Copyright 2003, The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. All rights reserved.
Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general and thirty-fourth president of the United States, was born in Denison, Texas, to parents of modest means who moved to Abilene, Kansas, in 1891. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915, Eisenhower was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in Texas where he married Mamie Doud in 1916. He served stateside during World War I, overseeing a training center in Pennsylvania. During the inter-war years he established an impressive reputation as a student of military science, gaining the rank of brigadier general. Consequently in December 1941, just after Pearl Harbor, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall tapped Eisenhower to head the War Plans Division, concentrating in Africa and Europe, and in 1943 President Franklin Roosevelt
named him supreme commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Eisenhower earned the rank of a five-star general and after the war became army chief of staff. In 1950, President Truman
appointed him supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In 1952 Eisenhower won the Republican nomination for president and, with Richard M. Nixon
as his running mate, campaigned as a cold warrior, pledging to secure peace in the Korean conflict. He easily beat his Democratic rival, Adlai Stevenson
, and set about to fulfill his campaign promises to both end the war and cut back on military spending. President Eisenhower also had to deal with the Red Scare and the baseless allegations made by the junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy
, that communists had infiltrated the government. Critics accused the president of failing to deal effectively with the excesses of McCarthyism
. However, when McCarthy centered his attack on the U.S. army, Eisenhower ordered the (televised) Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954, which led to a Senate censure that effectively ended the Wisconsin senator's career.
Eisenhower was faced with difficult civil rights crises over the implementation of the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, a decision that declared that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Critics of the administration pointed out that Eisenhower only reluctantly supported the Court's decision to end segregation "with all deliberate speed." However, the violence in the South attendant upon school integration led the president to use the full force of the federal government to enforce the ruling of the Court.
During his presidency, Eisenhower resisted pro-communist Third World revolutions while seeking ways to improve relations with the Soviet Union and ensuring economic stability at home. This made him enormously popular and he won re-election in 1956, again beating Adlai Stevenson.
Eisenhower was disappointed in the results of the 1960 election when John F. Kennedy
defeated Richard Nixon, and he retired to his farm in Pennsylvania to write his memoirs, paint, and play golf. He died in 1969 in Washington, D.C., having excelled in his two careers, one military and the other political.
Sources: American National Biography Online. Internet on-line. Available From http://www.anb.org; John Whitclay Chambers II, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Military History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 244-45.