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C. Evan Stewart ’77 Discusses His Book Myron Taylor, The Man Nobody Knew
Photo of a man wearing a black suit and tie holding a copy of a book with a black and white cover. He is smiling at the camera and standing in front of a wooden display case.

Evan Stewart holding a copy of Myron Taylor, The Man Nobody Knew

On April 24 in Cornell Law’s Myron Taylor Hall, C. Evan Stewart ’77 took his place behind the podium, looking very much “at home.” The fourth generation Cornellian loves to teach, is passionate about history, and had just completed his book (twenty-plus years in the making) about the man whose name was on the building where he was speaking.

Those attending the book talk event were quickly absorbed in the story of Myron Taylor, The Man Nobody Knew. Next to Ezra Cornell, Taylor was the University’s greatest benefactor, but his influence spread far beyond the place where he earned his law degree in 1894. Taylor changed history. “But for Mr. Taylor, we’d all be speaking German now,” declared Stewart.

Stewart’s ease in relaying little known historical facts belied the sometimes agonizing investigative work that went into uncovering them. He began the assignment at the request of his former Cornell Law professor, W. David Curtiss who had started the book but fell too ill to finish it. Agreeing to take on the work, Stewart expanded research beyond the Cornell archives to the FDR and Truman Presidential Libraries, Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, the Vatican, and more.

“When you do archival research like this, it’s similar to an archeological dig. You find a pot over here and search for the lid, which you might find 500 feet away,” says Stewart. Of course, a one-hour webinar could only scratch the surface of the stories contained in Stewart’s book, but he offered enough intrigue to those in attendance to encourage them to dive deeper into history:

  • After “rescuing” Goodyear Tire and “saving” U.S. Steel, Taylor is called upon by FDR to deal with Adolf Hitler. “Hitler is holding the Jews hostage. Can you do something about it?,” FDR asks Taylor.
  • FDR asks Taylor to be his personal representative to the Vatican because he needed someone the Pope could trust and respect. Taylor was influential in ensuring that the United States could send aid to Russia with the support of American Catholics (who were quite isolationist at the time). The aid bolstered Russia’s defenses against the Nazis. The world would be very different today without Taylor’s influence in this matter.
  • Taylor was also the first person to bring documented proof of the Holocaust to Pope Pius XII as the Vatican was struggling to figure out its future in the midst of powerful totalitarian governments. Historians have wildly different reflections on the Pope as a Saint or Hitler’s Pope. “You cannot look at history through hindsight,” says Stewart. “You have to look at it through the eyes of the people at the time.”

Stewart presents a more nuanced view of the Pope’s role and history in the 300-plus pages of his book, Myron Taylor, The Man Nobody Knew, expanding on the legacy of a legendary Cornellian.

A recording of the April 24 book talk by C. Evan Stewart is available here.

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