Grant Stockdale

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Grant Stockdale (1915 – December 2, 1963) was a Florida businessman and friend of President John F. Kennedy who served as United States Ambassador to Ireland in 1961-62.

Early years[edit]

Born Edward Grant Stockdale in 1915,[1] he was a Baptist from Greenville, Mississippi.[2] He attended the University of Miami, where he once lost an election for student class president[3] played varsity football in 1938 and 1939,[4] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6][7][8] 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."[9] He rejected support for the bill offered by the Communist-dominated Miami Civil Rights Congress.[10] He also secured House passage of a Birth Secrecy Bill that made the birth certificates of illegitimate children confidential.[11] He also led a successful campaign against a tax on hotels and rooming houses and supported legislation to increase criminal penalties for child molestation.[12] He lost the Democratic primary for his House seat in May 1950 to Dante Fascell.[13]

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.[14] In 1955 he proposed the development of a convention hall to bring national conventions and sporting events to Miami and Miami Beach[15] and a variety of other projects.[16]

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."[17] 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".[18] Stockdale and Smathers joined the President-elect at the Orange Bowl on January 1, 1961.[19] Kennedy nominated Stockdale to serve as Ambassador to Ireland in February 1961.[20] 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".[21] The Senate confirmed the appointment on March 28, 1961.[22]

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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

He presented his credentials in Dublin on May 17, 1961, and resigned the ambassadorship effective July 6, 1962,[23] and returned to real estate and worked in public relations for American Canteen Company.[5]

He attended the funeral of President Kennedy at the invitation of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.[24]

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1954, Stockdale was named a member of Iron Arrow, an honorary organization of University of Miami graduates.[25] He also served terms as president of the University of Miami Alumni Association and the Miami Jaycees.[26]

He was married to the poet Alice Boyd Stockdale, née Magruder.[27] He had 2 sons and 3 daughters.[5]

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.[5] 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".[28]

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."[29] President Kennedy had urged her to publish her poems.[30]


  1. ^ "Florida Municipal Record, vols. 21-2". 1948. p. ii. 
  2. ^ 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 
  3. ^ Hayward, Harry (2008). 90 Wondrous Years. AuthorHouse. p. 48. 
  4. ^ a b "Miami Real Estate Man Selected as Envoy to Ireland". Ocala Star-Banner. March 7, 1961. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Former Envoy, a Friend of Kennedy, Dies in Fall". New York Times. December 3, 1963. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ Leyden, Charles S. (May 29, 1949). "Men Are Funny, Just Because". Miami News. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ "A Change To Be Made". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. July 9, 1949. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ Stockdale, Grant (May 25, 1949). "A First Step". Miami News. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Klan Threatens Fla. Lawmaker". Baltimore Afro-American. July 30, 1949. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Negro Aid Fund Spent On Telegrams". Miami News. July 29, 1949. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Illegitimate Birth Secrecy Bill Passes". Miami News. May 25, 1949. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Stockdale to Run for Dade Office". Miami News. January 11, 1952. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Runoff Ousts Six House Members". Evening Independent. May 24, 1950. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Dade Commissioners Knew Stockdale Blast Was Coming". Miami News. September 24, 1954. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Convention Hall Proposed for MacArthur Causeway". Miami News. April 6, 1955. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Progress, Stability Stockdale Goals". Miami News. April 20, 1956. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  17. ^ Crispell, Brian Lewis (199 9). Testing the Limits: George Armistead Smathers and Cold War America. University of Georgia Press. p. 146.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  18. ^ Newsweek, vol. 57 (1961), p. 36
  19. ^ Connelly, Michael (2010). The President's Team: The 1963 Army-Navy Game and the Assassination of JFK. MVP Books. p. 54. 
  20. ^ Reston, James (February 7, 1961). "President Picks More Top Envoys". New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Two Cheers for Diplomacy". Time. February 17, 1961. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  22. ^ Belair Jr., Felix (March 29, 1961). "Galbraith Gains Senate Approval". New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Stockdale Resigns his Post as Ambassador to Ireland". New York Times. May 26, 1962. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Grant Stockdale Killed In 8-Story Plunge". Miami News. December 2, 1963. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  25. ^ "11 Are Admitted By Honor Society". Miami News. November 19, 1954. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Stockdale Gains Commission Seat". Miami News. May 28, 1952. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Bouquet to Ireland". New York Times. February 21, 1964. Retrieved May 21, 2013. 
  28. ^ King, Larry (2009). My Remarkable Journey. Weinstein Books. 
  29. ^ Stockdale, Lee (August 13, 2010). "Dad and JFK: Crisis and Tragedy". Tryon Daly Bulletin. Retrieved November 18, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Miamian Tells Kennedy Where To Go". Miami News. July 2, 1963. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
R. W. Scott McLeod
United States Ambassador to Ireland
May 17, 1961 – July 7, 1962
Succeeded by
Matthew H. McCloskey