Adlai Stevenson bares his sole


Flint Journal photographer, Bill Gallagher had a reputation for getting comedic pictures, and he took this picture of Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson (right) and Michigan Gov. G. Mennen Williams on the Labor Day 1952. Kneeling in front of the podium to cover Stevenson’s speech, Gallager noticed a hole in Stevenson’s shoe. Gallagher set his focus on six feet, set the lens opening and removed the flash gun so as not to attract attention. He set the camera on the floor of the platform and fired one bulb.

Stevenson looked over at him and uncrossed his legs. But Gallagher had the image–which would became one of the great political photos of all time. The next day, it the airwaves and papers. The hole was totally out of character for the aristocratic, wealthy, intellectual Stevenson, who was having difficulty establishing himself as a candidate of the people in his race against Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The photo was so loved by Stevenson’s campaign that it even sold silver lapel pins, T-shirts and posters to memorialize the symbol of everyman frugality (below)*. The witty candidate himself responded, Better a hole in the shoe than a hole in the head,” but it was not enough for him to win the presidency. The photo, however, won a Pulitzer and Stevenson sent a telegram congratulating Gallagher: “Glad to hear you own with a hole in one.”

Stevenson’s head was also at the centre of attention that year. His opponent Eisenhower’s vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon called him an “egghead”, referring to his baldness. Constantly under mockery for his hair, Stevenson remarked,“Via ovicipitum dura est” (The way of the egghead is hard) in a lecture he gave at Harvard on March 17 in 1954. A week later on March 23 he made another joke, “Eggheads of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your yolks.”

Adlai Stevenson silver shoe pin

* In 2008, another intellectual democrat from Illinois would also don similar everyman frugality with old shoes. [link]

Adlai Stevenson at the United Nation


By the 1960s, two-time Presidential candidate (and two-time loser) Adlai Stevenson was considered America’s elder statesman. The relationship between him and John F. Kennedy to whom he lost Democratic nomination in 1960 was not cordial, and this led to Stevenson being passed over for the Secretary of State position. However, he was appointed American ambassador to the UN. 

At the UN, he disagreed with many of Kennedy’s actions. In April 1961, Stevenson suffered the greatest humiliation of his career when he unwittingly denied that the Bay of Pigs attack was financed by the CIA. Misled by the White House, and forged photographs, he considered to resign the ambassadorship. It was fortunate that he didn’t, because a year later, Stevenson would get his finest hour. 

On October 25, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, he gave a presentation at an emergency session of the Security Council. Stevenson, already known for his wit and rhetoric, gave one of the speeches of his political career. He forcefully asked the Soviet representative, Valerian Zorin, if his country was installing missiles in Cuba, punctuated with the famous demand “Don’t wait for the translation, answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’!” Following Zorin’s refusal to answer the abrupt question, Stevenson retorted, “I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over.” In a diplomatic coup, Stevenson then showed photographs that proved the existence of missiles in Cuba, just after the Soviet ambassador had implied they did not exist.