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William Stuart Symington was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on 26th June, 1901. Soon afterwards the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland. In 1918 he joined the U.S. Army and by they time he left he had reached the rank of second lieutenant.
After graduating from Yale University Symington he briefly became a newspaper reporter in Baltimore. Later he worked as an iron moulder in Rochester (1923-26). After studying mechanical and electrical engineering by correspondence course he became an executive with a steel company. In 1938 he moved to St. Louis to become president of the Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company.
As a member of the Democratic Party, in 1947, Harry S. Truman appointed Symington as his Assistant Secretary of War for Air. This was followed by holding the posts of Secretary of the Air Force (1947-1950), chairman of the National Security Resources Board (1950-51) and Reconstruction Finance Corporation Administrator (1951-52).
In 1952 Symington was elected to the Senate. He became a respected political figure and in 1960 attempted to win the party's presidential nomination. John F. Kennedy won the nomination and decided to make Symington his running-mate. When Clark Clifford brought him the news, Symington accepted the post but said: "I bet you a hundred dollars that no matter what he says, Jack will not make me his running mate. He will have to pick Lyndon".
In the background Philip Graham and Joseph Alsop were attempting to persuade John F. Kennedy to appoint Lyndon B. Johnson instead. Despite the objection of Robert Kennedy and other leading advisers, Kennedy decided to replace Symington with Johnson.
Symington served in the Senate until his resignation on 27th December, 1976. He lived in New Canaan, Connecticut until his death on 14th December, 1988.
Phil and I flew to California early, five days before the Democratic Convention was to open on July 11. I was already committed to Kennedy. Phil remained loyal to Johnson until he lost the bid for the nomination, but he was entirely realistic, and he, too, admired JFK...
Phil called on Bobby Kennedy and got from him confidential figures on his brother's strength, numbers that showed JFK very close to the number of votes needed to win the nomination close enough so that the Pennsylvania delegation, or a big chunk of it, could put him over. On Monday, Pennsylvania caucused and announced that the state delegation would give sixty-four of its eighty-one votes to Kennedy, which made Phil and the Post reporters write that it would be Kennedy on the first ballot.
At that point, Phil got together with Joe Alsop to discuss the merits of Lyndon Johnson as Kennedy's running mate. Joe persuaded Phil to accompany him to urge Kennedy to offer the vice-presidency to Johnson. Joe had all the secret passwords, and the two men got through to Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy's secretary, in a room next to his dreary double bedroom and living room. They took a seat on one of the beds and nervously talked out who would say what, while they observed what Joe termed "the antechambers of history." Joe decided he would introduce the subject and Phil should make the pitch.
When they were then taken to the living room to see JFK, Joe opened with, "We've come to talk to you about the vice-presidency. Something may happen to you, and Symington is far too shallow a puddle for the United States to dive into. Furthermore, what are you going to do about Lyndon Johnson? He's much too big a man to leave up in the Senate." Then Phil spoke "shrewdly and eloquently," according to Joe - pointing out all the obvious things that Johnson could add to the ticket and noting that not having Johnson on the ticket would certainly be trouble.
Kennedy immediately agreed, "so immediately as to leave me doubting the easy triumph," Phil noted in a memo afterwards. "So I restated the matter urging him not to count on Johnson's turning it down, but to offer the VPship so persuasively as to win Johnson over." Kennedy was decisive in saying that was his intention, pointing out that Johnson could help not only in the South but elsewhere in the country.
Phil told the Post's reporters they could write that "the word in L.A. is that Kennedy will offer the Vice-Presidency to Lyndon Johnson."
Following the nomination and selection of Johnson as the vice-presidential candidate Thursday night, I returned to the office and was immediately called by a number of newspaper men who were checking on a story by John S. Knight, publisher of the Knight Newspapers, which purported that Johnson had forced Kennedy to select him as the vice-presidential candidate.
Earlier that day I had gone to Bob Kennedy's room which was across from mine in the Biltmore Hotel. Ken O'Donnell was there and after I came in they were discussing the possibilities for Vice President. Bob Kennedy asked me to compute the number of electoral votes in New England and in the "solid South." I asked him if he was seriously thinking of Johnson and he said he was. He said Senator Kennedy was going over to see Johnson at 10 a.m. Ken O'Donnell violently protested about Johnson's being on the ticket and I joined Ken in this argument. Both of us felt that Senator Stuart Symington would make a better candidate but Senator Johnson seemed to be on Bob's mind. I remembered all of this later that night when I saw the news report about Johnson forcing himself on the ticket.
I called Bob Kennedy that night to check the Knight story. Bob said it was absolutely untrue. From my conversation with him, however, I gathered that the selection of Johnson had not been accomplished in the manner that the papers had reported it had. I got the distinct feeling that, at best, Senator Kennedy had been surprised when he asked Senator Johnson to run for Vice-President and Johnson accepted...
A day or two after the convention, I asked JFK for the answer to that question. He gave me many of the facts of the foregoing memo, then suddenly stopped and said: "The whole story will never be known. And it's just as well that it won't be."
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Local History ROCs!
Rochester has been variously described as “The Flour City,” “The Flower City,” and “The Image City,” even “Baseball City USA,” but no one has ever described it as “The Armaments City.” During the First World War, however, that is what it was.
The Rochester Ordinance District covered all of New York State except New York City, Long Island, and nine counties north of the Bronx. Over 80 companies in this district contributed to the war effort. Kodak, for example, made the first aerial cameras. Bausch + Lomb made optical glass for range finders, gun sights, periscopes and binoculars. Stromberg-Carlson made telephones and radio equipment for the Signal Corps. Most of Gleason Works’ output of machine tools, gears and castings went directly to the American armed forces. And, of course, there was military weaponry, including machine guns, rifles, various other guns and cannons, shells and shrapnel. From April 1917, to the end of calendar year 1918, the Ordinance District was credited with producing 17,850,512 pieces of military equipment. To meet the high demand, nearly one-third of those manufacturing such armaments were women.
Within the city of Rochester itself, there was no larger manufacturer of military ordinance than the T.H. Symington Company. The company was named for its founder and president, Thomas Harrison Symington (14 May 1869-19 September 1931). Symington was the son of William Stuart Symington (5 January 1839-9 June 1912), a socially prominent citizen of Baltimore. Stuart, as he was known, was described at his death as a “Confederate of the Old School.” During the Civil War, he served as an aide-de-camp to General George Pickett (of “Pickett’s Charge” fame) from 1862 until the surrender at Appomattox. After the war, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, preferring to emigrate to Germany instead. After several years abroad, he returned and achieved success in business. His initial effort was in manufacturing fertilizer. When Ferdinand Latrobe was mayor of Baltimore, Stuart served as Superintendent of Lighting and Inspector of Gas Meters (1889-1895). Later, he worked in insurance and served as Secretary to the Board of the Consolidated Gas Company.
Son Thomas had a technological, rather than a chemical, bent, working for and eventually serving railroads. In 1887, he began his career, working as an apprentice for the Baltimore and Ohio (B and O) Railroad. He served there for four years before enrolling at Lehigh University to study mechanical engineering. Upon graduating, he returned to the B and O until 1901, when he started his own firm, the T. H. Symington Company. Headquartered in Baltimore, the firm made railway supplies such as journal boxes, draft gears, side frames, ball and roller bearings, and dust guards for steam and electric train cars and locomotives. The business was so successful that various manufacturing plants were established outside of Baltimore.
In 1909, one such plant opened in Rochester (at West Avenue and Lincoln Park). Initially supervised by local personnel, beginning in 1914, operations were supervised by Symington himself, as he relocated to Rochester, remaining here until after the First World War. Prior to the American entrance into the war, Symington had a successful foundry business, subcontracting railroad parts for firms that manufactured 12,000 railroad cars for Russia.
Symington Employees at Work (1917-1918)
Once the war got underway, Symington did not want to give up his peace time production, so he created three new subsidiaries to meet the demand for war materiel: Symington Machine Corporation (25 Leighton Street) the Symington-Anderson Corporation (1044 University Avenue) and the Symington Forge Corporation (1244 University Avenue).
We will hear more about these firms in the next post…
Symington Forging Storage
Capacity: 1 Million Shells
At peak, the company could produce 15,000 shells per day
Sylvia R. Black and Harriett Julia Naylor, “Rochester and World War I,” Rochester History 5, no. 4 (October 1943).
Edward R. Foreman, “Rochester A World War Ordinance Center,” in World War Service Record of Rochester and Monroe County, New York (Rochester, New York: Published by the City of Rochester, 1930), 3:459-466.
“Maj. W.S. Symington Dead,” The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) 11 June 1912, p. 9, cols. 1-4.
“Services are Held for T. H. Symington,” The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 22 September 1931, p. 6, col. 1.
The United States Air Force was exceedingly fortunate to have among its early patrons two famous men from Missouri. These were President Harry S. Truman, who understood the necessity for an independent Air Force, and industrialist W. Stuart Symington, chosen by Truman to be the first Secretary of the Air Force.
Both had strong personalities, and they battled vigorously over the fundamental issue of the size of the independent United States Air Force and its share of the defense budget. The battles did not impair their friendship, however, and Truman would later become a strong supporter of then-Senator Symington as a presidential candidate.
Both men were indispensable to the founding of the Air Force, and both contributed substantially to its welfare in the years to come. Yet they were physically and temperamentally far apart and came from very different backgrounds.
