The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 — better known as the GI Bill of Rights — ranks among the most progressive and beneficial laws enacted by any nation. During the past six decades, the law has made possible the investment of billions of dollars in eduation and training for millions of veterans. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill into law on June 22, 1944, it was the culmination of a remarkably well-executed effort in which a former Illinois governor named John H. Stelle played a crucial role. Stelle, a World War I veteran and past national commander of the American Legion, quarterbacked a team of Legion officials that, in the space of just six months, designed and put forth the main features of the GI Bill, organized massive public support and shepherded its successful passage through Congress. Stelle’s leadership and behind-the-scenes negotiating skills are widely credited for the legislation’s surviving stubborn pockets of resistance, intense debate and a conference committee deadlock that nearly scuttled the bill at the 11th hour.

 PUBLISHED: November 3, 0201

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