Sly and Able: A Political Biography of James F. Byrnes

Overview

Few American political figures have had as long, as eventful, as varied, and as consequential a career as James F. "Jimmy" Byrnes of South Carolina. This quintessential self-made man and master politician was centrally involved in many of the epochal domestic and international developments of the first half of the "American Century." Byrnes is arguably among the most experienced and least known of the "wise men" who exercised great political power just below the office of president during World War II and the ...
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Overview

Few American political figures have had as long, as eventful, as varied, and as consequential a career as James F. "Jimmy" Byrnes of South Carolina. This quintessential self-made man and master politician was centrally involved in many of the epochal domestic and international developments of the first half of the "American Century." Byrnes is arguably among the most experienced and least known of the "wise men" who exercised great political power just below the office of president during World War II and the Cold War. He was certainly the most powerful and influential southern political figure of his era, and he came tantalizingly close to the ultimate political prize, the American presidency - only to be edged out, with Rooseveltian sleight of hand, by Harry S. Truman. A simple recital of Jimmy Byrnes' career captures its scope. Born in 1882, he was a fatherless boy raised in straitened circumstances by his seamstress mother. He clerked in a Charleston, South Carolina, law office, where he learned the ways of southern politics from two seasoned judges. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1910, he was taken under the wing of the legendary (and virulently racist) Senator Benjamin "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman - the first of Byrnes' Washington "political fathers." Defeated for the Senate in his first campaign in the mid-twenties, he finally won a seat in 1930 with the advice and financial aid of the Democratic party's main financier, Bernard Baruch. In the thirties Byrnes became the key legislator of the New Deal, masterfully steering the numerous programs of his great friend Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Brains Trusters through Congress and keeping the Solid South solid. As his political reward Byrnes was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1941, a post he soon resigned, though, to become FDR's head of the Office of War Mobilization - the "assistant president" - during World War II, with vast, almost dictatorial powers over the American domestic economy. Byrnes
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Born in near poverty, James Byrnes (1882-1972) rose to become a powerful New Deal senator, served briefly as a Supreme Court justice, was FDR's wartime economic czar, and was appointed by President Truman as his first secretary of state. Years later, as Democrat-turned-Republican governor of South Carolina, Byrnes implemented the so-called Southern Strategy to Richard Nixon's advantage at the 1968 Republican convention. Robertson, who has taught at Clemson Univ. in South Carolina, describes how close Byrnes came to becoming the thirty-third president, only to be double-crossed in 1944 when FDR discarded him as a political liability and picked Truman as his running mate. The author reveals new information about Byrnes's role in the dropping of the atomic bomb, the terms of surrender with Japan and Secretary of State Byrnes's most successful diplomatic achievement: maneuvering Soviet troops out of Iran in 1946. Robertson's account of this subtle, manipulative politician documents in detail how one man served in all three branches of government, acquired enormous political clout and wielded it with great effect. A major political biography. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The death in 1972 of South Carolinian James F. "Jimmy" Byrnes at the age of 89 ended a political career of well over half a century. Few political leaders have held so many different political offices. Byrnes served in both houses of Congress, held top-level administrative positions during Franklin Roosevelt's administration, was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, served as secretary of state during the early part of Harry Truman's presidency, and was elected governor of his home state. He influenced many of the most important domestic and foreign policy decisions of Democratic administrations from Woodrow Wilson through Harry Truman. Biographer Robertson's comprehensive and well-researched examination of Byrnes's career emphasizes his considerable skills as a broker of political deals and a builder of coalitions-skills that contemporary politicians rarely possess to the same degree. A useful addition to the history collections of academic and large public libraries.-Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Booknews
Robertson, a former newspaper editor and English professor, details the life and career of the self-made South Carolina senator and statesman. The book covers Byrnes' elections to the House of Representatives in 1910 and to the Senate in 1930, his support of Roosevelt's New Deal programs, and his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1941, a post he soon resigned to become FDR's head of the Office of War Mobilization. Byrnes played a pivotal role in the decision to use the atom bomb, the negotiations of post war treaties, and the early stages of the Cold War. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393335156
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/20/2008
  • Pages: 676
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.36 (d)

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