Truman, the son of a mule trader and farmer, was smaller, stockier, and had the common touch of a politician who had worked his way up from the ranks. Symington, patrician son of an Amherst College professor, was tall, urbane, and sophisticated. During World War I, Truman became a captain in the artillery. Symington enlisted as a private and was commissioned at 17 as a second lieutenant. Truman did not attend college. Symington went to Yale.
Their business careers showed the most pronounced differences. Truman’s series of business failures as a farmer, lead-mine owner, oil prospector, and haberdasher are well-known. In contrast, Symington went from success to success, either engineering successful start-up companies or rescuing companies in distress.
Curiously enough, it was Symington’s series of successes in private business that caused Truman to single him out for service to the government. A lesser man might have resented the success of a younger, handsomer, better-educated, more socially adept business tycoon instead, Truman approved of Symington and put him in positions where the government could benefit from his talents.
Fortunately, despite their powerful personalities and differences, they had similarities that bound them together to the benefit of the Air Force. They were patriots who objectively put their country’s interests ahead of their own. They were hard workers, who were willing to delegate but still demanded results from subordinates. Both were blessed with a basic common sense that made it easy for them to work together even when their beliefs did not coincide.
An important factor in their relationship, not fully appreciated at the time, was that they served together during an era when the powers of their respective offices were at their peaks. Each fostered independent thought from subordinates, but each was the master of his house who made the final decisions.
Symington was born on June 26, 1901, at Amherst, Mass. After his wartime service and four years at Yale, he went to work for his uncle in the shops of the Symington Co. of Rochester, N.Y., where he learned the ropes of manufacturing malleable iron products. The village of Geneseo, near Rochester, was the home of his bride, Evelyn Wadsworth, the daughter of Sen. (and later Rep.) James W. Wadsworth of New York. They were married in Washington, D.C., in 1924.
In 1925, Symington founded Eastern Clay Products, Inc., but two years later he returned to his uncle’s firm as the executive assistant to the president. Even in a family operation, he was no pushover, being fired at least twice by his uncle for being too outspoken.
His executive mettle was not to be proved fully until the Great Depression, when he became a specialist at turning companies around. In 1930, he became president of the Colonial Radio Corp., then desperately close to bankruptcy. He restored it to economic health, in part by securing a contract to make Silvertone radios for Sears Roebuck. The company was purchased by Sylvania for what Symington termed “a good price.” In 1935 he took over the Rustless Iron and Steel Corp., improved its situation, and added to his reputation as an evenhanded manager who could deal fairly and successfully with unions. After having by 1937 made a virtually derelict business profitable, he sold it to the American Rolling Mill Co., again for “a good price.”
With what would prove to be some historical irony, he was recommended by James V. Forrestal, his future boss in the Department of Defense, to take over and turn around the moribund Emerson Electric Manufacturing Co. in St. Louis. He became president in 1938 and charmed the banking world into advancing the firm the necessary capital, even as he charmed the truculent unions into an unprecedented cooperative campaign to save Emerson. And he succeeded, in part by re-establishing his contact with Sears and selling them Emerson’s arc welders and electric motors.
Setting the Stage
By 1940, Emerson had been turned around. The company had built an entirely new modern plant-just in time to launch a hugely successful wartime manufacturing enterprise that concentrated first on building artillery shells by the millions and then building gun turrets. For Symington, the stage was set for a career in government that would raise him first to the Senate and then to strong consideration as a presidential candidate.
Symington knew absolutely nothing about gun turrets. Still, he was asked by William S. Knudsen, former head of General Motors and then the director general of the newly created Office of Production Management, to go to England in 1941 and become an expert. He was to study aircraft armament, especially the British powered turrets with which British bombers (and the Boulton Paul Defiant fighter) were equipped. He returned to St. Louis in June 1941 and, with characteristic directness, visited US manufacturers of similar equipment. He pirated three engineers from Preston T. Tucker’s Detroit automotive firm and soon had a contract for 1,000 machine gun turrets per month.
Difficulties in converting the British turrets (which carried .303 Brownings) to handle US .50-caliber guns resulted in his brand-new plant building turrets for other manufacturers, including Sperry, during 1942. But a wide variety of excellent Emerson turrets were developed. By 1944 they were being produced at the rate of 70 per day. More than 12,000 of the Model 127 Emerson nose turrets were produced.
Symington had a hands-on management style he walked the production lines, exhorting his workers to remember that every turret they built saved American lives. In time, his Emerson Electric Co. would become the world’s largest airplane armament plant. The company produced huge quantities of power-driven nose and tail turrets for American bombers. Sales jumped from $4.9 million in 1940 to $114 million in 1944.
Symington ran Emerson Electric with a modern management style-delegated authority, good reporting systems, and tough cost accounting. His first official contacts with then-Sen. Harry Truman, head of the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, were not auspicious. Truman’s investigations were rigorous, shining a spotlight on defense contractors who were not performing efficiently. His committee’s reports pulled no punches on aviation production fiascoes.
