Adlai Stevenson was born in Los Angeles, California of February 5, 1900. He came from a political family, his grandfather had been Vice President of the United States under Cleveland.
Stevenson studied at Princeton and Harvard, continuing on to earn a degree in law from Northwestern University. He served in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration from 1933 to 1934. During World War II, Stevenson was a special counsel to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, serving as an alternate delegate to the United Nations after the war. In 1948, he became governor of Illinois, winning the election with the largest plurality in the state's history up to that point. He began 78 "clean-up" measures and, in 1952, was chosen as the Democratic nominee for President, despite his refusal to run for the nomination.
Once he received the nomination, however, he campaigned for the Presidency with eloquent and memorable speeches. Nevertheless, Stevenson was defeated. When he ran again in 1956, his intellectual approach to national issues contrasted with the homey persona of his opponent, Dwight D. Eisenhower, leading to Stevenson's defeat.
From 1961 to his death, Stevenson served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, campaigning for an optimistic American attitude toward the UN.