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The Remarkable Rise of John R. Steelman

Dr. John R. Steelman taught sociology and economics at Alabama College from 1928 to 1934. Beloved by the student body, he championed social justice and developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator. In Alabama Steelman kept a pet wolf, faced down the Klu Klux Klan, and brokered deals between labor and capital. Few, however, imagined that he would become one of the most powerful men in the world.

From 1946 to 1953, John R. Steelman held the title “First Assistant to the President of the United States”, a position now called White House Chief of Staff. Harry S. Truman’s trusted advisor assumed awesome responsibilities after World War Two, helping to shape the postwar world.

What we see of Steelman in Montevallo speaks to the qualities that made him great in Washington: conviction, curiosity, fearlessness, and stamina. This exhibit draws from his papers on loan from to the University of Montevallo from Richard Hart (Dr. Steelman's stepson).

Credits

John Bawden's Digital History class (Spring 2014)