Francis Bowes Sayre Sr.

Francis Bowes Sayre Sr.

Sayre circa 1913
Born (1885-04-30)April 30, 1885
South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Died March 29, 1972(1972-03-29) (aged 86)
Washington, DC
Resting place Washington National Cathedral
Alma mater Williams College
Harvard Law School
Occupation Lawyer, diplomat, educator
Spouse(s) Jessie Woodrow Wilson (1913-1933; her death)
Elizabeth Evans Graves (1937-1972; his death)
Children Francis Bowes Sayre Jr., Eleanor Sayre and Woodrow Wilson Sayre

Francis Bowes Sayre Sr. (April 30, 1885 – March 29, 1972) was a professor at Harvard Law School, High Commissioner of the Philippines, and a son-in-law of President Woodrow Wilson.[1]


He was born on April 30, 1885. He graduated from Williams College in 1909 and Harvard Law School in 1912. At the start of his carer, Sayre worked for Wilfred Grenfell's medical mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, and as an assistant prosecutor in the office of the New York County District Attorney .

On November 25, 1913, he married Jessie Woodrow Wilson (1887–1933), the daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, in a ceremony at the White House.[1] In 1914 Sayre began work as an assistant to the president of Williams College. He served on the faculty at Harvard Law School from 1917 to 1933, and he received his J.D.S. degree from Harvard in 1918.

He later served as foreign affairs advisor to the government of King Chulalongkorn of Siam as successor to American Foreign Affairs Adviser Edward Henry Strobel, Jens Westengard and Eldon James;[2] Assistant Secretary of State, High Commissioner of the Philippines, and U.S. representative to the United Nations Trusteeship Council. While Sayre was Siam's foreign affairs advisor, he was appointed by King Prajadhipok as Siam's representative on the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Crown of Siam, and was the second American advisor to be awarded the title Phya Kalyanamaitri or "the beautiful in friendship." The first American Adviser in Foreign Affairs, also a Harvard law professor, was Edward Henry Strobel.[2]

Sayre's immediate subordinate in his capacity of Assistant Secretary of State was Alger Hiss. Sayre declined to testify as a character witness for the defense at Hiss's perjury trials.[1]

He died on March 29, 1972.[1] Sayre was buried at Washington National Cathedral.


Sayre and Jessie Wilson Sayre with their son, 1915

Sayre's son, Francis Bowes Sayre Jr., (1915–2008) was the dean of the National Cathedral in Washington from 1951 until his retirement in 1978.

The Sayre Highway stretching from Cagayan de Oro City to Kabacan, Cotabato in the Philippines was named after him, formerly named Route 3, since he was the one who spearheaded its construction.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Francis B. Sayre Dies at 86. Ex-Commissioner to Philippines". New York Times. March 30, 1972. Retrieved October 7, 2012. (subscription required (help)). Mr. Sayre's first wife died in 1933. In 1937, he married Mrs. Elizabeth Evans Graves. widow of Ralph Graves of the National Geographic Society. ...
  2. 1 2 Oblas, Peter (1972). "Treaty Revision and the Role of the American Foreign Affairs Adviser 1909-1925" (free). Journal of the Siam Society. Siam Heritage Trust. JSS Vol. 60.1 (digital): images 2–4, 7–9. Retrieved March 17, 2013.

External links

Preceded by
Paul V. McNutt
High Commissioner of the Philippines
Succeeded by
Paul V. McNutt

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