The tremendous expansion of Emerson Electric had caused some problems in accounting and in production, and Truman’s committee was tipped off. Symington met face to face with Truman and presented a defense that highlighted government interference with normal Emerson procedures.
Making an Impression
The Truman Committee eventually exonerated Emerson. The future President had been impressed by Symington’s defiant but reasoned defense of his business. In July 1945, Truman asked Symington to join the government as chairman of the Surplus Property Board. In October of that year he became administrator of the Surplus Property Administration. These were important jobs, for the torrent of American production had flooded the world with everything from boots to tanks. Stacked in endless quantity in ports, supply depots, and open fields, the American equipment and goods were an immediate source of controversy. Any left abroad or destroyed could cause a public outcry about the sheer waste. Yet the cost of bringing home much of the material often exceeded its worth. Further, some materials, if brought home, could depress the market for manufacture of replacement goods. Symington mapped out commonsense programs that distilled as much value as possible from the surplus war material while offending as few people as possible.
Symington viewed his public service as a short-term move. He had hoped to return to Emerson Electric after six months, but Truman had other ideas. He appreciated Symington’s excellent management at Emerson Electric and saw that it had been confirmed by his success with the thorny problem of surplus property.
Truman had become President after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he offered Symington a choice of three positions: assistant secretary of the Navy for air, assistant secretary of war for air, or assistant secretary of state. Aware that creation of an independent Air Force was imminent, Symington opted for assistant secretary of war for air.
It was an excellent choice, not least because he was following in the footsteps of Robert A. Lovett, who held the job in the war years under Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Lovett was one of the most influential and important officials in the executive branch. He had worked well with Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, and Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, and he had been of almost decisive importance in gearing up the US aviation industry for wartime production. Lovett had more than a passing interest in operational issues as well.
Symington established immediate rapport with Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces and soon to be first Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. He became an outspoken advocate of airpower and soon reached a modus operandi with Spaatz that would continue when the Air Force became independent. Although deeply interested in every aspect of the service, he did not make the mistake of assuming that his managerial experience translated to military expertise. He gladly left the operational elements to Spaatz and his staff. Instead, Symington used his talents to impose an overall management style on the Army Air Forces and to work smoothly with the other services, Congress, and the public.
As assistant secretary of war for air, Symington realized that he had an opportunity to chart a positive course for the future independent Air Force by establishing an effective cost-control system, which included a comptroller equivalent in rank to a deputy chief of staff. Brig. Gen. Grandison Gardner was his first comptroller. Gardner was succeeded by thenBrig. Gen. Edwin W. Rawlings, a great leader and administrator. Rawlings, who had earned a Harvard MBA degree in 1939, made the comptroller operation powerful and effective.
The success of Symington’s efforts in this field are all the more important because they came just after World War II, when the main objective was to win the war and costs were a secondary consideration. After V-J Day, Congress would no longer be so openhanded, and Symington would have to battle for every dollar, no matter how well-managed.
It was generally recognized immediately after the war that the services were going to be reduced in size and a more unified command structure was necessary. The US Navy felt threatened by the impending changes, feeling that an independent Air Force and the Army would gang up against it in the fight for funds. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was opposed to the concept that eventually materialized in the National Security Act of July 26, 1947, which established the Department of Defense. Forrestal was selected as the first Secretary of Defense, in part to mollify the Navy.
Unlike Symington, Forrestal was not a personable leader, and while the two men were longtime friends and respected each other, they did not get along because their points of view on the disposition of the budget and the operation of the Department of Defense were often diametrically opposed. Ironically, Symington urged that the Secretary of Defense should be given more authority, including power to dismiss the service secretaries. Instead, Forrestal sought to coordinate, rather than lead, the service departments.
That decision was unfortunate, for the next several years would see the new Department of Defense engaged in internal battles over roles and missions and budget share. The decisions made on roles and missions tended to be compromises that made future arguments inevitable. The defense budget levels were so unrealistically low that the roughly equal divisions that were made were irrelevant: None of the services were adequately funded.
The No. 3 Power
Forrestal’s personal management philosophy turned out to be greatly to the benefit of the Air Force, for Symington had greater power than any subsequent Secretary. The Secretary of the Air Force (because of the nuclear bomber) was in fact the third most powerful man in government, after the President and the Secretary of Defense. Symington used this power wisely to get the brand-new Air Force up and running.
The first Secretary of the Air Force stated his objectives forthrightly. They were:
- A 70-group Air Force, considered by Spaatz’s team to be the minimum required for peacetime defense.
- A trained Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.
- An adequate commercial transport industry to support Air Force needs and
- A healthy aircraft and component production industry.
