His father's side* of the family included prominent Democrats and his mother's side* were Republicans. His paternal grandfather, Adlai E. Stevenson I (the name Adlai skipped a generation), was a U.S. vice president. A maternal great-grandfather, Jesse Fell, was one of the founders of the Illinois Republican Party. As Adlai would later confess, "I have a bad case of hereditary politics."
Adlai graduated from Princeton and earned a law degree from Northwestern. During World War II, he worked for the U.S. Navy and State Department. He also played a leading role in the establishment of the United Nations. In 1948, Adlai was elected governor of Illinois. As governor, he helped cleanup government by reducing politics in state hiring practices. He also opposed the anti-communist hysteria of "McCarthyism."
In 1952, he was the Democratic Party's nominee for president. He ran against the popular war hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The campaign ended in defeat but it made Stevenson a national figure. The two men faced each other again in 1956. Stevenson ran on a platform that asked for nuclear test bans* and ending the military draft. He lost again.
With the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, Adlai was appointed ambassador to the United Nations*. He was the most prominent world figure to have ever served as a UN Ambassador.
Adlai E. Stevenson II died on July 14, 1965, in London, England. He is buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington.