Porter McKeever
Porter McKeever
Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy
ISBN: 0688066615
Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy
Porter McKeever, publicity director of volunteers for presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 election, talked about his personal experiences in his book, "Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy." Among the topics discussed was the progressive nature of Mr. Stevenson. McKeever noted that while many of Stevenson's political views were scorned at the time, successive administrations have adopted many of his ideas such as the ending of the military draft and the development of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
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TRANSCRIPT
Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy
Program Air Date: August 6, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Porter McKeever, author of "Adlai Stevenson: His Life and His Legacy," why did you put in your new book a cartoon of Doonesbury?
PORTER MCKEEVER (Author, "Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy"): Well, actually, because it was one of the main things that got me writing the book. To have someone in 1984 say to his wife, "Whatever happens to me, be sure and tell our children about Adlai Stevenson," reminded me that there was a message in what Adlai stood for, values that he espoused that was important for a younger generation to know about. Particularly, one that's surrounded by so much cynicism and a tendency to be satisfied with mediocrity in public life.
LAMB: Did you ever talk to Garry Trudeau about this cartoon?
MCKEEVER: I've corresponded with him, but we haven't met.
LAMB: Why do you think he chose Adlai Stevenson as a symbol?
MCKEEVER: Well I think he was in college at Yale at about the time Adlai was politically active -- I think it was later, really, while he was at the U.N. -- and like a lot of the young people of his generation, Adlai became a figure and of some inspiration to him.
LAMB: What's the first thing you think of when you think of this man?
MCKEEVER: That I think of?
LAMB: When you think of Adlai Stevenson?
MCKEEVER: Well what I think of may be different than others, but to me he was someone who could be serious without being solemn. That he made important issues fun to be around and exciting to be around and even inspiring to be around.
LAMB: How much time in your life did you spend around him?
MCKEEVER: Well from the early days of the U.N. when he was in the Preparatory Commission in London and through two sessions of the General Assembly. And then when he went out to Illinois, those of us at the U.N. were so delighted we had someone out in Tribuneland, in isolationist Midwest, who would talk about the United Nations and be a positive spokesman for international affairs, that we kept feeding him material all the time and that led to his invitation of me to come out and work for him.
LAMB: For those that might be watching -- and there is probably somebody watching right now that's never heard of Adlai Stevenson ...
MCKEEVER: Oh, yes.
LAMB: Tell us all the little things we need to know in order to add up to the whole man. Where was he born and when did he die and what did he do when he was here? Just in rough capsule.
MCKEEVER: Well, he was born in Bloomington, Illinois. He came out of a family with a long history of public affairs and public service. As a matter of fact, one of his ancestors was in command of the expedition to take Fort Duquesne, and he was killed on the way there, and his lieutenant, named George Washington, took over. And then others of his family moved west through the Cumberland Gap and grew up in the same area where Abraham Lincoln was born. His grandfather was Vice President under Grover Cleveland.
LAMB: By the way, this picture on the screen right now is Adlai Stevenson and his son?
MCKEEVER: That's his youngest son. That was one of his favorite pictures.
LAMB: What year was this?
MCKEEVER: Than one was I think -- probably '49 -- '48 or '49.
LAMB: Okay, I interrupted your chronology on Adlai Stevenson.
MCKEEVER: That's alright. Ancestors are a little boring anyway, I think. But his father was very much involved in -- he was Secretary of State of Illinois. So Adlai said he grew up with a bad case of hereditary politics. Although he didn't think of politics early in his life, he always was imbued with public service. But it wasn't until after World War II that he decided to get involved with what he then called combat politics. And General Marshall was one of those who was rather instrumental in persuading him to go for elective office.
LAMB: Where did he go to school?
MCKEEVER: He went to Princeton. F
LAMB: What did he study?
MCKEEVER: Mainly the Princetonian. His main activity was working in the Princeton newspaper -- college paper. But he kept -- those days that were the F. Scott Fitzgerald days, you know, and there was a whole range of humanistic studies and no one took scholarship terribly seriously in those days.
LAMB: Did he go to school with people who went on, like him, to be nationally famous?
MCKEEVER: Oh, yes. Francis Plimpton one of the great lawyers who served as his deputy at the U.N. T.S. Matthews who was the managing editor of the Time for many years. It was a fairly distinguished class but the fellow who was voted in their senior class most likely to be a politician wound up as a stock broker. Adlai was not given any kind of a label as a politician, and he was the only one who wound up as a politician.
LAMB: How many times was he elected to a public office?
MCKEEVER: Only once as governor in 1948.
LAMB: Of Illinois?
MCKEEVER: Yes.
LAMB: Did he serve for the four years?
MCKEEVER: Four years and he wanted to serve another four years, but the nomination in '52 came to him quite unusually, I think almost uniquely in our history, as a genuine draft.
LAMB: Back during the campaign and the conventions, we ran the Adlai Stevenson speech from 1952. Acceptance speech. And I remembered a discussion, and we did this in conjunction with NBC news, and some of the conversation around it was that this man did not run for the office. Is that true?
MCKEEVER: Oh, he tried to avoid it. And avoiding it is what led President Truman to call him indecisive. He wasn't indecisive. He was very decisive about not wanting it. He wanted another four years as Governor. He did want to run in '56 which made it difficult for him to cut it off completely in '52. But, no, he really wanted four more years of Governor. He was a reform Governor and he knew that it would take four more years to make the reforms really stick.
LAMB: So he was the Democrats nominee in 1952?
MCKEEVER: Yes.
LAMB: '56?