He would labor valiantly for all four, persuading Congress and the public and responding to requests from Spaatz and later Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg. At the same time he had to deal with a series of controversies. The first of these concerned the illegal wartime activities of Maj. Gen. Bennett E. Meyers, who had embezzled public funds with false contracts given to a company he owned. Symington, in characteristic fashion, gave the public a full view of the case, and Meyers was dismissed from the Air Force. He was successfully tried in a civil court. As a direct result of this case, Symington established an Office of Special Investigations to ferret out fraud and impropriety.
Symington’s sterling character and integrity were also demonstrated in the trumped up charges made by the Navy against the procurement of the Convair B-36 in 1949. As George M. Watson points out in his excellent book The Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, 1947-1965, “He took control, marshaled his forces, orchestrated the Air Force’s case, and in presenting compelling testimony, carried the day. He performed brilliantly, demonstrating the authority of his position and settling the issue of civilian control of the military services.”
Although Symington listened to his military staff, he left no doubt that he was unquestionably the boss. He monitored every aspect of the Air Force’s operation and was particularly concerned about the welfare of enlisted personnel. His whole management style was characterized by the way he operated during the Berlin Airlift. He left the operational matters to his generals but did take an active interest in resolving unpleasant living conditions for the enlisted personnel. Symington was also an advocate of research and laid the groundwork both for USAF’s Arnold Engineering Development Center and the Air Force Academy.
His greatest management characteristic was courage. He fought hard for the 70-group Air Force, even after Forrestal and Truman tried to bring him into line. His efforts effectively destroyed his relationship with Forrestal and Louis A. Johnson, Forrestall’s successor as Secretary of Defense, and even impinged on his strong friendship with the President. So strong were his feelings that the Air Force could not do its mission with less than 70 groups that he resigned as Secretary of the Air Force on April 24, 1950. The outbreak of the Korean War two months later more than confirmed his judgment.
Symington demonstrated his loyalty to Truman by staying on with government, becoming chairman of the National Security Resources Board and administrator of the Reconstruction Finance Corp. In 1952, he became the junior senator from Missouri, serving four terms.
Tail Gunner Joe
As a senator, Symington conducted himself with dignity and continued to fight for the Air Force and other military services. His finest hour came in the spring of 1954, when he sat on both the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations. The latter was being used by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in mad-dog attacks on everyone, including the United States Army. Symington decided to take on McCarthy (who derisively referred to him as “Sanctimonious Stu”) in the famous televised hearings.
The results were devastating for McCarthy, whose thug-like tactics were revealed to the public. Symington conducted himself brilliantly, responding sharply and with dignity to McCarthy’s almost random assertions. At one point in the hearings Symington looked straight at McCarthy and said slowly, “You said something about ‘being afraid.’ Let me tell you, Senator, that I’m not afraid of you. I will meet you anytime, anywhere.”
Symington led the charge for others, such as Army lawyer Joseph N. Welch, whose famous question-“At long last, have you no sense of decency?”-marked the decline of McCarthy’s career.
His excellent record made Symington a likely candidate for the 1960 presidential contest, although he recognized that only a deadlock between the front runners-John F. Kennedy, Hubert H. Humphrey, and Lyndon B. Johnson-would give him a chance. The primaries eliminated even this slender option, but they also made Symington the logical candidate for the vice presidential slot. His longtime friend, Clark M. Clifford, stated unequivocally in his memoirs that the newly nominated JFK unconditionally offered Symington the position. Symington had always said that he did not want the vice presidency but was persuaded to accept. The next day, political reality dawned, and Symington supporters, including Robert Kennedy, were stunned to find out that JFK had reneged on his offer and, in deference to Texas’ electoral count, turned to Lyndon Johnson as his running mate.
Symington accepted the situation gracefully and even persuaded a reluctant Truman to join him in campaigning for Kennedy. Given Symington’s 1967 decision to oppose further US involvement in the Vietnam War, it is interesting to speculate what the course of history might have been if there had been a KennedySymington ticket.
Symington had been a capable and effective Air Secretary, maximizing both his strengths and that of his military leaders by paying close attention to their advice. He worked with very limited funds compared to either World War II or the years subsequent to his time in office, but he was devoted to modernizing the Air Force with a steady concern for the welfare and morale of its men and women.
As Secretary, Symington had authority and used it. The role of the service secretaries would be continuously downgraded by amendments to the National Security Act that transferred authority to the Secretary of Defense. Robert S. McNamara would take full advantages of the legislative changes and use these powers to their fullest, further weakening the service secretaries’ offices.
Symington had the courage to resign when the policies he knew to be necessary were not backed by the Administration. Fortunately for the Air Force, and the country, he was able to serve with even greater distinction as a US senator.
Walter J. Boyne, former director of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, is a retired Air Force colonel and author. He has written more than 400 articles about aviation topics and 29 books, the most recent of which is Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story. His most recent article for Air Force Magazine, “Nickel Grass,” appeared in the December 1998 issue.
