Born Edward Grant Stockdale in 1915, he was a Baptist from Greenville, Mississippi. He attended the University of Miami, where he once lost an election for student class president played varsity football in 1938 and 1939, and graduated with a degree in business administration. He worked as a salesman and then as a manager for a venetian blind company. He then worked in real estate and was elected President of the Miami Junior Chamber of Commerce. During World War II he served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific. He left the service as a 1st Lieutenant and remained a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
He was a Democrat and friend of George Smathers, whom he helped elect to Congress in 1946. Stockdale became Smathers' administrative assistant briefly and served in the Florida Legislature from 1948 to 1949. While serving in the Florida House of Representatives, he introduced the Women's Jury Bill to provide for jury service by women, reluctantly accepted an amendment that instead allowed women to register for jury service, and secured the bill's passage by persuading the governor to withdraw his veto of the legislation. He also introduced the first Anti-Ku Klux Klan legislation in a southern state, designed to prohibit the wearing of masks and hoods in public. He reported receiving anonymous telephone calls telling him "leave this thing alone or you'll be sorry." He rejected support for the bill offered by the Communist-dominated Miami Civil Rights Congress. He also secured House passage of a Birth Secrecy Bill that made the birth certificates of illegitimate children confidential. He also led a successful campaign against a tax on hotels and rooming houses and supported legislation to increase criminal penalties for child molestation. He lost the Democratic primary for his House seat in May 1950 to Dante Fascell.
Through Smathers, Stockdale met John F. Kennedy, a young Congressman, in 1949. Stockdale served on the Dade County Commission from 1952 to 1956. He staged a one-man revolt in September 1954 by making an issue of the Commission's practice of conducting closed-door meetings and requiring unanimous votes. In 1955 he proposed the development of a convention hall to bring national conventions and sporting events to Miami and Miami Beach and a variety of other projects.
He later worked in real estate in Miami. President Kennedy visited him in Florida frequently before becoming president. In 1959 and 1960 Stockdale headed the Florida State committee to elect John F. Kennedy president. When Smathers decided to go to the 1960 Democratic National Convention as the favorite son candidate of the Florida delegation, part of an effort aimed at securing the nomination for Kennedy, he urged Stockdale to join the delegation: "[I]t would appear to me that the best way you can be helpful to Jack Kennedy is to come on out with us ... where the fight will be held. You can't do him any good at home ... you must be where your voice can be heard and your presence felt." Stockdale campaigned for him in West Virginia, Oregon, and New York, and he was a member of the Democratic Party National Finance Committee.
At the start of the Kennedy administration, Newsweek magazine described Stockdale as "an ardent New Frontiersman and sometime participant in Kennedy touch-football games". Stockdale and Smathers joined the President-elect at the Orange Bowl on January 1, 1961. Kennedy nominated Stockdale to serve as Ambassador to Ireland in February 1961. Time magazine criticized Kennedy for nominating Stockdale after promising during the campaign to appoint ambassadors on the basis of ability alone. It asked "where reward stopped and ability began". The Senate confirmed the appointment on March 28, 1961.
In April, 1961, just before leaving for Ireland, Stockdale was sued by a business rival that claimed he had used "undue influence" to win government contracts for a Miami vending machines company in which he held stock. The Dade County Circuit Court dismissed that suit as "frivolous" and the Florida Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that dismissal. Congress later investigated those vending machine companies as part of the Bobby Baker scandal investigations into bribery of members of Congress, though Stockdale was not a target of the investigation. When interviewed by the Miami Herald during the Baker investigation, Stockdale said: "I am a business man, but I still consider myself a quasi-public figure. I am very meticulous in my dealings.
He presented his credentials in Dublin on May 17, 1961, and resigned the ambassadorship effective July 6, 1962, and returned to real estate and worked in public relations for American Canteen Company.
Personal life and death
In 1954, Stockdale was named a member of Iron Arrow, an honorary organization of University of Miami graduates. He also served terms as president of the University of Miami Alumni Association and the Miami Jaycees.
Stockdale died in a fall from his office on the 13th floor of the duPont building in Miami, Florida on December 2, 1963, just ten days after the assassination of President Kennedy. Police termed it a suicide, but no suicide note was found. Larry King later reported speaking to him the day of the assassination and finding him "disconsolate to the point where he couldn't get a word out".
Alice Boyd Stockdale's book of poetry, To Ireland, with Love, was published by Doubleday & Company in 1964 and dedicated to her husband: "For Grant with whom, hand in hand, I walked through Phoenix Park ... and who will always walk with me." President Kennedy had urged her to publish her poems.
- "Florida Municipal Record, vols. 21-2". 1948. p. ii.
- John F. Kennedy: Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President, vol. 2. Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register. 1962. p. 469.
our first Ambassador there was a Mississippi Baptist, Grant Stockdale, a great success
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- King, Larry (2009). My Remarkable Journey. Weinstein Books.
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R. W. Scott McLeod
|United States Ambassador to Ireland
May 17, 1961 – July 7, 1962
Matthew H. McCloskey