Welles, Sumner

(1892-1961)
   Born Benjamin Sumner Welles to a prominent and wealthy family in New York City, Welles went to Groton and then Harvard University. He graduated in 1914 and entered the Foreign Service. Welles spent two years in Japan and then in 1919 went to Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1920, he was appointed assistant chief of the Division on Latin American Affairs. After briefly resigning from the State Department, in 1922 Welles was appointed special commissioner to the Dominican Republic, a post he held for three years, but he resigned from the State Department when President Calvin Coolidge refused to nominate him to another post for personal reasons. Welles had been involved in a messy divorce. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him assistant secretary of state, and in that capacity he helped shape the “Good NeighborPolicy toward Latin America. In 1933, Welles was involved in trying to bring order to Cuba and, in 1934 he negotiated an agreement ending previous policies giving the United States the right to intervene in Cuban affairs. In 1936, he was instrumental in organizing the Buenos Aires Conference.
   In 1937, Welles became undersecretary of state, and in 1940 he was sent to Europe to try to secure peace. Although he failed to do so, he obtained much valuable intelligence about the situation. In 1941, he took part in the meeting between Roosevelt and Winston Churchill that led to the Atlantic Charter. From 1942 onward, he chaired the committee planning for postwar international cooperation that produced the initial ideas for the United Nations. In 1944, it seemed likely that widely circulating stories about Welles’s homosexuality and heavy drinking would be subject to a Senate hearing, and he resigned. He became a spokesman and authority on U.S. foreign policy, writing Time for Decision (1944) and Where Are We Heading (1946) and editing a series on U.S. foreign policy for Harvard.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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