Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. (1900-1949), was an American industrialist and public servant and a secretary of state in President Franklin Roosevelt's Cabinet.
Edward Stettinius, Jr., was born in Chicago, Ill., on Oct. 2, 1900. His father was a partner of financier J. P. Morgan. He received his education at the Pomfret School and the University of Virginia. In 1924 he joined the General Motors Company as a stock clerk at 44 cents an hour. His rise in business was rapid; in 1931 he became General Motors vice president in charge of public and industrial relations. In 1934 he became chairman of the finance committee of the U.S. Steel Corporation, and in 1938 he became chairman of the board.
Stettinius's political views were liberal, and he served in Franklin Roosevelt's administration, first on the Industrial Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration (1933), then as chairman of the War Resources Board (1939), and finally as administrator of the Lend-Lease Program (1941). He was beyond question a brilliant administrator and in addition a warm human being.
In October 1943 Stettinius succeeded Cordell Hull as secretary of state. In this capacity he undertook a reorganization of the department, sought to bring it into closer relations with other parts of the government, improved the relations of the department with the public at large, and labored vigorously in the creation of the United Nations.
Stettinius cannot be regarded, however, as one of America's great secretaries of state. This was partly a result of President Roosevelt's methods, for Roosevelt's conduct of foreign policy was highly personal. But Stettinius played a useful and competent role in organizing the Dumbarton Oaks Conferences, with representatives of the other Great Powers, which paved the way for the UN conference at San Francisco.
In the winter of 1945 Stettinius accompanied President Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in the Crimea, at which the Big Three, Roosevelt, Winston Churchill of England, and Joseph Stalin of the U.S.S.R., attempted to plot the future course of international affairs. Stettinius appears to have acquiesced in the most vulnerable agreement made at the conference, by which the Soviet Union was promised numerous concessions in the Far East. This agreement was kept secret and has been sharply criticized; but it must be remembered that at this time the entry of Russia into the war in the East was regarded as indispensable for victory over Japan.
Stettinius led the American delegation to the UN conference at San Francisco. His organization of American opinion for the support of the conference was impressive, and his dignity and good humor were generally praised. Soon after the death of Roosevelt, Stettinius's career as secretary came to an end. For a time he served as rector of the University of Virginia. He died of a heart attack in February 1949.
Stettinius wrote two books, Lend-Lease: Weapon for Victory (1944) and Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference (1949). Several chapters on him by Richard L. Walker are in Samuel Flagg Bemis, ed., The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy, vol. 14 (1965).