MCKEEVER: Both times he ran against Eisenhower and nobody could defeat Eisenhower. And Adlai knew he couldn't defeat Eisenhower.
LAMB: How badly was he beaten in both of those?
MCKEEVER: Oh badly. I've forgotten the figures but, oh, I think about 6 million in '52 and even somewhat more severely in '56. That election of '56, you recall,occurred in the week that the Russians invaded Hungary, and the British and French invaded, and Israel invaded Egypt. So there was a war going on and quite naturally the public flocked to the leadership of an established military figure.
LAMB: Did he run again in '60?
MCKEEVER: He didn't, but he should have. He quite possibly could have been nominated if he had let people know he really wanted the nomination. But he -- that's one point where the label indecisiveness can be stuck to him in a sense. He was clear that he did not want to run for it. He felt he'd had it twice. It was important for other people to have the shot at the nomination. But I think in his heart of hearts he thought that Kennedy and Johnson would fight to a stalemate in the convention and he would be there as the one to whom they'd turn once the convention was deadlocked. He underestimated Kennedy's ability to nail down the delegates.
LAMB: When did he die?
MCKEEVER: '65. He died -- fell down of a massive heart attack in the streets of London and died instantly.
LAMB: And during his lifetime how many appointive offices did he hold?
MCKEEVER: Well, he was appointed as a young man in the early days of the U.N. and he was chairman -- well, Stennis was appointed the chairman of our delegation to establish the U.N. -- the so called Preparatory Commission. But Stennis quickly came down with gallstones, and Adlai succeeded to the chairmanship and was in charge of our delegation during the whole period when the formation of the various organs of the United Nations and Security Council, etc., were being decided -- whether or not it was going to be in the United States was decided. It was a very influential period. He served, I think, two years with General Assembly delegations, and then he didn't hold appointive office again until Kennedy appointed him ambassador.
LAMB: Should have a photograph here of Adlai Stevenson on the right and Harry Truman on the left.
MCKEEVER: It's a marvelous picture. Particularly that expression on both their faces.
LAMB: How do they get along?
MCKEEVER: With difficulty. Truman never could understand how a man would be reluctant to accept the nomination as Presidential candidate, and this lack of understanding led to a lot of problems. Also Adlai's style is quite different. Truman was decisive and made his decisions and he stuck by them. Adlai's training was as a lawyer and he would examine several sides of a question before he'd make up his mind, and to President Truman that was being indecisive.
LAMB: What was Adlai Stevenson's relationship with the Council on Foreign Relations?
MCKEEVER: Oh, he was a president of it, and it was actually his chairmanship and spokesmanship of the Council that brought him to national attention. Particularly in the days leading up to World War II, because that led to his becoming the head in Chicago of the Committee to Aid the Allies -- William Allen White committees, as it was known in those days. And this was the leading internationalist organization in the country at that time, and, of course, in the area of the Chicago Tribune, it was a matter of great public controversy. And that brought him into national and even international limelight during that period.
LAMB: I've casually read a number of reviews -- and this may not be accurate -- but what comes through on a number of the reviews when they criticize you or the book, they say this is another apologist for Adlai Stevenson and an apologist for the establishment in foreign policy -- Council on Foreign Relations type -- the group that thought themselves to be elite and all that. What is your reaction when you read that?
MCKEEVER: Well, if people think that, I feel I've failed because what I tried very hard to do was as an old newspaper -- was just to tell the story. And I tried very hard not to editorialize or to engage in speculation. I just tried to lay out the picture as it became evident to me as I dug and researched and read. And if it comes out as an apology or as I think Henry Fariley said in the New Republicm, as a "valentine," it's to that extent I did not succeed in what I was trying to do.
LAMB: Why would somebody like Henry Fairley say this is a valentine for Adlai Stevenson? What do you know about Henry Fairley that would lead him to write that?
MCKEEVER: Not a great deal except I have great respect for him as a journalist. And I don't know why he came to that conclusion. I had a feeling he disliked Adlai Stevenson more than he disliked the book.
LAMB: What about your own background? Born in South Dakota?
MCKEEVER: Yes. Came to -- well I -- it's not fair to say Columbia University. The letterhead that offered me a scholarship said Columbia University in the city of New York. And out in South Dakota I sure wanted to go to that city of New York and that's what I went to for four years.
LAMB: Then what?
MCKEEVER: Then I came down to Washington and tramped the streets to find a job and luckily found one as a newspaper correspondent.
LAMB: For?
MCKEEVER: Newspapers in North and South Carolina for which I qualified by coming from South Dakota. The Southerners would ask: "Where you from and who you kin to?" And I'd say, "South," loudly and mumble, "Dakota."
LAMB: And then what?
MCKEEVER: It was a very great piece of luck because the Raleigh News and Observer which I represented was owned by Josephus Daniels. Roosevelt had been his assistant during World War I and at that point Josephus was Roosevelt's ambassador to Mexico. But Roosevelt always called him Chief. So to be Josephus' representative in Washington gave me run of the White House which two years out of college doesn't often happen to a human being. And then my paper in South Carolina, the Greenville News, was the main political base of James F. Burns, who at that time was the leading power in the Senate. So I had an inside in the legislative process which most guys work here for years to get, and I just fell into it.
LAMB: When was the first time you worked for Adlai Stevenson?
MCKEEVER: After the war -- when we were setting up the U.N. in London '45. I'm terrible on dates.
LAMB: And how long did you work for him?