Third of a Century
The 31st A-100, the class of Paul Glimer, Jim Steele, John Bradshaw and Stuart Symington, official class photo, Jan. 10, 1986. State Department photo
By Paul Gilmer
The history of A-100 classes dates back to June 7, 1924, when President Coolidge issued Executive Order 4022 establishing a Foreign Service school for the purpose of training newly hired Foreign Service officers (FSOs). While A-100 has always been mandatory training for FSOs, many classmates often maintain contact throughout their careers, sharing their lives and serving in countries together. For four members of the 31st A-100 class—Paul Gilmer, Jim Steele, John Bradshaw and Stuart Symington—this May marks a third of a century since they took the Foreign Service officer’s oath. Thirty-three years, countless countries and generations of family later, these four classmates credit their training and colleagues for helping them find purpose in the Foreign Service as their careers progressed throughout the years.
Paul Gilmer, center blue shirt, observes voter registration in remote Ayapal, Nicaragua, June 2, 1996. Photo by Francisco Gonzalez
Paul Gilmer, currently a senior inspector in the Office of the Inspector General, began his career in a challenging political climate. “The day I joined, President Reagan declared economic sanctions on Libya and the Iran-Contra affair was in full swing. Soon after, I headed to Nicaragua, where Daniel Ortega was president and the Sandinistas were in power,” said Gilmer. “My goal has always been to strengthen management platforms and support the staff and their families who did the work of American diplomacy.” Years later when Gilmer was posted to Nicaragua for a second time, he took two election monitoring trips to remote areas with A-100 classmate Francisco Gonzalez, who was also assigned to Embassy Managua at the time.
From left: Paul Gilmer presents a certificate of completion of a crisis management exercise to Rich Greene, former consul general to Sydney, Australia, Oct. 18, 1999. Photo by Michael Braxton
Gilmer’s career later took him to Kazakhstan, where he assisted in moving the U.S. embassy 800 miles from Almaty to Astana. He also served in Turkey, the Netherlands, South Korea, Hungary, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. In Abu Dhabi, Gilmer’s last overseas post, he partnered with Native American companies to support hundreds of military and law enforcement personnel. However, it was during a domestic assignment, after the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, where Gilmer claims he took on his most challenging and rewarding role.
“I was able to help expand the Department’s Crisis Management training program from 14 to 100 overseas exercises a year to help all employees stationed abroad to navigate crisis situations and learn how to stay safe no matter where in the world they found themselves,” he said.
This worldwide program drastically expanded from Gilmer and one contractor, to two Foreign Service employees and eight contractors in just a few months, so the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) could increase crisis management exercises and provide training to embassies and consulates every two years.
From Left: Dr. Charles Morrison from the East West Center, Michelle Dastin and Jim Steele (representing the Department) attended the APEC 2011 USA Host Committee Launch Reception at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event, held July 14, 2011, marked the beginning of private sector involvement in the United States’ hosting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Photo by Jeff Malet
Jim Steele, who currently works part time as a re-employed annuitant for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs supporting U.S. participation in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), says his career was especially exciting because of his work with multilateral organizations. Like most members of the class, Steele’s first job after A-100 was in consular work.
“I was firmly entrenched in the bilateral world, at least until I went to Bangkok as trade officer in 1991,” said Steele. “On arrival I discovered my portfolio included APEC, already on its way to becoming our premier forum for economic and development cooperation around the Pacific rim. Thailand hosted APEC’s meetings in 1992 and U.S. participation was large and high level. I was hooked by the practical solutions to trade and investment issues around which members reached consensus,” said Steele.
Jim Steele visits the Great Wall of China with a colleague Dr. Prasert Sinsukprasert from the Thai Energy Ministry, during an excursion from an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Energy ministerial in Beijing, September 2014. Photo courtesy of Jim Steele
In addition to senior officials and ministerial meetings, leaders of APEC’s 21 member economies now meet at the end of the year, a practice the United States initiated in 1993. APEC is important to the United States its economies today account for 60 percent of global GDP and buy more than 60 percent of U.S. exports of goods. “I’ve contributed to our work in APEC several times and in several capacities over the years and witnessed significant advances in free and open trade and investment in the region and in building capacity for sustainable development among other members. This has truly made my work in supporting APEC among the most rewarding of my career,” said Steele. Throughout his career, Steele also served in Kingston, Canada Vientiane, Laos Ottawa, Canada and Paris, along with several domestic assignments.
John Bradshaw, who currently serves as the executive director of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired (DACOR) Bacon House, spent 14 years as an FSO, serving overseas in Maracaibo, Venezuela São Paulo, Brazil and Rangoon, Burma. He left the Foreign Service in 2000 to work as a Senate staff member and spent a number of years running human rights and national security nongovernmental organizations. Bradshaw has now returned to the Foreign Service community as executive director of DACOR Bacon House.
“I had some fascinating and meaningful jobs after I left the Foreign Service, but I never encountered the same kind of rich camaraderie I experienced at foreign posts,” said Bradshaw. “DACOR comes close to replicating that and is one place where FSO war stories are not only accepted but encouraged.”
