The King-Crane Commission

Biographical Background

Biographical Background of the Commission

The two Commissioners, Henry Churchill King and Charles R. Crane, had limited exposure to the Near East, with the former serving as President of Oberlin College, and the latter a prominent Chicago businessman and Democratic Party figure. Their experts and staff members were largely drawn from the American Mission to Negotiate Peace in Paris, including academics like Albert H. Lybyer of the University of Illinois, and military officers with previous service in the Near East, such as Captain William Yale.

Henry Churchill King was affiliated with Oberlin College for nearly half a century, serving as its President from 1902 until his retirement in 1927. King took his undergraduate degree at Oberlin in 1879, then studied at Oberlin Theological Seminary, while tutoring Latin and mathematics at Oberlin Academy. King was an associate professor of mathematics from 1884-90, of philosophy from 1890-7, and of theology from 1897 onwards. King became Dean in 1901 and was appointed President the year thereafter. During World War I, King was Director of the Religious Work Department of the Y.M.C.A. in France, before being asked by President Wilson to serve as one of the two Commissioners on the inter-allied mission to Turkey. 

Charles R. Crane, King’s fellow Commissioner, came from a markedly different background.  After nearly a quarter century in the Chicago manufacturing industry, Crane’s philanthropy and heavy political donations to Woodrow Wilson’s campaign in 1912 led to his diplomatic service.  In 1917, Crane was a member of Wilson’s Special Diplomatic Commission to Russia, while after the King-Crane Commission, he was appointed as U.S. Minister to China (1920-1921).  He went on to found the Institute for Current World Affairs in 1925, and worked to promote ties between the United States and China. 

Albert Howe Lybyer was a professor of history, first at Oberlin College, then at the University of Illinois, and served as General Technical Adviser for the Commission.  Lybyer was part of the Balkan Division of the American Mission to Negotiate Peace before learning about the planned mission to Turkey and Syria from King.

Captain William Yale, Technical Adviser for the Southern Regions of Turkey, was trained as a civil engineer, and in 1917 had been appointed as a Special Agent of the Department of State and dispatched to Cairo to report on political developments.  Given a military commission, he was made a Military Observer to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine from June 1918 to January 1919, before being recalled to Paris as an expert on Arab affairs.

Dr. George Montgomery, Technical Adviser for the Northern Regions of Turkey, was an ordained minister and professor of philosophy at Carleton College, Yale University, and New York University. Before being appointed to the American Mission to Negotiate Peace, he served as special assistant to the American ambassador in Constantinople in 1916.

Captain Donald Brodie graduated from Oberlin College in 1911 then earned an M.A. from Columbia University in 1915 before becoming a member of the American Mission to Negotiate Peace.  After serving as Secretary of the King-Crane Commission, Brodie went on to work as Charles Crane’s financial secretary until 1939.  He continued to collaborate with Crane, working as treasurer of the Institute of World Affairs, the China Institute in America, and the China Foundation.

Sami Haddad, Commission physician and interpreter, was a noted surgeon in Lebanon, and after his service in the King-Crane Commission became a prolific author in both English and Arabic, establishing a non-profit hospital in Beirut that was demolished during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).

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