Byrnes, James, 1879-1972

Byrnes was an important behind-the-scenes operator in Washington throughout the war. A Supreme court judge, he directed the Selective Service and the Lend-Lease Acts through Congress. In 1942 he was made Director of War Mobilization and put into operation various schemes to keep the cost of living low: he froze salaries to a ceiling of $25,000 and cut down on horse-racing and civilian rail travel. He was a candidate for the Vice-Presidency in 1945 but was persuaded to stand down in favour of TRUMAN. After ROOSEVELT’s third electoral victory Byrnes accompanied him to the Yalta Conference. He resigned from office before Roosevelt’s death but Truman convinced him to return to become Secretary of State and he assisted in drafting the Potsdam Declaration and at the London Conference proclaimed the United Nations Charter. He was a conservative and a hard-liner who was first to reject Japan’s initial conditional offer to surrender in August 1945.

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