the nation's largest corporation in 1938.[3]

He then returned to public service, serving on the National Defense Advisory Commission, as chairman of the War Resources Board (1939) and administrator of the Lend-lease Program (1941).[4] He held the latter position until he became undersecretary of state in 1943. Due to the poor health of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, he chaired the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conference, and in December 1944, succeeded Hull as Secretary of State. Stettinius was a member of the US delegation to the 1945 Yalta Conference.[5]

Stettinius chaired the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization held in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, which brought together delegates from 50 Allied nations to create the United Nations. He resigned as Secretary of State to take up the position of the first United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Stettinius resigned from this post 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 on October 31, 1949, 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.

Stettinius's voluminous archive of more than 1,000 boxes resides at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.


  1. Chernow, Ron (1990). The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance. New York: Grove Press. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-0-8021-3829-3.
  2. Johnson, Bill (1965-02-15). "Seven Society's Secret Still Secret". Washington Post. pp. C8.
  3. Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 80, 87-90, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  4. Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 70-1, 80, 87, 89, 125, 127, 150, 153, 155, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  5. Walter Lafeber, "The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad Since 1750." (New York: W.W. Norton, 1989), 417-418

Further reading

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Political offices
Preceded by
Sumner Welles
Under Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Joseph C. Grew
Preceded by
Cordell Hull
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman

Succeeded by
James F. Byrnes
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
New office
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Succeeded by
Warren R. Austin
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