David Kirkpatrick Este Bruce, Lawyer, Diplomat, Author and Politician
On the winter Saturday of 12 February, 1898, William Cabell and Louise Fisher Bruce welcomed into the world of Baltimore, Maryland, a son, David Kirkpatrick Este Bruce. His father, William, was a distinguished United States Senator representing Maryland (1923 – 1929) and Pulitzer Prize winning author, born in Charlotte County, Virginia at “Staunton Hill”, the family plantation.
Being raised up in a world of politics and literary pursuits, it is not surprising to find David following in his father’s footsteps. His initial education in elementary and high school was in Baltimore. David continued his education at the University of Virginia, as had his father, graduating in 1920, then to the Law School at the University of Maryland and later, Princeton University. He was admitted to the bar in Maryland and served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1926 – 1928. Ten years later he would serve in the Virginia House of Delegates (1939 – 1942).
David served his country in the United States Army during the First World War; served as an agent in the Office of Strategic Services in London and later, in 1944, observed the liberation of Paris.
Family life for David began on May 29, 1926 when he married Ailsa Mellon (1901 – 1969), daughter of banking tycoon and diplomat Andrew W. Mellon. This union produced one daughter, Audrey, who married Stephen Currier, presenting David with three grandchildren, Andrea, Lavinia and Michael. David and Ailsa divorced on April 20, 1945. Three days afterward, David married Evangeline Bell (1914 – 1995) who bore him two sons and a daughter.
Bruce further served his country diplomatically under three Presidents. Beginning in the administration of Harry Truman he served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce (1947 – 1948), Chief of the Economic Cooperation Administration to France (1948 – 1949), Ambassador to France from 1949 to 1952 and Under Secretary of State (1952 – 1953). During the Eisenhower administration David served as Ambassador to West Germany, which post he held from 1957 -1959. After a break he was called once more to ambassadorial duty by John F. Kennedy, who appointed him Ambassador to Great Britain in 1961, a posting he held until the end of the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976.
Like his father, David Bruce exhibited a literary prowess and authored several books, most notably: Seven Pillars of the Republic (1936), Sixteen American Presidents: From Washington to Lincoln (1936) and Revolution to Reconstruction (1939).
Bruce purchased and restored "Staunton Hill", the family estate in Charlotte County, Virginia. Originally built in 1848-1849 for his grandfather Charles Bruce, it stands as one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the South. Charlotte Court House further honored Bruce with establishment of David Bruce Avenue. Bruce died of an apparent heart attack on December 5, 1977 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C. As a member of one of the Charlotte County premier families, David Bruce is fondly remembered and revered.
David Bruce: Biography, The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by John Simkin
Charlotte County Rich Indeed, 1979
Drawing by: Molly Bishop, 1968