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Robert P. Patterson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert P. Patterson
Robert P. Patterson, 55th United States Secretary of War.jpg
55th United States Secretary of War
In office
September 27, 1945 – July 18, 1947
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byHenry L. Stimson
Succeeded byKenneth Claiborne Royall
United States Under Secretary of War
In office
December 16, 1940 – September 27, 1945
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byKenneth Claiborne Royall
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
March 21, 1939 – July 30, 1940
Appointed byFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byMartin Thomas Manton
Succeeded byJerome Frank
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
May 13, 1930 – March 22, 1939
Appointed byHerbert Hoover
Preceded byThomas D. Thacher
Succeeded bySimon H. Rifkind
Personal details
Robert Porter Patterson

(1891-02-12)February 12, 1891
Glen Falls, New York
DiedJanuary 22, 1952(1952-01-22) (aged 60)
Elizabeth, New Jersey
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
ChildrenRobert P. Patterson Jr.
EducationUnion College (A.B.)
Harvard Law School (LL.B.)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1917–1919
Unit306th Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star

Robert Porter Patterson Sr. (February 12, 1891 – January 22, 1952) was Under Secretary of War under US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the US Secretary of War under President Harry S. Truman. He was a US Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after he had been a District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Education and career

Born on February 12, 1891, in Glen Falls, New York,[1] the son of Lodice Edna (née Porter) and Charles Robert Patterson,[citation needed] Patterson received an Artium Baccalaureus degree in 1912 from Union College and a Bachelor of Laws in 1915 from Harvard Law School.[1] He entered private practice in New York City from 1915 to 1916,[1] with what today is the law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler,[citation needed] also serving with that firm in subsequent periods of private practice.[citation needed] He served in the New York Army National Guard from 1916 to 1917.[1] He served in the United States Army from 1917 to 1919,[1] attaining the rank of Major.[citation needed] He received the Distinguished Service Cross[2] and Silver Star[2] for heroism in France. Patterson served in the 306th Infantry Regiment which was assigned to the 77th Infantry Division.[citation needed] He returned to private practice in New York City from 1919 to 1930.[1]

Federal judicial service

Patterson was nominated by President Herbert Hoover on April 24, 1930, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated by Judge Thomas D. Thacher.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 13, 1930, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on March 22, 1939, due to his elevation to the Second Circuit.[1]

Patterson was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 9, 1939, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated by Judge Martin Thomas Manton.[1] He was confirmed by the Senate on March 20, 1939, and received his commission on March 21, 1939.[1] His service terminated on July 30, 1940, due to his resignation.[1]

War Department service

Patterson congratulating Col. Chauncey M. Hooper in Hawaii, 1943.

Patterson served as a United States Assistant Secretary of War in 1940.[1] He served as United States Under Secretary of War from 1940 to 1945.[1] He was instrumental in the mobilization of the armed forces preparatory to and during World War II.[3] President Harry S. Truman appointed Patterson as United States Secretary of War in 1945.[1] Truman initially was set to offer Patterson a seat on the United States Supreme Court which was left vacant by Justice Owen J. Roberts, however, with the resignation of Henry L. Stimson, Patterson instead became the Secretary of War.[4] Patterson advocated unifying the armed services (army and navy) and having a single chief of staff.[5] Steps to this effect were begun by the National Security Act of 1947 and revised several times, finally by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.[citation needed]

Patterson worked to promote more black participation and promotion with in the military, specifically during the late stages of World War II. He was instrumental in creating an African-American fighter group, known now as the Tuskeegee airmen.[6] While sympathetic to black grievances, aspirations, and recommendations he was concerned that radical change would impede military preparedness during war.[7] After the war the "Board for Utilization of Negro Manpower" (or Gillem Board). released a report,[8] "Utilization of Negro Manpower in the Postwar Army Policy", in April 1946. that was signed off by Patterson: it recommended the retention of segregation, as that was a policy external to the military, but that the military introduce equal opportunity, as that would be the best use of military manpower. Patterson served until 1947.[1]

Later career

After declining an offer by President Truman to be reappointed to his former judgeship,[citation needed] Patterson returned to private practice in New York City from 1947 to 1952,[1] Later he became the President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the President of the Council on Foreign Relations.[9]

Personal life

On January 3, 1920, Patterson married Margaret Tarleton Winchester (March 12, 1897 - March 28, 1988); they had four children: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., Aileen W. Patterson, Susan H. Patterson and Virginia D. Patterson.[citation needed] Robert P. Patterson Jr. was a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, until his death in 2015.[citation needed]

Patterson housed William L. Marbury Jr., at his Georgetown home.[citation needed] After the war, he recommended Marbury to succeed him at the United Nations; upon advice from Alger Hiss, Marbury declined.[citation needed] (Marbury soon thereafter represented Hiss in his slander case against Whittaker Chambers.)[10]


Patterson died on January 22, 1952,[1] returning from meeting a client, onboard American Airlines Flight 6780 which crashed on the approach to Newark Liberty International Airport in Elizabeth, New Jersey; he was age 60.[citation needed]


In 2012, the University of Tennessee Press published The World War I Memoirs of Robert P. Patterson: A Captain in the Great War, edited by J. Garry Clifford.[citation needed]

In 2014, the University of Tennessee Press published his previously unpublished 1947 memoir Arming the Nation for War, with a foreword by Robert M. Morgenthau, former Manhattan district attorney, and edited by Brian Waddell, associate professor at the University of Connecticut.[citation needed]

  • The World War I Memoirs of Robert P. Patterson: A Captain in the Great War (2012)
  • Arming the Nation for War: Mobilization, Supply, and the American War Effort in World War II (2014)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Robert Porter Patterson Sr. at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ a b Sterner, Doug. "Valor awards for Robert Porter Patterson". Military Times Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  3. ^ Herman, Arthur. Fredom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 157, 161, 165-6, 175, 236, 238-9, 284-5, 288, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  4. ^ Eiler, op. cit. p 443-444
  5. ^ History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The formative years, 1947-1950. Government Printing Office. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-0-16-087640-0.
  6. ^ The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc. (November 1945). The Crisis. The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 324–.
  7. ^ Keith E. Eiler (18 October 2018). Mobilizing America: Robert P. Patterson and the War Effort, 1940–1945. Cornell University Press. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-1-5017-2387-2.
  8. ^ Cora Sol Goldstein (1 August 2009). Capturing the German Eye: American Visual Propaganda in Occupied Germany. University of Chicago Press. pp. 154–. ISBN 978-0-226-30171-6.
  9. ^ Gary J. Clifford; Robert Porter Patterson (7 February 2012). The World War I Memoirs of Robert P. Patterson: A Captain in the Great War. Univ. of Tennessee Press. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-1-57233-882-1.
  10. ^ Marbury, Jr., William L. (1981). "The Hiss-Chambers Libel Suit". Maryland Historical Magazine. 76 (1): 74 (Georgetown), 76 (UN job). Retrieved 23 November 2016.


  • Eiler, Keith. (1997) Mobilizing America: Robert P. Patterson and the War Effort, 1940-1945. Cornell University Press.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas D. Thacher
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Succeeded by
Simon H. Rifkind
Preceded by
Martin Thomas Manton
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by
Jerome Frank
Political offices
Preceded by
Office established
United States Under Secretary of War
Succeeded by
Kenneth Claiborne Royall
Preceded by
Henry L. Stimson
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by
Kenneth Claiborne Royall
This page was last edited on 8 September 2020, at 23:33
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