MCKEEVER: Well actually I work -- I never really did work for him. During the '52 campaign that was the only time I was directly involved in working for him, and our offices were in Chicago not in Springfield. We sort of operated our own show. There was no time to get anything like an organized campaign going. Then, of course, later on he and Mrs. Roosevelt were the principle movers in bringing together and merging a number of organizations having to deal with education on U.N. affairs in the country, and I became the founding president of what is now the U.N. Association of the United States.
LAMB: This is the book. It's "Adlai Stevenson." And you can see there, although it's a bit dark, "The Life and the Legacy," by Porter McKeever. Where are you living now?
MCKEEVER: In Pelham, New York ,just outside of the city.
LAMB: And when did you start writing this book and how did you write it?
MCKEEVER: About two and a half years ago. I spent about a year talking to people and reading. There's a great reservoir of material, and there had been a very exhaustive biography -- two-volume biography -- done by a fine writer, John Bartlow Martin, about 10 years ago. But John spent 10 years on it, and he tended to get drowned in his research. But it was tremendous help to me in doing this. And then while Adlai was alive, a man who'd been a biographer of Eisenhower named Kenneth Davis also did a book that had the advantage of a lot of interviews with Adlai.
LAMB: Here is on the dedication page "For Susan and for Jim, Bill, Karen and Choliong? Who are these people?
MCKEEVER: Well the first three are our natural children and Choliong is a -- well, not technically, but actually, an adopted son.
LAMB: And Susan?
MCKEEVER: That's of course my wife and partner.
LAMB: And in the bio in the book: "Susan and Porter McKeever live in Pelham, New York. They have three sons, one daughter, and six grandchildren -- and violinist Choliong Lin is their son."
MCKEEVER: Well he's one of those three. We have two sons, one daughter, and Jimmy -- we call him Jimmy Lin.
LAMB: And where is he?
MCKEEVER: Oh he's all over the world. At the moment he's playing out at the Aspen Music Festival. But he's, oh, I think it's fair to say he's one of the top ten violinists in the world today.
LAMB: And when did you adopt him?
MCKEEVER: When he was 15.
LAMB: How'd that happen?
MCKEEVER: Accidently. If we'd know what we were getting into, we'd never have done it. When our children started coming along, we would have a foreign student live with us. We would give them board and room in return for babysitting. And one of them was a Japanese boy who wound up teaching in the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Yama Goochison wrote us and said that his daughter was in the Sydney Conservatory with this remarkable young violinist whose teachers told him they couldn't teach him anything anymore and he had to come to Juilliard. Well Juilliard never admits anybody except on the basis of a personal audition. He could only get here with a student visa but he couldn't get the student visa unless he came and had an audition. So we were asked to sponsor him. And we thought it was just getting over this visa hurdle. Not till he arrived did we know that his father was dead, his mother was earning $120 a week. He'd gotten here by winning a competition that bought him a one-way ticket. So without knowing it we had acquired another child. But our children loved it.
LAMB: Let's take a look at some of the photographs in this book and I want to show you that one here on top -- James will pick up here in just a second -- and there are a lot famous faces in there. I don't know whether you can point them out there for memory but they are people that went on -- first of all roughly when was this picture taken?
MCKEEVER: That was I think at the end of the '52 -- no '56 campaign. Yeah, after the '56 defeat.
LAMB: Show us -- and it's hard for us where I'm sitting to point out people -- but there are some people who went on to be prominent.
MCKEEVER: Oh, yeah. Newt Minow who was Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee is the first one. He's now a leading lawyer in Chicago then there's Clinton Fitche who's on the Democratic National Committee. He won the Pulitzer Prize when he was the editor of a paper down in New Orleans. Tom Findleder who was our ambassador to NATO. Willard Wertz who was Secretary of Labor.
LAMB: In the Johnson Administration.
MCKEEVER: In the Johnson Administration. Is that Mayor Lawrence of Philadelphia? I think so. Then Adlai. Then behind him is Wilson Wyatt who was Mayor of Louisville and head of the Housing Administration I think under -- oh, earlier under Truman.
LAMB: Who's this one?
MCKEEVER: I think that's Finnigan isn't it? No, Matthew McClosky, who was one of the leading Pennsylvania politicians.
LAMB: Who's the gentleman right there between ...
MCKEEVER: Bill Blair who was President of the Kennedy Center here until recently. Then Arthur Schleshinger, and then George Ball who was Undersecretary of State.
LAMB: Are these people that were tied directly to Adlai Stevenson?
MCKEEVER: Oh ,very closely. Most of them -- of course McCloskey, Wyatt, and if that's Lawrence, they were all involved with him in his political life. The others had continuing associations over a long period of time.
LAMB: Adlai Stevenson's wife?
MCKEEVER: It's a very sad story. Very sad story.
LAMB: Her name?
MCKEEVER: Ellen Bordon Stevenson. Her father was one of the richest men in Chicago. Her mother was one of the leading social queens of Chicago at that period. She was a bright attractive lovely talented young lady. And it wasn't until years later that her illness was later diagnosed -- as I can never say it -- persecutory paranoia became evident and became progressively more serious and wound up being terribly destructive. But it was a very very sad episode in everybody's life.
LAMB: Who's this picture of right here?
MCKEEVER: That's his wife. You can see how lovely she was. She was a fine poet.
LAMB: Did they stay together their entire -- as long as she was alive.
MCKEEVER: She divorced him in 1948. I don't like to get into the business of diagnosis but the more famous Adlai became and the more attention that was paid to him the more difficult it became for her. In their early married life she was the sun around which everybody -- everything revolved. And then later on when Adlai became prominent she was not that central figure and it was terrible on her psyche.
LAMB: Who's this woman?