Bradshaw is now focused on growing DACOR’s current membership of 1,600 and helping to build the preservation fund for the beautiful and historic Bacon House. DACOR holds periodic receptions for new A-100 classes and Bradshaw is able to observe the passing on of wisdom from older generations of FSOs to the newly minted officers.
John Bradshaw, fourth from left, attends his first board dinner reception as the executive director of the DACOR Bacon House, March 28, 2019. Photo by Christine Skodon As the new executive director of the DACOR Bacon House, John Bradshaw is presented with the key to the house by former executive director Sherry Rock. Photo by Christine Skodon
The 31st A-100 class forged more than just meaningful and strong careers, it also helped establish strong families. Classmate Stuart Symington, who currently serves as the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, reflected on how much the three generations of his family owe to the Foreign Service.
“On January 6, this year, almost 33 years to the day after we started our A-100 class, my grandson Liam was born to our daughter Janey and her husband Jessen,” he said. “The marriage was made in St. Louis, but was made possible a decade before, when my wife Susan and friend Linda Garvelink, whose husband Bill was then the ambassador to the Congo, sat together at a Rwandan lodge on Lake Kivu and decided to introduce Linda’s nephew, Jessen, to our daughter Janey. The rest is history.”
In 1986, before Symington’s family went to Honduras for their first tour, Symington’s wife Susan brought their son Stuart with her, in utero, to class events and later to Spanish language classes in a classroom at the former FSI building in Rosslyn, Va. Twenty-five years later, Stuart, now a fluent Spanish speaker, returned to that same building and space which has been converted into a start-up hub that works for a firm that translates Spanish online.
“Stuart and Janey joined us at every post, while Susan and I made our family home in 16 houses on four continents,” said Symington, who has served with his family at a total of nine foreign posts and four assignments in the U.S. “In Djibouti, Stuart raised money to dig wells and then launched a ‘Made in Djibouti’ website to market women’s crafts. Today, he connects colleagues to Foreign Service stories and those who can tell them. Also in Djibouti, Janey traveled with U.S. Navy medical teams, translating for them in French and Spanish. That service convinced her to become a doctor and to combine scientific research with a medical practice.”
While serving as U.S. ambassador to Dijbouti, Stuart Symington and his wife, Susan, look on during a Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa change of command ceremony at Camp Lemonier in Dijbouti, Feb. 8, 2008. Photo by U.S. Air Force Sgt. Jeremy Lock
For the four A-100 classmates, reflecting on the past 33 years they acknowledge it was crucial in forming both their professional and their personal lives.
“Like Stuart, my wife and I raised a daughter and a son around the world,” reflected Gilmer. “Recently, my husband and I returned from an overseas posting where he was my family member, something we couldn’t even contemplate when we met 10 years ago. Then again, sometimes history repeats itself in unexpected ways, as Daniel Ortega is once again president of Nicaragua.”
In 2006, 20 of the 50 classmates gathered for a reunion to celebrate 20 years of diplomacy. This May, the classmates plan to mark a third of a century and hope that current A-100 students will carve out their own place in history.
Paul Gilmer is a senior inspector in the Office of Inspector General.
Profile: Stuart Symington
Senator Stuart Symington. [Source: Bettman / Corbis] Legislation introduced by Stuart Symington, a Democratic senator from Missouri, is passed by the US Congress to set out the US position on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. The legislation, which becomes known as the “Symington amendment,” bans US assistance to any country found to be trafficking in nuclear enrichment or reprocessing technology that is not governed by international safeguards. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment that this puts “both Pakistan [which is thought to be involved in such trafficking] and the Ford administration on notice that nonproliferation would now be taken seriously.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62]
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Documenting legal turmoil
Symington’s high profile 1997 trial in federal court,United States v. Symington III, which is now taught in the nation’s law schools, along with the successful appeal of his convictions in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, can be found in these papers.
Symington was convicted on seven counts of bank fraud. The case is taught in schools, not only because of its national profile, but because federal judge Roger Strand took the unusual action of removing an uncooperative juror during jury deliberations, leading the appeals court to overturn the conviction.
Why was he pardoned? Now we know
And the backstory of how and why President Bill Clinton issued Symington a preemptive presidential pardon before leaving office is detailed in the collection.
The petition for pardon, artfully crafted by Symington attorney Terry Lyman, and the pardon itself, originated in part due to a fateful first meeting between Symington and Clinton in Hyannis Port, Mass. on summer vacation in 1964. Both were 19.
In short, Clinton swam too far out into the ocean and was caught in a riptide. Symington found a small boat nearby on the beach, rowed out a few hundred yards, and pulled Clinton onto the vessel, an act that prompted much needling from Republicans decades after the fact.
