John Gilbert Winant

John Gilbert Winant
United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
March 1, 1941  April 10, 1946
Monarch George VI
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Clement Attlee
Preceded by Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.
Succeeded by W. Averell Harriman
60th Governor of New Hampshire
In office
January 1, 1925  January 6, 1927
January 1, 1931 – January 3, 1935
Preceded by Fred H. Brown (1925)
Charles W. Tobey (1931)
Succeeded by Huntley N. Spaulding (1927)
Styles Bridges (1935)
Member of the New Hampshire Senate
In office
Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born February 23, 1889
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died November 3, 1947(1947-11-03) (aged 58)
Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political party Republican

John Gilbert Winant OM (February 23, 1889 – November 3, 1947) was an American politician with the Republican party after a brief career as a teacher in Concord, New Hampshire.[1] Winant was born on East Side, New York City, the son of Frederick and Jeanette Winant, his father a prosperous partner in a real estate company. John Winant held positions in New Hampshire, national, and international politics. He was the first man to serve more than a single two-year term as Governor of New Hampshire, winning election three times. Winant also served as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom during most of World War II. Depressed by career disappointments, a failed marriage, and heavy debts, he committed suicide in 1947.

Early life

Winant attended St. Paul's School in Concord and progressed to Princeton University, but he was a poor student, and left without graduating. He was appointed an instructor in history at St. Paul's in 1913, remaining there until 1917, and elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 1916. In 1917 he joined the United States Army Air Service, trained as a pilot, and commanded the 8th Aero Squadron (Observation) in France, with the rank of captain.

Public offices

Winant returned to his position at St. Paul's in 1919 after his military service, and was elected to the New Hampshire Senate in 1920. He lost money in oil stocks in 1929, which he had profited from through the 1920s.

Governor of New Hampshire

He twice served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1925 to 1927 and later from 1931 to 1935. He served his later terms during the Great Depression and responded in several ways. He oversaw an emergency credit act which allowed the state to guarantee debts of municipalities so that local governments could continue. He pushed through a minimum wage act for women and children. During the depression, Winant fought to keep improving the state's highways while reorganizing the state banking commission and pursuing more accurate accounting of state agencies' funds. Working closely with the federal government, Winant was the first of the states' governors to fill his enrollment quota in the Civilian Conservation Corps.[2]

Other offices

Subsequently President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Winant to be the first head of the Social Security Board in 1935, a position he held until 1937. At the time, it was rumored that Roosevelt appointed Winant to prevent him from running for President in 1936, but Winant never admitted to Presidential aspirations. The next year, he was elected to head the International Labor Office in Geneva, Switzerland, from January 1939.

U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain

In 1941, Roosevelt appointed Winant ambassador to Britain, and Winant remained in that post until he resigned in March 1946. In a 2010 book, Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, author Lynne Olson described Winant as dramatically changing the U.S. stance as ambassador when succeeding pro-appeasement ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Winant announced upon landing at Bristol, England, airport in March 1941, "I'm very glad to be here. There is no place I'd rather be at this time than in England." The remark, for a country that had come through the Battle of Britain and was in the midst of The Blitz, was dramatically on the front page of most British newspapers the next day. The new ambassador quickly developed close contacts with King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, even though the U.S. was only providing military aid and had not yet declared war on the Axis.[3] Winant, according to the book, had an affair with Churchill's second daughter Sarah Churchill during this time.[4]

Winant was with Winston Churchill when he learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.[5]

Return to the U.S.

President Harry S. Truman appointed Winant U.S. representative to UNESCO in 1946, although he retired to Concord shortly after to write his memoirs. However, he found himself unable to adjust to a quieter pace of life. 'Everywhere Winant turned he saw the drama in which he had participated so significantly drawing to a close'.[6] Estranged from his socially ambitious wife and deeply in debt, he became profoundly depressed.[6]


John Gilbert Winant (app. 1943)

In 1947, Winant shot himself in the head at his Concord home on the day his book Letter from Grosvenor Square was published.[7][8] The book Citizens of London reports that after Roosevelt's death, with Winant's distance from his Republican Party base, "[h]e hoped that he was going to become secretary-general of the new UN .... On top of that [disappointed hope], his affair with Sarah Churchill ended badly. 'He was an exhausted, sick man after the war,'" author Olson continued in the interview on NPR.[4]

Winston Churchill sent four dozen yellow roses to Winant's funeral, and the British king and queen sent their condolences by telegram.[9]

Winant was buried at Blossom Hill cemetery in Concord; his wish to be buried in the St Paul's School's consecrated cemetery refused by the Episcopalian rector on the grounds that suicide was a sin. However, in the more secular culture of 1968, his casket was exhumed and reinterred at St Paul's.[10] His epitaph was his 1946 quote: "Doing the day's work day by day, doing a little, adding a little, broadening our bases wanting not only for ourselves but for others also, a fairer chance for all people everywhere. Forever moving forward, always remembering that it is the things of the spirit that in the end prevail. That caring counts and that where there is no vision the people perish. That hope and faith count and that without charity, there can be nothing good. That having dared to live dangerously, and in believing in the inherent goodness of man, we can stride forward into the unknown with growing confidence."[11]

