George Howard Earle III

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George Howard Earle III
United States Ambassador to Bulgaria
In office
February 14, 1940 – April 2, 1940
President Franklin Roosevelt
Preceded by Ray Atherton
Succeeded by Donald Heath
Member of the
Democratic National Committee
from Pennsylvania
In office
May 22, 1936[1] – February 21, 1940[2]
Preceded by Sedgwick Kistler
Succeeded by David Lawrence
30th Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
January 15, 1935 – January 17, 1939
Lieutenant Thomas Kennedy
Preceded by Gifford Pinchot
Succeeded by Arthur James
United States Minister to Austria
In office
July 24, 1933 – March 25, 1934
President Franklin Roosevelt
Preceded by Gilchrist Baker Stockton
Succeeded by George Messersmith
Personal details
Born (1890-12-05)December 5, 1890
Devon, Pennsylvania
Died December 30, 1974(1974-12-30) (aged 84)
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic

George Howard Earle III (December 5, 1890 – December 30, 1974) was an American politician and diplomat. He was a member of the prominent Earle family. Earle served as the U.S. Minister to Austria from 1933 to 1934,[3] and as the 30th Governor of Pennsylvania from January 15, 1935 to January 17, 1939.

Early life[edit]

Earle grew up on a Montgomery County estate as the son of a wealth family that traced its lineage in America to the arrival of the Mayflower. He received a degree from Harvard University and subsequently worked abroad in a family-owned sugar business. Upon the United States' entry into World War I, he enlisted in the military. He earned the Navy Cross in 1918 after averting a fatal explosion when a munitions ship under his command caught fire. After the war, Earle returned to private business and became active in the Democratic Party, despite his family's Republican roots. In 1932, he was appointed as Ambassador to Austria in the Roosevelt administration [1]


Despite being then one of the most reliably Republican states in the nation, Pennsylvania voters elected Earle to a sweeping victory in his first run for public office, propelling him to governor in 1934. An ardent Roosevelt admirer, Earle rolled out an ambitious "Little New Deal," which resulted in the introduction of a record 3514 bills during the 1935-36 session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. His administration created a centralized Department of Public Assistance that was designed to ensure uniform allocation of relief payments. Earle's government also sought to ameliorate ongoing labor strife by increasing union bargaining rights and eliminating the private police forces operated by many of the influential coal and steel companies. Pennsylvania Turnpike construction also began during his tenure.[2]

However, Earle also became known for his mercurial temperament and his administration was plagued by high profile corruption charges involving his top officials. Earle's poor relationship with the state's judicial hierarchy resulted in one of his central policy goals, the imposition of a graduated income tax, being declared unconstitutional. [3]


In 1940, Earle was appointed as Ambassador to Bulgaria. During World War II, he served again in the United States Navy, this time as Lieutenant Commander and as a special emissary to the Balkans, where he

...presented a plan to President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) that Earle believed might end the war in Europe early. The German ambassador and the head of the German secret service secretly proposed to Earle that German troops could surround Hitler’s headquarters and turn Hitler over to the Allies as a war criminal. German troops then would be repositioned to defend against the Russian military. The plot was never approved.[4]

In 1944, President Roosevelt assigned Earle to compile information on the Katyń massacre, the massacre of the Polish intelligentsia by the Soviet government. Earle did so, using contacts in Bulgaria and Romania, and concluded that the Soviet Union was guilty.

After consulting with Elmer Davis, the director of the Office of War Information, Roosevelt rejected Earle's conclusion, saying that he was convinced of the responsibility of Nazi Germany, and ordered Earle's report suppressed. When Earle formally requested permission to publish his findings, the President gave him a written order to desist. Earle was reassigned and spent the rest of World War II in American Samoa.[5]

After the war,

...Earle became the first governor of a US state to be divorced. In 1945, he remarried to Jacqueline Sacre of Belgium with whom he had a daughter and a son. That same year, he was appointed assistant governor of Samoa. After his term in that office he returned to private business.[6]

Ambassador Ralph Earle II is his son.


External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Ray Atherton
United States Ambassador to Bulgaria
Succeeded by
Donald Heath
Preceded by
Gilchrist Baker Stockton
United States Minister to Austria
Succeeded by
George Messersmith
Political offices
Preceded by
Gifford Pinchot
Governor of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Arthur James
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sedgwick Kistler
Member of the Democratic National Committee
from Pennsylvania

Succeeded by
David Lawrence
Preceded by
Lawrence Rupp
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Francis Myers
Preceded by
John Hemphill
Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Charles Alvin Jones