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Final Days of United States Politician Adlai Stevenson

About the final days of United States politician Adlai Stevenson, biography and history.

FINAL DAYS

ADLAI STEVENSON, U.S. political leader, diplomat

Died: En route to St. George's Hospital, London, July 14, 1965, about 5:30 P.M.

Close friends were uncertain as to how many of Stevenson's doubts about American Vietnam policy were only his "normal grousing," the chronic qualms of a man given to much agonizing self-examination. Though publicly supportive of U.S. policy, he seemed increasingly skeptical and frustrated in his own role as U.N. ambassador during his last days. Newsman Eric Sevareid, who conversed with him on July 12, said that Stevenson at 65 was on the brink of retirement: "He said he had to decide that very week." "For a while," he told Sevareid, "I'd really just like to sit in the shade with a glass of wine in my hand and watch the people dance." He had been in London since July 10, and his last 24 hours were full of typical activities. Though he had suffered a brief dizzy spell about a week earlier, "he was as gay as ever" at an evening embassy party on July 13, reported Anthony Lewis, "and he looked a little leaner and more fit, if anything, than in recent years." Next morning he saw a British diplomat, then lunched at Claridge's with William Benton, who was trying to persuade Stevenson to join Encyclopaedia Britannica when he quit his U.N. post. At the U.S. Embassy in the afternoon, he taped a brief interview with a BBC reporter for broadcast that evening, again defending American Vietnam policy. Then at 4:00 P.M. he asked Marietta Tree, an old friend and U.N. colleague, to take a walk with him. They strolled to the nearby site of his 1945 residence, only to find it replaced by a modern building. "That makes me feel very old," he remarked. As they walked toward Hyde Park, he complained of not being able to line up a tennis match. They turned onto Upper Grosvenor Street, where he told Mrs. Tree, "You're going too fast for me," and said he felt very tired. At about 5:10 P.M. he unaccountably said to her, "Keep your head high." Then he remarked, "I am going to faint." "He looked ghastly," recalled Mrs. Tree. While she looked around for something he could sit on, she felt his hand hit against her, and he fell backward, his head striking the pavement with a heavy thud. "His eyes were open, but he was unconscious," said Mrs. Tree. People brought blankets, a doctor who happened to be passing by massaged his heart, while Mrs. Tree gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He began to breathe raggedly, and though still alive when the ambulance sped away, he was dead on arrival, of an apparent heart attack, at St. George's Hospital a few blocks away.

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