James Byrnes

James Byrnes

American statesman.
Date of Birth: 02.05.1882
Country: USA

  1. Biography of James Byrnes
  2. Early Life
  3. Political Career
  4. Government Positions
  5. Later Career

Biography of James Byrnes

Early Life

James Byrnes was an American statesman who served in all three branches of government. He was born in Charleston to Irish immigrant parents. His father passed away from tuberculosis a few weeks before James' birth. His mother, Elizabeth Maxvini Byrnes, worked as a seamstress. Byrnes attended a Catholic parish school until the age of 14. He worked as a courier and later as a clerk in a law firm. In 1900, he changed his birth date to three years earlier in order to secure a job as a court stenographer. Judge James Aldrich took an interest in the young man and taught him about jurisprudence. Byrnes was admitted to the bar in 1903, despite not having a legal education. In 1906, he married Maude Perkins Bush and switched to the Episcopal Church. He was elected as a prosecutor in 1908.

James Byrnes

Political Career

In 1910, Byrnes was elected as a member of Congress from South Carolina, representing the Democratic Party. He excelled at finding compromises and creating coalitions in Congress. While serving on the budget committee, Byrnes met a young Franklin Roosevelt, who was then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Byrnes supported projects for building roads in the southern United States and advocated for women's suffrage (which was achieved in 1920 through a constitutional amendment). On the other hand, he opposed laws aimed at combating lynchings. In 1925, Byrnes ran for the U.S. Senate but lost to former South Carolina Governor Coleman Blease. He then practiced law in Spartanburg and became quite wealthy. In the 1930 Senate elections, Byrnes defeated his rival Coleman Blease. When Roosevelt ran for president in 1932, Byrnes worked on his campaign. As a senator, Byrnes played a key role in shaping the New Deal legislation. He was reelected in 1936. With Byrnes' support, the Santee Cooper Project, which aimed to build reservoirs, power stations, canals, and drain swamps in South Carolina, was funded by the federal budget.

Government Positions

In 1940, Byrnes was appointed to the Supreme Court by Roosevelt. After the United States entered World War II in October 1942, Roosevelt appointed Byrnes as the head of the newly established Office of Economic Stabilization. In this role, Byrnes regulated prices, developed a new tax plan, and created a system of government control over the distribution of raw materials and goods. He particularly oversaw the distribution of steel, copper, and aluminum, which were crucial for the war industry. In May 1943, Byrnes also became the head of the War Mobilization Board. Thanks to his intelligence, political experience, and friendship with President Roosevelt, Byrnes became the second most important person in the U.S. administration, after the president himself. While Roosevelt focused on the war and foreign policy, Byrnes determined domestic policy, coordinated agency work, and managed the production, procurement, and distribution of military materials.

Later Career

In the 1944 elections, Byrnes attempted to become the Vice President of the United States. However, he had several serious drawbacks that prevented him from becoming a top-level public figure. He was considered too conservative by the labor unions, the Protestant elite disliked his past Catholicism, and African Americans were dissatisfied with his support for racial segregation. As a result, the Democratic Party decided that Harry Truman would be the best candidate for the vice presidency, and he was elected to that position. Byrnes was part of the American delegation at the Yalta Conference, and his stenographic notes are the most complete records of the meetings of the "Big Three." After Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, Truman became president. On July 3, 1945, Truman appointed Byrnes as the Secretary of State. He played an important role in the Potsdam Conference and other post-war peace conferences. Byrnes is considered to have been the main advocate for the nuclear bombing of Japan among Truman's advisors. In January 1947, due to growing disagreements with Truman, Byrnes resigned. He did not want to leave politics and was elected as the governor of his home state, South Carolina, in 1951, serving in that position until 1955.