Warren County Historical Society Presents …

The Digital Version * * * “REWIND”

April 30, 2013

Army Hero, Glens Falls Native

Glens Falls Native Robert Porter Patterson served as a key player in World War II as the United States Undersecretary of War (1940-1945) and Secretary of War (1945-1947).

A major figure of World War II was Glens Falls native, Robert Porter Patterson. Born on Center Street on February 12, 1891, he became a significant player in the world conflict. Raised and educated in Glens Falls, Patterson went on to college, graduating from Union College in 1912. He went on to Harvard Law School, graduating with a degree in law and moved to New York City.

During World War I, Patterson served in the United State Army with the 306th Infantry of the AEF in France. Reaching the rank of major, he received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in action.

After the war, he returned to New York City to continue his law practice when, in 1930, President Herbert Hoover appointed him a Federal District Court Judge. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Robert Patterson to the Court of Appeals. The following year he was promoted by President Roosevelt to Undersecretary of War under Secretary Henry L. Stimson.

In his position as Undersecretary of War, Robert Patterson was instrumental in the mobilization of the armed forces preparing for and moving into World War II. He was directly responsible for production and procurement for the Army during the war.

Following the War, on September 27, 1945, Patterson succeeded Henry Stimson as Secretary of War, appointed by President Harry S. Truman. He served in that position until July 18, 1947. While with the War Department, Patterson advocated unifying the armed services (army and navy) and having a single chief of staff. Patterson also participated in the desegregation of the armed forces, specifically during late stages of World War II with his assistance in creating an African-American fighter group, known now as the Tuskeegee Airmen.

The Distinguished Service Cross, a medal that Robert Paterson received for heroism in France during the first world war.

Patterson returned to his law practice in New York City in 1947. President Truman reportedly offered to reappoint Patterson to his former judgeship on the Second Circuit, but Patterson declined, opting to return to private practice. His law firm continues today as a preeminent law firm in New York City and still carries his name, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.



As a private practice lawyer, Patterson was well respected, evidenced by his service as the president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He also was president of the Council of Foreign Relations. The Council of Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, publisher, and ‘think tank’ specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. It is considered to be the nation’s “most influential foreign-policy think tank.


Robert Patterson died on January 22, 1952, at age 60, when American Airlines Flight 6780 crashed on approach to Newark Airport. He is one of many Glens Falls natives who played a major role in world affairs.
© April 30  2013, Warren County Historical Society

Article prepared by Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society.

Photos courtesy of the internet.



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