James Francis Byrnes


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(b. 2 May 1882, d. 24 Jan. 1972).

US Secretary of State 1945–7 From a modest background in Charleston, South Carolina, he trained as a lawyer and built up a practice to become a public prosecutor in 1908. In order to meet the age requirement for his first job, he falsified his date of birth as 1879, and continued to use it thereafter. He sat in the House of Representatives as a Southern Democrat (1911–25), and in the Senate, (1931–41). Although on the right of his party he strongly supported President Roosevelt's New Deal, Byrnes, cooled towards it after Roosevelt's attempted purge against conservative Democrats during 1937–8. However, he still supported Roosevelt's campaign for a third term in 1940. Briefly a Supreme Court Justice, he became director of the Office of War Mobilization 1943–5 and was then appointed Secretary of State by President Truman. A strong believer in the UN, he helped to ensure economic recovery in Germany and was reluctant to accept the division of that country. No enthusiast for the Truman Doctrine, he was succeeded by George Marshall and was later elected Governor of South Carolina in 1951, where he supported racial segregation.

Subjects: Politics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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