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John S. Gleason, Jr.
Director of Veterans Administration

In office
President John F. Kennedy
Personal details
Born 1915
Chicago, Illinois
Died May 1993 (aged 78)
Chicago, Illinois
Citizenship United States of America
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Mary Jane
Profession Banker
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1940–1973
Rank Major General

John S. Gleason Jr. (1915–1993) was director of the Veterans Administration, National Commander of the American Legion, commander of the 85th Support Command in the United States Army and recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Legion of Merit.

Early life

John Gleason Jr. was born in 1915 in Chicago, Illinois.[1][2] His father was employed at the First National Bank of Chicago where Gleason would work when he grew older.[2] He attended college at Notre Dame, graduating in 1940.[1] Later in life, Gleason attended Harvard University, receiving a business degree.[2] Upon graduation from college, Gleason enlisted in the United States Army.[1]

Military career

Gleason served in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War. Gleason distinguished himself during the war: As a result of his actions, he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. At the end of the war, Gleason held the rank of major. He did not fully leave military service until 1973 as a major general, serving as commander of the 85th Support Command in the National Guard from 1958 to 1969.[3]

Civilian life

Gleason served as national commander of the American Legion from 1957 to 1958.[4] Gleason's tenure as head of the American Legion is noted for his avocation of anti-communist education of young Americans.[5]

In 1961, President Kennedy appointed John Gleason as head of the Veterans Administration (VA).[1] This was the first time a former Commander of the American legion had been appointed to this role.[2] As head of the VA, Gleason was known for his passionate pursuit of veterans' health and well-being.[6][7] While head of the VA, Gleason was charged with giving the national Veterans Day speech in 1964.[8] In 1964, he retired from the VA.

In 1965, he returned to First National Bank of Chicago, where he had previously worked.[1] Gleason became the bank's vice president of business development.[1] In 1970, Gleason moved to Mercantile Bank. Gleason acted as the Mercantile's chairman and Chief Executive Officer until 1976.[1] In 1977, Gleason was tried for bank fraud, for having used 500,000 dollars of the bank's funds for personal use.[9] He was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to three years in prison; he served 18 months.[1]

After exiting prison, Gleason became a Roman Catholic deacon, serving as the first lay chaplain at Metropolitan Correction Center.[1] He had also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.[1]

Personal life

John S. Gleason was married until his death to his wife Mary Jane. They had six boys named John S. "Jack" III, Daniel, Richard, Thomas, David, and Martin.[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Kiernan, Louise (5 April 1993). "Ex-va Chief, City Banker John S. Gleason Jr., 78". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "How many American Legion national commanders have also served as head of VA?". The American Legion. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  3. "85th Leadership History". United States Army National Guard. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  4. "Past National Commanders". American Legion. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  5. Peacock, Margaret (2014). Innocent weapons : the soviet and American politics of childhood in the cold war.. Univ Of North Carolina Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-4696-1857-9. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  6. "Veteran's Column: The State Dept. of Veterans Affairs". The Florence Times. 23 June 1963.,6749867&hl=en. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  7. "Stritch School of Medicine History by Era". Loyola University. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  8. "Veterans Day Speeches". US Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  9. UPI (15 June 1977). "Legion Ex-Commander Charger with Fund Use". The Byran Times.,1737455&hl=en. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 

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