Too Impressive to be Real

Two biographies clarify questions about Sumner Welles' long and spectacular career

Issue: Summer 1998

Benjamin Welles, Sumner Welles: FDR's Global Strategist (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997).

Irvin F. Gellman,  Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

In late 1933--and for a decade thereafter--pedestrians passing by the State Department (now the Old Executive Office Building) were treated to a spectacle promptly at 9:30 each work day morning. A chauffeured Rolls Royce would glide to a halt at the southeast corner, and an impeccably tailored gentleman would alight from the car. If, as in this case, it was winter, he would be wearing a double-breasted overcoat and brown fedora and bearing a cane. He would briskly ascend the granite steps and hurry to his office. Behind him would lumber a portly chauffeur, who would hand the gentleman's briefcase to a waiting State Department usher.

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