Dwight D. Eisenhower
|1953-1961||Republican||October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas||March 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C.|
|Vice President||First Lady||Previous Occupation||States in Union|
|Richard Milhous Nixon||Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower (Wife)||Soldier||50|
Eisenhower’s parents were David Jacob and Ida E. Stover Eisenhower. Eisenhower married Mamie Geneva Doud in 1916. They had two children: Doud Dwight and John Sheldon.
Like two of his predecessors––Presidents Washington and Grant––Eisenhower came to the presidency as a heroic military commander. Eisenhower was the only president to have served in both World War I and World War II. In World War II Eisenhower served as commanding general of the Allied forces in Europe and was most notably the commander who lead the troops to invade France on D-Day. But Eisenhower was no warmonger. Rather, he brought a penchant for peace to the White House, and he is credited with helping to end the Korean War in 1953.
Though Eisenhower attempted to improve relations with the Soviet Union through a cultural exchange program, the Cold War continued to escalate. Eisenhower hoped to deter Soviet aggression by increasing military might and threatening massive retaliation. He launched the arms race by authorizing a major stockpiling of nuclear missiles. He also approved U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union.
Civil rights became a critical concern during Eisenhower’s administration. In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, but the decision was not universally accepted. The people of the South resisted, and racial tensions mounted. In 1957 the governor of Arkansas ordered National Guard troops to prevent a group of African-American students from enrolling at an all-white high school in Little Rock. Eisenhower was forced to send federal troops to escort the new students to school. Eisenhower also proposed and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was intended to guarantee the voting rights of all African Americans. This was the first civil rights legislation to pass since Reconstruction. It was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960, which was an attempt to further strengthen voting rights by mandating federal inspection of local voter registration polls.
Eisenhower’s domestic policy continued most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs. In particular, Eisenhower proposed and led the effort to add over ten million Americans to Social Security. The Agricultural Act brought almost 6 million farm operators and workers Social Security coverage. The Social Security Amendments Act added almost another 5 million people (doctors, lawyers, dentists, architects, accountants and other professionals as well as clergymen) into Social Security.
Eisenhower served two terms and remained popular throughout his presidency. At the end of his second term, Eisenhower retired to his farm in Gettysburg.
Not long after the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, someone asked Eisenhower if he had been afraid, to which he replied, “Well, not at the time. But I was scared stiff three weeks later when I got around to reading the newspaper accounts.”
In his farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower warned against the increasing influence of what he termed the “military-industrial complex,” the unofficial association of the country’s armed forces, military suppliers and service providers, weapons manufacturers, and civil government. He asserted, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” (January 17, 1961)
After his presidency, Eisenhower explained his reasoning for an American-Soviet cultural exchange, “If we are going to take advantage of the assumption that all people want peace, then the problem is for people to get together and to leap governments––if necessary to evade governments––to work out not one method but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other.” (White House Years: Waging Peace, 1956-1961)
“The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
At This Time
1953: All price controls on wages, salaries, and some consumer goods are officially ended by the Office of Price Stabilization • The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is created • Eisenhower signs the Submerged Lands Act • In July Eisenhower announces an armistice in Korea • Eisenhower signs the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, admitting 214,000 more immigrants than permitted under existing immigration quotas • The Soviet Union tests a hydrogen bomb • In December Eisenhower gives his “Atoms for Peace” speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York • Ralph Ellison wins a National Book Award for Invisible Man • Arthur Miller writes The Crucible • B.F. Skinner publishes Science and Human Behavior • Hillary and Tenzing are the first people to climb Mount Everest • 1954: The U.S. and Japan sign a mutual defense agreement that provides for the gradual and partial rearmament of Japan • In April the Army-McCarthy hearings begin and continue for two months; Senator McCarthy’s obsessive search for Communists within the government ends when he is censured by the Senate in December • The Supreme Court announces its decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, ruling that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional • The Geneva Accords are signed, establishing a cease-fire and partition of Vietnam; the U.S. refuses to sign • The U.S. signs the SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organization) Pact, along with Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, as a group dedicated to collective defense; however, the group formally dissolves in 1977 • The U.S. signs a mutual defense pact with Taiwan • Ernest Hemingway is rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature • Stravinsky composes Septet, Three Songs from Shakespeare, In Memoriam: Dylan Thomas, and Four Russian Peasant Songs • In the U.S. 1,768 newspapers are published, totaling 59 million copies per day • The U.S. contains 6% of the world’s population, but 60% of all cars, 58% of all telephones, 45% of all radios, and 34% of all railroads • 1955: January 19 is the first filming of a presidential press conference • Congress approves a resolution proposed by Eisenhower that authorizes the U.S. defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores • In March Eisenhower announces that the U.S. is willing to use atomic weapons in the event of war with Communist China • The Supreme Court orders schools be integrated “with all deliberate speed” • In July the Geneva Conference opens, attended by the heads of state of Britain, France, the U.S.S.R, and the U.S. • The U.S. announces its plans to launch the first artificial satellites in 1957 • The Interstate Commerce Commission bans racial segregation on interstate trains and buses • In December Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man • During the following week, the Montgomery African American community, led by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., organizes a boycott of the city’s buses that lasts for more than a year • 1956: On January 30 African American student Autherine Lucy is admitted to the University of Alabama following a court order • Eisenhower releases $1 billion worth of Uranium-235 for peaceful atomic purposes, particularly for generating electrical power within the U.S. and abroad in energy-deprived countries • In March 19 senators and 81 representatives sign the “Southern Manifesto,” promising to use “all lawful means” to reverse the Brown decisions • Eisenhower approves U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union • In Browder v. Gayle, a three-judge district court rules that bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, is unconstitutional • The Federal Aid Highway Act is enacted, providing federal funding for the construction of a system of interstate highways for transportation and national defense • Eisenhower signs the Social Security Act, permitting women to retire at age sixty-two and disabled workers at age fifty • The recently discovered Salk Polio Vaccine is sold on the open market • The film Around the World in 80 Days wins the Academy Award • The songs “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Que Sera, Sera” are popular • 1957: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is organized in New Orleans, and Martin Luther King Jr. is elected president • Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957 • In September Eisenhower orders federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to end the school desegregation crisis • Elvis Presley makes his third appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show;” network executives only televise Presley from the waist up amid concerns that his gyrating dance style is too offensive • The Surgeon General reports that scientific research has established a link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer • The Soviet Union launches Sputnik • Dr. Seuss writes The Cat in the Hat • Leonard Bernstein’s musical sensation West Side Story premieres in New York • 1958: Eisenhower asks Congress for federal aid for education • Eisenhower recommends the formation of a civilian agency to direct space exploration • Eisenhower signs the National Defense Education Act • Boris Pasternak writes Dr. Zhivago; Pasternak also wins the Nobel Prize for Literature • The Guggenheim Museum opens in New York • The “Cha Cha” dance is extremely popular • The U.S. launches the artificial satellite Explorer I from Cape Canaveral, and the U.S.S.R. launches Sputnik III • The U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus passes under the icecap at the North Pole • The U.S. establishes NASA to administer the scientific exploration of space • 1959: Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista • Eisenhower asks Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev for a partial test-ban agreement • Eisenhower signs the Landrum-Griffin Act, legislation meant to combat growing corruption in labor organizations • Khrushchev visits the U.S. and meets with Eisenhower at Camp David on September 25 and 26 • Ian Fleming writes Goldfinger • The movie Ben Hur wins the Academy Award • The U.S.S.R. launches a rocket with two monkeys aboard and later sends Lunik to the moon • 1960 Civil rights sit-ins begin in Greensboro, North Carolina, in February • Eisenhower authorizes the CIA to begin training exiles to invade Cuba • The Soviet Union announces that it has shot down an American U-2 spy plane • Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 • Eisenhower acknowledges that the U.S. has been conducting U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union; Khrushchev announces that Francis Gary Powers, a downed U-2 pilot, has admitted to spying on the Soviet Union • On May 16 the Paris Summit between the Soviet Union and the U.S. ends when Eisenhower refuses to apologize for the U-2 flights and Khrushchev refuses to meet with the president • In September Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy and Republican nominee Richard Nixon hold the first televised presidential debate • U.S. scientists develop a laser • 1961: Eisenhower severs diplomatic relations with Cuba
Did You Know?
During the war Eisenhower gave a speech to a group of soldiers and slipped in the mud after walking from the platform. The soldiers reportedly roared with laughter, prompting Eisenhower to later comment, “You know, of all the things I said and did to raise the morale of those troops, it was that fall on the seat of my pants which did them the most good.”
Eisenhower enjoyed spending time at the quiet presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin mountains. The retreat was originally built as a camp for federal government employees and their families in 1938. In 1942 President Roosevelt converted it to a presidential retreat and renamed it “Shangri-La.” Eisenhower, however, disliked the retreat’s name because it was “just a little too fancy for a Kansas farm boy.” He therefore had the name of the retreat changed to “Camp David,” after his grandson.
Information about the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, as well as research and educational resources.
Biographical and educational information hosted by The Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation.
In-depth essays created by the University of Virginia on Eisenhower’s life and administration.
Field Trips for Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home
Five buildings—the Family Home, Museum, Library, Place of Meditation, and Visitor Center—comprise the Eisenhower Center. Rich in family history, the Family Home was occupied by the Eisenhower family from 1898 to the death of Eisenhower’s mother in 1946, with the furnishings reflecting the many decades the family lived here. The Museum features temporary exhibits, the First Lady’s Gallery, the Military Gallery, and the Presidential Gallery. The Library houses twenty-two million pages and other materials and is open to researchers. The Place of Meditation is the final resting place of the president and his wife, Mamie.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
Purchased by the Eisenhowers in 1950, this house was used as a weekend retreat during the presidency and then as their retirement home. Nearly all the furnishings are original and the exhibits chronicle Eisenhower’s life from boyhood in Kansas through the war years and the years in the White House. Still a working farm, the home is adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield.
Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site
The birthplace of President Eisenhower, furnished with period furniture, is the centerpiece of this ten-acre park with hiking trails and picnic areas.