“The Stimson Center was founded in 1989 when the world was changing radically and familiar policy prescriptions were increasingly irrelevant. We were drawn to Henry L. Stimson as our namesake because he embodied the traits of international engagement and bipartisanship. Like Stimson, we wished to pursue pragmatic steps toward ideal objectives.” — Barry Blechman and Michael Krepon, Co-Founders, Stimson Center
Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950) was a lawyer and statesman who served every American president but one, from Taft to Truman. Considered one of America’s great statesmen — and noted for his ability to identify and implement nonpartisan solutions — his record of achievement is long and distinguished. He served twice as Secretary of War, initially under President Taft, and was recruited to the position again by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt before the attack on Pearl Harbor to help forge bipartisan support for war preparedness. He served as Secretary of State under President Herbert Hoover.
Stimson was born and raised in New York. He was educated at Phillips Academy Andover, Yale, and Harvard Law School. He worked initially in the law firm of Elihu Root, who would later become a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and Secretary of War. Stimson’s public career began in 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to be U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Stimson acquired a distinguished record for prosecuting anti-trust cases.
Appointed as Secretary of War for the Taft administration in 1911, Stimson continued his predecessor and mentor Elihu Root’s efforts to reorganize and professionalize the U.S. Army. He became the only former Secretary of War to enlist, serving as an artillery officer in France during the First World War. Stimson was appointed Governor-General of the Philippines by President Calvin Coolidge, where he served from 1927-1929. As Secretary of State from 1929-1933 under President Herbert Hoover, he developed the Stimson Doctrine in response to Japanese conquest of China, stipulating that the United States government would not recognize international territorial changes enacted through force. He also negotiated the London Naval Treaty that regulated submarine warfare between the United States and world powers.
FDR recruited Stimson to become Secretary of War, a position he held from 1940-1945. Stimson organized the military mobilization following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and oversaw the development and use of the atomic bomb to end the Second World War. Before and after leaving public service, he resolved to work on the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Throughout his career Stimson’s innovative ideas and pragmatic leadership helped make ours a more peaceful and prosperous world. His nonpartisan legacy is carried on in the Stimson Center’s work.
Photo credit via wikimedia commons