Personal life

Winant married Constance Rivington Russell in 1919.[12] They had a daughter, Constance, in 1921, and two sons, John Jr. and Rivington.[13] Constance married Carlos Valando, a Peruvian scientist, in 1941.[14] John Winant Jr. served as a bomber pilot in World War II and was taken prisoner by the Germans. Sent to Colditz, he was removed in April 1945 as one of the 'Prominente' to be used as a bargaining chip by Himmler and the SS as the end of the war approached; he was eventually released.[15] Rivington Winant also served in World War II and later became treasurer at the United Nations.[16]


In 1947, Winant was only the second (and last) American citizen, after General Dwight Eisenhower, to be made an honorary member of the British Order of Merit. In 1943 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen.


In 1948, the Winant Clayton Volunteers formed in honor of Winant and the Reverend Philip “Tubby” Clayton, organizer of the Toc H Christian charity in the First World War. Initially, American volunteers came to London to help British families rebuild churches and community centers damaged during World War II. In 1959 the exchange was reciprocated with Winant volunteers travelling from America to England while the Claytons go from England to work in the United States.

In 1982, The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire established The John G. Winant Fellowship for students interested in working in non-profit or governmental organizations.[17]

In 2009, Rivington Winant, with his wife Joan, donated 85 acres of land in Concord for the creation of Winant Park in honor of his late father and mother. The property sits on what was formerly the Winants' estate and offers the public biking, hiking and cross-country ski trails.[18]

Two positions have been endowed in Winant's honour at the University of Oxford: the John G. Winant Lectureship in U.S. Foreign Policy and the John Gilbert Winant Visiting Professorship of American Government, which is held at Oxford's Rothermere American Institute.[19]


  1. Lawrence Kestenbaum. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Wilson-allen to Winfrey".
  2. "John G. Winant, A Guide to Likenesses of New Hampshire Officials and Governors on Public Display at the Legislative Office Building and the State House Concord, New Hampshire, to 1998, New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources".
  3. Olson, Lynne, Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, Chapter 1, (2010, Random House, 496 p.) Report with excerpt "Chapter 1: There's No Place I'd Rather Be Than In England" National Public Radio, All things considered, February 3, 2010.
  4. 1 2 Report with author interview at time of publication of Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson (2010, Random House, 496 p.) National Public Radio All things considered, February 3, 2010.
  5. Olson, Lynne, Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour 2010 Random House
  6. 1 2 Freedman, J. O. (2000). John Gilbert Winant. Harvard Magazine Nov. – Dec. 2000. Harvard University.
  7. "Social Security".
  8. James O. Freedman. "John Gilbert Winant—Brief life of an exemplary public servant: 1889–1947". Harvard Magazine, November–December 2000. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  9. Felice Belman; Mike Pride (2001). The New Hampshire Century: Concord Monitor Profiles of One Hundred People who Shaped it. UPNE. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-1-58465-087-4.
  10. Hare, J. (2010). Eventually, Winant ended up at St. Paul's. Concord Monitor, February 5, 2010.
  11. "John Gilbert Winant – Governor and Ambassador".
  12. "The Roosevelt New Deal Sends An Ambassador To Britain's New Dealers". Life. March 3, 1941.
  13. "Commemorative Chairs: John G. Winant".
  14. "Milestones, Feb. 24, 1941". Time. February 24, 1941. Retrieved April 11, 2010.
  15. "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Archived from the original on May 15, 2012.
  16. "John Gilbert Winant – Governor and Ambassador".
  17. "Carsey School of Public Policy". Carsey School of Public Policy. Archived from the original on July 27, 2010.
  18. New Concord Park Honors NH Governor John Gilbert Winant.
  19. John G. Winant Visiting Professor of American Government RAI. June 11, 2015.


John Gilbert Winant A Letter from Grosvenor Square: An Account of a Stewardship Hodder and Stoughton, 1947.

Bellush, Bernard. He Walked Alone: A Biography of John Gilbert Winant. The Hague: Mouton, 1968.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Gilbert Winant.
Political offices
Preceded by
Fred H. Brown
Governor of New Hampshire
1925  1927
Succeeded by
Huntley N. Spaulding
Preceded by
Charles W. Tobey
Governor of New Hampshire
1931  1935
Succeeded by
Styles Bridges
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Clarence A. Dykstra
President of the National Municipal League
Succeeded by
Charles Edison
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Joseph Kennedy
U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom
1941  1946
Succeeded by
Averell Harriman
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