MCKEEVER: That's Alicia Patterson, who was the founder with her husband Guggenheim was the founder and publisher of Newsday. And she was a niece of Colonel McCormick who owned the Chicago Tribune and her father was the publisher of the New York Daily News. She was the other love in his life -- in Adlai's life.
LAMB: The only other love?
MCKEEVER: I think the only other serious one. Later on, he had a lot of good lady friends. But I think the only really serious ones were his wife and subsequently Alicia.
LAMB: There's a lot written also about his relationship to Eleanor Roosevelt who was somewhat 14 years older than he was.
MCKEEVER: Sixteen years older.
LAMB: Sixteen years.
MCKEEVER: It was a very intimate relationship. I think I refer to it as a almost a spiritual relationship. It was so intense and lovely and mutually rewarding. At one point, Adlai was asked if the rumors were true that he was going to marry her? And he said of this woman who was sixteen years older than he: "She's much too young to consider me."
LAMB: He did have a lot of relationships with women?
MCKEEVER: Oh, he had a lot of good lady friends. Most of them were rich and most of them were married. Nearly all of them were married.
LAMB: What was it that -- was he closer to women than he was to men?
MCKEEVER: Yes, oh yes.
LAMB: Why was that?
MCKEEVER: I wish I knew. It is a fact. I'm not sure why. As I talk to some of these ladies -- went back through the correspondence and so on -- I think one of the main reasons was that he never looked down on women even in his college days and post-college days. The women would comment on that -- Adlai was one of the few young men of their acquaintance who never -- who took them seriously, who would at a dance want to sit down and talk about serious affairs in an engaging and entertaining fashion and listen to their opinions. They were not used to that and they liked him for it. And I think that all of his life he gave women a respect and interest that they weren't often used to getting.
LAMB: Why didn't he marry again?
MCKEEVER: Well, for a long time he never gave up being in love with Ellen, his wife. He really held on to that for a long time. I think the only other person he would have considered was Alicia and she was a very difficult, termpermental, strong-minded lady, and I think she would scare him off from time to time. In the last years of his life he was enamored with the idea of marriage. He was in love with the idea of being married, but the minute it became imminent, he got a little frightened of it. He didn't want to change his way of life, and none of these "romances" ever came to fruition.
LAMB: With the Patterson relationship wasn't there an exchange of letters where he at one point said that she ought to divorce her husband, or he was looking forward to the time when she would not be married and suggesting that they could get married, and that once she did, he didn't like the idea that she was free?
MCKEEVER: Well, he never that I know of was as overt in suggesting she get a divorce as you've just suggested, but clearly, the correspondence indicates a very intimate affair. But when she did write and say she was considering a divorce, he got a little frightened of that then.
LAMB: There is a photograph in here -- it's got to be a classic. This one right here. We'll get a shot of it -- taken in 1963?
MCKEEVER: Let's see. When was Kennedy assassinated?
LAMB: '63.
MCKEEVER: This was a month before Kennedy was assassinated.
LAMB: And you've got to dwell on it just a little bit. First of all, he's hidden behind this placard here and the woman that is hitting him over the head is standing right here, and James, if you can get a tight shot of her face right here.
MCKEEVER: Her tongue is sticking out.
LAMB: Where is this?
MCKEEVER: This is in Dallas a month before the President was assassinated.
LAMB: Why is this woman so angry with Adlai Stevenson?
MCKEEVER: Well because they were in the middle of a convention there of extreme right people who wanted to get the United States out of the U.N. General Walker you remember -- might remember -- was a leader of a anti-U.N. crusade at that time. And of course they hit on the Alger Hiss case as another instrument for attacking Adlai. But after that happened the police said to him, "Do you want this woman arrested?" He said, "No, I don't want her to go to jail -- I want her to go to school."
LAMB: And under the cut line on this picture you also say, "Also spat upon and jeered, he considered warning President Kennedy against going to Dallas the following month." Why?
MCKEEVER: Because he said the mood in Dallas was so ugly and the hate was so evident and so palpable, he worried about it, and when news came to him that the President had been assassinated the first thing he said, "Why oh why didn't I tell him not to go?" And he kicked himself a long time for failing to carry through on his instinct to tell Kennedy it was dangerous to him for him to go to Dallas.
LAMB: On the back of your book you have a number of endorsements from people like Newton Alicia and Kenneth Davis and William McCormick Blair and people we have been talking about here -- John Steele, Jack Steele, who used to be the head of the Time, Inc. -- Time Magazine Washington office. But the first one on here is from George Bundy and just let me read a little bit about it. "This is the best volume life of a great American." That sentence -- what does that mean?
MCKEEVER: Well, it means a lot to me. I can tell you that because I sent the advance galleys of the book to Mac not expecting an endorsement. I sent it to him because in the passage of Adlai's relationship with the Kennedy White House, there are some passages which are fairly stern about the relationship -- not only of the Kennedy White House but with Mac himself. So I thought he ought to know what was coming out in this book. So I had the galleys sent to him. He never answered my letter but he sent Morrow this marvelous endorsement which I thought was -- it's a very moving thing and a very big thing for him to do. I was very touched by it.
LAMB: It goes on to say: " McKeever understands the man, and he has first-hand knowledge of the extraordinary conjunction of the man and the 1950's that made Adlai Stevenson the most constructively influential candidate never to win the Presidency."
MCKEEVER: Isn't that marvelous? I was just so moved by it. And actually Mac had written years ago when he was a professor up at Harvard a biography of Henry Stimpson. And if I had any model that I was following in writing this book, it was Bundy's biography of Henry Stimpson, which is a great great biography.
