July 14, 1965 – Adlai Stevenson – Death Of A Statesman
July 14, 1965 – Fifty-four years ago, on July 14, 1965, Former Illinois Governor, two-time Presidential Candidate and United Nations Ambassador to the U.S. Adlai Stevenson collapsed and died of a massive coronary in London as he left the BBC studios after an interview regarding U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.
Some background on Stevenson via Wikipedia:
A member of the Democratic Party, Stevenson served in numerous positions in the federal government during the 1930s and 1940s, including the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), Federal Alcohol Administration, Department of the Navy, and the State Department. In 1945, he served on the committee that created the United Nations, and he was a member of the initial U.S. delegations to the UN. He was the 31st Governor of Illinois from 1949 to 1953, and received the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in the 1952 and 1956 elections.
In both the 1952 and 1956 elections, Stevenson was defeated in landslides by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination for a third time at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, but was defeated by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. After his election, President Kennedy appointed Stevenson as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He served from 1961 until his death. He died on July 14, 1965, from heart failure (after a heart attack) in London, following a United Nations conference in Switzerland. Following public memorial services in New York City, Washington, DC, and his childhood hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, he was buried in his family’s section in Bloomington’s Evergreen Cemetery.
Noted historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who served as one of his speechwriters, described Stevenson as a “great creative figure in American politics. He turned the Democratic Party around in the fifties and made JFK possible…to the United States and the world he was the voice of a reasonable, civilized, and elevated America. He brought a new generation into politics, and moved millions of people in the United States and around the world.” Journalist David Halberstam wrote that “Stevenson’s gift to the nation was his language, elegant and well-crafted, thoughtful and calming.” His biographer Jean H. Baker stated that Stevenson’s memory “still survives…as an expression of a different kind of politics – nobler, more issue-oriented, less compliant to the greedy ambitions of modern politicians, and less driven by public opinion polls and the media.” W. Willard Wirtz, his friend and law partner, once said “If the Electoral College ever gives an honorary degree, it should go to Adlai Stevenson.”
In July 1965 Stevenson traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. After the conference he stopped in London for several days, where he visited UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson, discussed the situation in South Vietnam with British officials, and was interviewed by CBS newsman Eric Sevareid as well as the BBC. On the afternoon of July 14, while walking in London with his aide and romantic partner Marietta Tree to Grosvenor Square, Stevenson suffered a massive heart attack, and died later that day of heart failure at St George’s Hospital. He was 65 years old. Marietta Tree recalled:
“As we were walking along the street he said do not walk quite so fast and do hold your head up Marietta. I was burrowing ahead trying to get to the park as quickly as possible and then the next thing I knew, I turned around and I saw he’d gone white, gray really, and he fell and his hand brushed me as he fell and he hit the pavement with the most terrible crack and I thought he’d fractured his skull.”
That night in her diary, she wrote, “Adlai is dead. We were together.” Following memorial services at the United Nations General Assembly Hall (on July 19, 1965), and in Washington, D.C.; Springfield, Illinois; and Bloomington, Illinois, Stevenson was interred in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, Bloomington, Illinois. The funeral in Bloomington’s Unitarian Church was attended by many national figures, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Here is that special broadcast, as it happened on July 14, 1965, shortly after the announcement of Stevenson’s death.