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Blinkhorn: Chiefs Of State

Llewelyn Sherman Adams was a flinty Yankee born in Dover, Vermont, who lived most of his life in Lincoln, New Hampshire. And no one ever called him Llewelyn. He was picked by President Dwight Eisenhower to be White House Chief of Staff in 1953, in part because Adams, former Republican governor from New Hampshire, had helped Ike win the New Hampshire primary in 1952, thus paving the way to the presidency.

Eisenhower, an Army man who coordinated the allied victory in World War II, firmly believed that the White House needed stronger organization. He saw the chief of staff as principal gatekeeper: enforcing tight control of access to the President, vetting all presidential orders, supervising preparation of one-page summaries of news reports and policy papers, helping decide political appointments and firings.

Adams managed with an iron hand, eventually becoming the second most powerful man in the government. He oversaw a staff that reached about 450 in 1959.

After Eisenhower’s first heart attack in 1955, Adams ran the executive branch virtually by himself for several months. Small wonder then, that he was resented, mainly by Democrats but also by conservative Republicans from the Taft-Goldwater wing of the party.

“Iceberg” Adams some detractors called him. To others he was “the abominable ‘no’ man.” One standing joke at the height of Adams’ power went like this: “What if Adams should die and Eisenhower becomes president of the United States?”

Adams, a Dartmouth college graduate, had a long, distinguished political career before it ended in scandal - his political demise following public revelations about his accepting expensive gifts, including a vicuna coat made of rare silky wool, from an old friend – Bernard Goldfine, a wealthy manufacturer, who had textile plants in New England, including Vermont.

Adams acknowledged receiving the gifts while insisting he’d not done any favors for Goldfine. But the political pressure was too fierce and Eisenhower asked for his resignation in September of ‘58.

Returning to New Hampshire, Adams lectured regularly, resumed his lifelong love of skiing, opened the Loon Mountain ski resort and wrote his memoirs, which the new chief of staff John Kelly might find instructive.

Adams died in October, 1986 at age 87, at Mary Hitchcock hospital in Hanover.