LAMB: Okay, what about the criticism? And you've read this-- that Adlai Stevenson -- and this criticism has been leveled at the right over the years, the right- wing, the people that are on the right -- that they'd rather stay by their principles than win an election.
MCKEEVER: Well, he was guilty of that, if that's guilt. I think one of the chapters is titled something like "This Will Lose You Votes." And I got that from John Brandemas who was the Democratic Whip of the House here for a long time and actually was Adlai's director of research in the '56 campaign. John is now president of NYU. And he said that during the '56 campaign -- which was quite chaotic; it was sometimes difficult to get Adlai's attention. But they could always get it by going to him and saying, "Now, Governor, this will lose you votes, but it's important" -- and he would say, "Tell me more!" And this this was characteristic of him. I think because he knew he couldn't win, he approached the campaign almost entirely as a instrument for educating the public on important issues.
LAMB: Did he do it?
MCKEEVER: Oh, yes. I think that he never got credit for it, but most of the legislative agenda, particularly in the social field, of both Kennedy and Johnson grew out of the position papers in the '56 campaign. Federal aid to education, what is now know as Medicare. Housing for the elderly. A whole range of issues and policies that we now just take for granted.
LAMB: For those who may not think that Adlai Stevenson ever had any hair, here is a photograph from Montrose, Switzerland in 1920. What was he doing in Switzerland in 1920?
MCKEEVER: They traveled a lot. It was a family -- the family owned the biggest newspaper in southern Illinois, and they were not rich, but reasonably well off, so they did a lot of traveling. And I think he was just on a summer vacation that year. Later on of course he had some interesting trips to the Soviet Union and he was an incorrigible traveler.
LAMB: Spent a lot of time worrying about the U.N.
MCKEEVER: Yes.
LAMB: And helping it be formed. Do you think if he were alive today that he'd be happy -- even though he went on to be the U.N. Ambassador -- do you think he'd be happy with what the U.N. has brought about or not brought about? I mean, what would be his judgement today?
MCKEEVER: I think he'd be sorry that we haven't gotten further with it. He probably was ahead of his time. Well, he was ahead of his time. He had a profound belief that we just had to develop in this interdependent world a range of international institutions that enabled us to tackle problems outside the boundaries of national sovereignties. And he was convinced that that had to come. Of course, the Cold War and the relations with the Soviet Union were their stopper in those days. But, I think, in these days of glasnost and Gorbachev, the way is being opened up for a lot of the things he hoped for to come to pass.
LAMB: Anything about the U.N. that you've followed, that you don't like?
MCKEEVER: That I don't like?
LAMB: Yeah. That hasn't panned out the way you thought it would?
MCKEEVER: Well, as an American I feel very keenly that we have not consistently been vigorous in our leadership there. I think we, even during the Truman administration, began to put the U.N. on the backburner, and certainly during the Vietnam war period, the U.N. became something that we used when it was convenient but discarded most of the time. And the U.N. has been on the back burner of our foreign policy now for a long, long time. But I think events around the world are going to be pushing it to the forefront.
LAMB: Here's a photograph that goes back to San Francisco days. There are some famous faces in there also. At the end of the table is Nelson Rockefeller.
MCKEEVER: Yeah.
LAMB: What was he doing then?
MCKEEVER: He was Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs. There were some giants. You know Vandenburgh.
LAMB: Can you point that out. I can see also a ...
MCKEEVER: Here's Vandenburgh, Stennis -- Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The delegation to the San Francisco Conference and actually our delegations in the first years of the U.N. were made up of the leading people in the country.
LAMB: We also see Adlai Stevenson there over in the far right in the back. And then John Foster Dallus there in the front.
MCKEEVER: Adlai described himself during that period as the official leak of the delegation. There were so many prominent political figures there that both Republics and Democrats -- they could never quite agree in what they were going to say to the press. So, as a consequence, the British and the Chinese and the others were running away with the propaganda battle until they brought Adlai in to be, as he said, the official leak.
LAMB: Adlai Stevenson had a son that went on to be prominent in politics in Illinois, and you can see him here on the far left of your screen -- Adlai Stevenson the ...
MCKEEVER: Third.
LAMB: ... was a United States Senator. And then ran for Governor a couple of times but didn't make it.
MCKEEVER: I think he had his father's luck. The first time he ran I think he lost by about 4,000 votes. So he decided that he'd run this next time around. But if you recall, this Larouche crowd, the far right group, managed to sneak onto the ticket as Secretary of State and Lt. Governor. Two of their candidates. And Adlai refused to run with these two and so he ran as an Independent. And, of course, in Illinois that was prescription for defeat. So he was defeated the second time.
LAMB: What was his relationship with his sons?
MCKEEVER: Very good. And it got closer as the years went on because Ellen in her paranoia could not -- there was just no way that Adlai could be in touch with her so that any efforts he made to help her out he had to do through the boys.
LAMB: Here's another photograph that has some fairly well-known names and faces in it. One of them that -- the woman there on the left is?
MCKEEVER: Eunice Shriver.
LAMB: A Kennedy Shriver.
MCKEEVER: A Kennedy Shriver, yeah. She was Eunice Kennedy in this photography.
LAMB: Anybody else in there that we should know about?
MCKEEVER: Dorothy Fausdick and Ernest Ives, who was his brother-in-law, and Bill Blairs whom we identified earlier.
LAMB: On the far left?
MCKEEVER: Yes. He became Ambassador of the Philippines and Denmark and then head of the Kennedy Center.
LAMB: Which one is Dorothy Fausdick?
MCKEEVER: Of course my wife and I are in there too.