Clinton often stated, “If it weren’t for Fife Symington, I wouldn’t be here.”
Scholars in history, political science, law, public policy and environmental studies, among others, will find this collection — the largest portion of it dealing with issues in the 1990s — of tremendous value.
Moreover, journalists, the public and students, from grammar school to doctoral programs, now have boundless amounts of research material to explore.
Symington's personal and gubernatorial papers will generate scholarship and literature — as well as more than a few surprises — for years to come.
Like many of the churches in the Clydesdale area, Symington was established in the early 12th century.King David I as part of his control structure had given large areas of land to his Norman knight supporters who were encouraged to establish fortified settlements
which became known as &lsquotouns&rsquo.
A toun was an agricultural community whose inhabitants were
given military protection in return for a share of the food that they
produced. The touns were often named after their protectors.
One of the key Norman nobles who settled in this area was Simon
de Lockard (or Loccard) &ndash thus &lsquoSimon&rsquos toun&rsquo.
His name was also given to Symington, in Ayrshire where he also
King David had founded an abbey at Kelso around 1128 and the
Tironesian monks based there gradually extended the Christian
faith through south Scotland. A priory was established at
Lesmahagow in 1144 and it is thought that monks from there established the original churches in this area.
There is of course no record or evidence of the original church but the present church is believed to occupy its position. It is on a slightly raised hillock above the surrounding lower, and potentially boggier, land.
The present building has been extensively altered over the last 300 years. The only discernible date on the building is 1734 on the belfry. The building is T shaped with the pulpit in the centre of the cross of the &lsquoT&rsquo.
During renovations some years ago, the roughcast was temporarily removed and revealed the original door at a point in the wall now occupied by the pulpit. The rear porch, vestry and front vestibule are clearly later additions. Interestingly, the bell is older than the belfry. Inside the church there is a very fine timber beamed roof.
The modern village extends far beyond the bounds of the original
Symington which like many Scottish villages ran from &lsquoTownhead&rsquo to
&lsquoTownfoot&rsquo. The church is situated at the end of a lane called Kirk Bauk
near the head of the original village. A &lsquobauk&rsquo was an untilled strip of
land along the end of a field which allowed comfortable walking.
Older maps indicate a historic site alongside Kirk Bauk called &lsquoThe Place&rsquo,
allegedly the site of Simon de Lockard&rsquos castle but there is no visible
Castlehill to the south east of the present village has on it, remnants of a hill fort with ring shaped fortifications. This is a more likely site for a defensive settlement as it sits in a gap between the lower slopes of Tinto and the River Clyde. As it sits above the lower river flood plain, it commands a view along the Clyde valley - a valuable tactical advantage. This pre-dates the church of course, but may mark the site of an original settlement.
The old church in Symington was
dedicated to St. Ninian but in 1946, the parish church was united with
the nearby St. John&rsquos United Free Church. In recognition of the great
sensitivity surrounding the union and with a desire to be seen to be
even handed, the new congregation was designated &lsquoSymington
The church is surrounded by a graveyard and the oldest decipherable
stone is dated 1629. The graveyard also contains a watch house
erected in the late 19th century as a protection against &lsquoresurrectionists&rsquo
- grave robbers who moved in after funerals to remove bodies which could be sold for medical research in Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Symington is one of the very few churches in Scotland which still rings a &lsquodressing bell&rsquo each Sunday morning about an hour before the service begins. This was originally meant to alert the farmers and agricultural workers to the impending church service. The need has perhaps passed, but the tradition continues.
Symington is situated in southern Scotland, approximately 29 miles southwest of Edinburgh and 31 miles southeast of Glasgow as the crow flies.
The parish has a population of 861 persons and Symington Kirk has 183 members.
W. Stuart Symington IV is the former United States Ambassador to Nigeria from 2016 to 2019. Previously, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and African Security Affairs (2015-2016), U.S. Special Representaive for the Central African Republic (2014-2016 and Political Advisor to the Commander NORAD/US Northern Command 2011-2014). He served as Ambassador to Rwanda (2008-2011), Ambassador to Djibouti 2006-2008), and Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge’ d’affaires in Niger (2001-2003). He was also United States Department of State’s Representative at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia from 2005-06, Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2004-05, and Deputy Director of the Department’s Office of West African Affairs from 2003-05.
Earlier in his career, Symington served in Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and Honduras and as a Pearson Fellow in the Office of U.S. Congressman Ike Skelton. Before joining the Department of State he practiced law in Missouri, New York, London, and Paris.
Symington received a B.A. from Brown University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. He and his spouse Susan Ide Symington have been married for 40 years.
1200 18th Street, NW Suite 902
Washington, DC 20036
The American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) is an independent, non-profit association of former senior US ambassadors and high-level government officials whose mission is to strengthen American diplomacy. AAD represents a unique wealth of talent and experience in the practice of American foreign policy, with over 300 members.