LAMB: Which one is Dorothy Fausdick?
MCKEEVER: The lady in front. The short lady.
LAMB: And what was her role in Adlai Stevenson's life?
MCKEEVER: Well, she was very influential in the U.S. delegation and in the whole -- from Dumbarton Oaks on and the whole creation of the U.N. She was a very important intellectual figure. She was a professor of my wife's at Smith so that we were very good friends. And there was a period in which Adlai had a very close relationship.
LAMB: And what was Eunice Shriver doing in this picture?
MCKEEVER: Well, we all wound up down in Springfield on a weekend. Adlai was, I thought at the time -- actually she and Bill Blair were good friends, but very shortly after that she and Sarge became engaged -- so I misread that one completely. But the Kennedy's had invested, of course, in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, which is a big trading center there, and Adlai knew them all. Of course, as Governor very well.
LAMB: And Sergeant Shriver once ran the Merchandise Mart?
MCKEEVER: Yes, he was the operating head of the Merchandise Mart.
LAMB: The first photo you have in this book is right here.
MCKEEVER: That's his mother. A very strong domineering woman, and a protective mother. That was again one of his struggles in life was to get out from under the protectiveness of his mother.
LAMB: How did she protect him?
MCKEEVER: By smothering him. She even went to -- she would -- when they would go away to camp in the summertime she'd get a hotel very nearby and even when he was in Princeton two different years she took a house in the Princeton Campus which is, Adlai said in one letter, a very -- the cruelest thing that could be done to a young man. But on the other hand she also was terribly important in a positive way. She brought music into the household. She brought literature into the household. I think part of Adlai's phenomenal capacity to remember things grew out of sitting at his mother's knee and having her to read stories and read literature, Shakespeare, history. More than any person I've ever heard of, he was able to learn through his ears. And I think she was importantly responsible. As to some extent was his grandfather -- Grover Cleveland's Vice President -- who was a great story teller.
LAMB: Who's this photograph of?
MCKEEVER: That's his father and Adlai -- the little one there is Adlai, and the other one is his sister Buffy who's still alive.
LAMB: What influence did his father have on him?
MCKEEVER: Less so. They had a a good relationship when he was Secretary of State and just before that. They traveled a lot together around Illinois particularly when his father was running for political office. But the poor man was afflicted with bad health. He had an accident again with a gun when Adlai was young which gave him, I think, what we'd probably now call cancer of the bone in the shoulder which was terribly painful and resulted in fights of anger and effort to quell -- keep the pain down.
LAMB: And what's this photograph?
MCKEEVER: Which one are you ...
LAMB: The one right here.
MCKEEVER: Oh, that's the Pulitzer-Prize-winning photograph of Adlai with a hole in his shoe, and it tells you an awful lot about Adlai because he was a terrific penny pincher. As I told someone, I think he would have made Calvin Coolidge look like a spendthrift if he'd ever gotten to the White House.
LAMB: Let me go back to that photo for a second because I want to show the audience what you're talking about is right here. That shoe -- we'll get a close up of it -- has a hole in it.
MCKEEVER: That's right.
LAMB: And what impact did that have on his political life when this -- when was this published?
MCKEEVER: This was during the '52 campaign. As you see also, he was writing his speech while he was being introduced, which is part of his pattern. But it really symbolized how how careful he was with money.
LAMB: That's G.M. Williams there with him?
MCKEEVER: Yes, he was then Governor of Michigan and later Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and the Middle East.
LAMB: Was he careful with money because he didn't have to worry about money?
MCKEEVER: No. He was careful of it because I think it was drilled into him as a child. One of his grandparents kept -- like the elder Rockefeller kept -- an account of every cent that was spent. And he grew up feeling that money had to be accounted for, and he was particularly meticulous about the people's money.
LAMB: And this photograph. His coming off an airplane with two women. Who are they?
MCKEEVER: Well, I feel badly about the first one. That's Marietta Tree. She's far more beautiful that that picture suggests. And the other is Jane Dick, Mrs. Edison Dick. That's the founder of the Edison Dick Mimeograph Company, and Jane was one of his very good friends and her husband Eddie. I talked to them -- just yesterday as a matter of fact. But they ...
LAMB: Are they both alive?
MCKEEVER: Yes, both Dicks and Marietta, still very much alive.
LAMB: Now we have a photograph here of Adlai Stevenson and Queen Elizabeth.
MCKEEVER: Well he he began to consort with royalty quite actively after the '52 campaign. And he was welcomed in almost every palace, or as the picture above suggests, jungle -- that's a headman in a jungle in -- I think it's Malaysia. Where ever there was leadership he was welcome.
LAMB: The photograph with Queen Elizabeth is at a racetrack.
MCKEEVER: That's right.
LAMB: Was he a bettor?
MCKEEVER: No, but he was visiting a friend who took him to the race track, and when the Queen heard he was there, she invited him to come and join her in her box.
LAMB: Another photograph I want to show the audience in just a second has a cut line on it: "Overcoming opposition lead by former President Truman, Adlai accepts the nomination of the Democratic National Convention as its 1956 candidate for President." Why did President Truman oppose his nomination in 1956?
MCKEEVER: Why? I think because he was annoyed at Adlai from the '52 campaign because Adlai felt he had to disassociate that '52 campaign from the record of the previous years, because now we remember the great things that Truman did -- Marshall Plan and NATO, etc. But if you remember, there was what we now call a large dose of the sleaze factor in the latter part of the Truman administration, and Adlai felt he had to establish a different identity, a fresh identity. The slogan for that campaign was: "It's time for a change." And he was trying to indicate that he was a change. And I think that Truman understandably never forgave him for that. And so in '56 Truman was supporting Harriman.
LAMB: Here is another personal photograph with some of his relatives. Who are these people?
MCKEEVER: That's Adlai the Third and his wife, and that was taken at their wedding which was not quite as happy as that picture suggests. Ellen came to that wedding carrying a pistol in her bag. She insisted wearing black mourning all through the wedding festivities.
LAMB: Ellen's his wife and she'd not in this photograph.
MCKEEVER: That's right.
LAMB: And why did she ever do that. Did they ever find out?
MCKEEVER: I think it was part of her mental illness. Well, it clearly was part of her mental illness. This paranoia showed up by her saying that the politicians in Chicago were out to get her. And that was why she was carrying the pistol.
LAMB: A couple of famous faces again here are Arthur Schlesinger on the right and Willard Woods on the left and Adlai Stevenson doing what?
MCKEEVER: Then he's writing his concession of defeat and telegram to President Eisenhower at the end of the '56 campaign.
LAMB: Go back to '52, when he was the candidate for the Democratic Party and the convention was in Chicago that year?
MCKEEVER: Yes.
LAMB: And General Eisenhower was the Republican candidate. Why couldn't he beat Dwight Eisenhower?
MCKEEVER: Why couldn't he beat him?
LAMB: Yeah.
MCKEEVER: Oh Eisenhower was as great a national hero as we've probably had since General Grant at the end of the Civil War.
LAMB: Were you around him in '52?
MCKEEVER: Yes.
LAMB: Did he know that during the campaign?
MCKEEVER: Oh, yes he did. Now there's very little record to establish that statement, because once you're nominated you're job is to keep up the moral of your associates, and he kept up a brave front all through the campaign. But I had talked to him enough about it before he was nominated to know not only that he not only thought he couldn't win, but he had real question in his mind at the beginning at least as to whether he should win. He himself thought it was time for a change. He thought that the country probably needed the father figure that Eisenhower then represented. And it wasn't until he got into the campaign and he was a little outraged by some of the things that happened during it that he then got really gun-ho to put up a big fight.
LAMB: If you're joining us, here's what the book looks like and it's written by McKeever. It's "Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy." Why did you pick Morrow as your publisher?
MCKEEVER: Well, it was interesting. Five publishers were interested in this book, which astonished me. Two of the offers were the same, and I actually went to Morrow because there was a marvelous editor there names Liza Drew, and it seemed to me that it was the most important thing outside of the writer himself is the quality of the editor, and she is great.
LAMB: What kind of guarantees do they give you on a book like this? Do they give you an advance?
MCKEEVER: They gave me an advance of $35,000.
LAMB: And then from there on, how does it work with a book? How do you know if you've had a success?
MCKEEVER: I feel it's a success just to get it done. I don't know. For me it'll be a success if it attracts the attention of at least a few people in -- younger people of the new generation -- because I feel so deeply as Adlai did that it's important to get over our cynicism about public leaders and for young people to get involved in politics and public affairs. And if anything, it has come to make me feel deeply about that. It's what we witness in China. There you had young people willing to die for democracy. And it's important for our people here to at least be willing to work for it.
LAMB: When you write a book like this and your publisher gives you a guarantee or a advance, do you then sign on to do a certain amount of touring?
MCKEEVER: No. This has come along after the publication. I'm not doing a lot of it. I'd love to do more cause I want to get out and try to let young people know there is some inspiration for participating in public affairs.
LAMB: How much interest have you found when or do you know how much interest the publishers found when they call around and ask people whether they want to do a show on this?
MCKEEVER: Well, usually most of the programmers and stations are in their late 20s, early 30s, as you know, and often the reaction is: "Adlai -- who?" On the other hand, about five or six -- I was told before I started that it was very frustrating cause you usually ran into people who knew nothing about the book and asked you very superficial questions. Everyone that's interviewed me so far knows what's in the book and has read mostm if not allm of it and that's been very gratifying.
LAMB: Did that surprise you?
MCKEEVER: Yes. Because I was told otherwise.
LAMB: Let's go back -- I'm not sure this is a fair characterization of what you said earlier when you said that money was not your objective in writing the book ...
MCKEEVER: Oh, heavens no.
LAMB: And why was that?
MCKEEVER: I didn't even think about the money side of it. I was doing it because I thought the time needed for the ideas and what Adlai represented. I really feel very deeply about the importance of young people becoming involved in public affairs. And that's what I hope this book will sort of excite some interest in.
LAMB: Okay. Then what out of this book do you want people to take away? Name four or five principle things or principles of Adlai Stevenson that you think he left -- the mark he left on the society?
MCKEEVER: That public life can bring out the best as well as the worst in our society, and that it's important for the best to win. That losing an election is not failure. That, in the course of losing, you can have a number of very important victories. And that the mark you can leave on your time is not measured by the ego satisfaction that you get or the high public office you actually succeed in winning; it's what impact you make on the thinking and the quality of life in your time. And then I think there is also the manifestation that morality in public life is not out of fashion. Teddy White and his assessment of Adlai afterward -- he said he instilled a virus of morality in our political blood stream. I think a lot of that is still there and I think a lot of it is there eager to manifest itself. And I think if we -- by being reminded of Adlai, a lot of this can be reinvigorated again. And we do need it.
LAMB: Was he able to concentrate when you were working for him. I mean, did he have concentration powers?
MCKEEVER: Oh, fantastic. Yes. He would be writing a speech in middle of profound hubbub. I used to go back to my very early days as a newspaper when you'd have to pound out your story in the middle of the most god-awful clatter in the newsroom that you could imagine. And he would write many of those speeches in the middle of introductions -- in the middle of the most profound hubbub that you could imagine.
LAMB: Did he write the speeches himself?
MCKEEVER: Oh, yes. Now he was insatiable in reaching out to people for ideas and phrases and you could give him what you thought was a finished draft and he would take it and work over it for awhile. And what would come out would be distinctly his own. I don't know a time when he ever took a draft that was submitted to him that he didn't do something with. The idea of sitting down and reading somebody else's draft was a anathema to him.
LAMB: Where is this picture from?
MCKEEVER: The first one?
LAMB: That's on a farm out in Iowa and that's Khruchev and the man behind him is a Iowa farmer and corn breeder named Garst. And Adlai, of course, had some sessions with Khruchev in Russia before this, and so when they came on this famous trip to the United States, he was invited to the Iowa farm to be with Khruchev.
LAMB: The picture was taken by his son.
MCKEEVER: Yeah, that's right.
LAMB: And we have another picture here -- looks like it has some signatures on it. Where did you get all these pictures, by the way?
MCKEEVER: Oh, from all over the place. Many of them were in the library of Princeton where the Stevenson papers are. Some of them I got from the principal -- actually I think I got that one from Newt Minow.
LAMB: Is he in this picture?
MCKEEVER: Yes, right here.
LAMB: Who else is in it?
MCKEEVER: Either Newt Minow or Bill Blair. Some of them are commercial -- like the picture of Adlai and Kennedy is from the Magnum photos.
LAMB: Down here?
MCKEEVER: That one.
LAMB: What was their relationship?
MCKEEVER: It went quickly but it worked. It worked. I think much of the fault was Adlai's. He always felt that Kennedy was the younger man. That he probably needed a little bit of seasoning before he became President. He was sad that he wasn't Secretary of State. He felt uncomfortable with instructions and orders from someone almost young enough to be a son to, that he had a certain amount of reserve. Kennedy himself was quite generous in this relations to Adlai, but he was surrounded by a number of people including ,most especially, his brother, who didn't like Adlai a bit. And that complicated the relationship.
LAMB: Why didn't his brother like him? You're talking about Robert?
MCKEEVER: Yeah. I think mainly because Adlai declined to nominate Kennedy in '60, and Bobby often felt that if Adlai had done that it would have made the nomination a sure thing, and he never got over being resentful of the fact that Adlai didn't get on the Kennedy band wagon in Los Angeles.
LAMB: Why did he fail to nominate him?
MCKEEVER: He was still trying to hold himself aloof in the event that the convention became stalemated between him and Johnson and they might turn to him.
LAMB: Do you think the criticism that has been leveled at you or this book about Adlai being indecisive -- and I've seen many reviews go back to it time and time again; that that was his greatest fault -- is not accurate?
MCKEEVER: It isn't accurate, except you've got to qualify that. He was indecisive where he himself was concerned. What I should do with me. As Carl McGowan said, he could drive you up the wall deciding whether or not he would go to Chicago for the weekend. But if a policy issue were placed in front of him, he was not indecisive. It was fast, decisive, clear and tough. But it's difficult sometimes to separate the personal from the public. But in Adlai's case it's essential to understand it.
LAMB: What do you think Adlai Stevenson would think of this period we're going through right now with ethics?
MCKEEVER: Oh, he'd be sickened by it. And yet he was sophisticated enough to know that this goes with the territory often. Actually he moved into a situation as Governor that was profoundly corrupt. That time it was believed that the Governor's office got 10% off the top of every contract that was negotiated by the state of Illinois. The leader of the Senate at one point, when Adlai thanked him for getting a piece of legislation through, he said, well, I appreciate your thanks Governor, but that bill cost me $50,000. Everything was being paid for -- bought and paid for in Illinois in those days, and Adlai got rid of most of that -- so he was aware of the real world and willing to fight it.
LAMB: Here's a photograph and we'll see it here in just a second of Uthant, the former Secretary General of the U.N, Lyndon Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, Mrs. Johnson, and I think it says on this cut line here on the photograph that Uthant was getting a full treatment of a helicopter landing on the south lawn of the White House. Why? What would that do for someone?
MCKEEVER: Well, Johnson was really courting him in the hope that he could get him to support our policy in Vietnam. As you remember, Uthant was very active in trying to bring about some negotiated settlement in Vietnam. And Kennedy -- I mean Johnson -- was working very hard in a sense to neutralize Uthant and bring Uthant aboard the Johnson policy which of course he never succeeded doing.
LAMB: What would Adlai Stevenson or what did Adlai Stevenson think of our policy in Vietnam in 1963 and '4 and '5?
MCKEEVER: Well, first of all, we have to remember that the big escalation did not occur until about three weeks after he died. I think a big escalation of about 500,000 was determined by Johnson three to four weeks after his death. So the big move came later. But he had profound misgivings about it, but he didn't know quite what to do about it. He felt that if he voiced opposition as a member of the administration, it would push him into a position where he would be leading the anti-Johnson forces and as a good Democrat, he didn't want to do that. But he didn't know how to get out of it, and it clouded his final months because he just couldn't figure out how to handle himself.
LAMB: It's in the book stores and it sells for $25.00, if you pay full price.
MCKEEVER: A lot of money.
LAMB: And the name of this book is: "Adlai Stevenson: His Life and His Legacy," by Porter McKeever. Mr. McKeever, thank you very much for your time.
MCKEEVER: Well, thank you for this opportunity to talk about him. Thank you very much.


Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1989. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.