Kent, Sherman, 1903-

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Sherman Kent was born on December 1, 1903, attended the Thacher School, and received his Ph.B. (1926) and Ph.D. (1933) from Yale University. He taught French history at Yale and was a member of the faculty from 1928-1953. In 1941 Kent joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services as chief of the African section and from 1943-1945 served as chief of the Europe-Africa division. In 1946 Kent was acting director of the Office of Research and Intelligence for the United States Department of State. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1950 and served as the director of the Office of National Estimates from 1958 until his retirement in 1967. Kent died in Washington, D.C. on March 11, 1986.

Sherman Kent was born on December 1, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois, one of seven children of William and Elizabeth Thacher Kent. The family moved to Marin County, California, when Kent was small. His father was an early conservationist and served as a congressman in Washington, D.C., where Kent attended the Friends School. Kent prepared for college at the Thacher School, founded by his uncles, in Ojai, California.

In 1926 Kent completed his undergraduate education at Yale University and received his Ph.B. degree. Following his graduation Kent remained at Yale pursuing an advanced degree in French history and serving as an instructor. Kent's graduate work also took him to France for further research. He received his Ph.D. in 1933 and married Elizabeth Gregory in 1934. Kent was named an assistant professor at Yale in 1936. In 1937 he published Electoral Procedure under Louis Philippe, which was based on his dissertation. Kent also served as director of the Division of General Studies. His concern for students embarking on original research for the required senior essay led him to write Writing History, which was published in 1942.

In 1941, as the United States was poised to enter World War II, Kent took a leave of absence from Yale to join the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI). This was later reorganized as the Office of Strategic Services, in which Kent was assigned to the Research and Analysis Branch (R&A). R&A selected and analyzed data and provided strategic surveys of various countries for those departments and agencies of government that required it. In preparation for the invasion of North Africa, Kent's unit produced the first sustained intelligence reports. When R&A was reorganized in January, 1943, Kent was placed in charge of the Europe-Africa and the Near East Division. In late fall and early winter 1943-1944 Kent toured the outposts of the division including Algiers, Corsica, Sicily, Naples, Tunis, Tripoli, and Cairo. By the end of the war Kent had gained a reputation as a hard worker who had the ability to organize his unit to get essential work done.

In 1946, when it became clear that the work of R&A would be moved to the Office of Research and Intelligence, Kent resigned to return to Yale; he had been promoted to the rank of associate professor in 1944 and would be made a full professor in 1947. At first though, he spent a semester as a civilian instructor at the National War College, helping to design their new curriculum, and then used the remaining semester to begin a new book on strategic intelligence. In November, 1949, Kent ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for alderman from New Haven's fifteenth ward.

With the publication of Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy in 1949, Kent framed the "intelligence debate," arguing that those involved in intelligence should provide the data and the analysis but that others should make policy decisions. In November, 1950, Kent returned to Washington to begin work in the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of National Estimates (ONE). He formally resigned from the Yale faculty in 1953. In 1958, Kent was named director of ONE, a post he held until his retirement from government in 1968. During this time Kent had been in Paris with Eisenhower for the Big Four Summit Meeting (1960 May) and represented the CIA at a briefing session for French President Charles DeGaulle on the Cuban missile crisis. He received the National Civil Service Award (1961) and the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Service (1967).

In retirement Kent returned to his study of French history. He made several trips to France, scouring French archives for electoral lists and discovering the Joseph de Villèle diary for 1827, still in family hands. He published (1975) this research in The French Election of 1827 . At about the same time he wrote a series of children's stories, published as A Boy and a Pig, but Mostly Horses (1974). Kent died on March 11, 1986, and was survived by his wife and two children, Sherman Tecumseh Kent and Serafina Kent Bathrick.

From the guide to the Sherman Kent papers, 1763-1991, 1918-1986, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Sherman Kent papers, 1763-1991, 1918-1986 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Kent, William, 1864-1928. William Kent family papers, 1768-1961. Yale University Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bowman, Charlotte. person
associatedWith Bowman, John. person
associatedWith Brodie, Bernard, 1910- person
associatedWith Cooley, James C. person
associatedWith Dulles, Allen Welsh, 1893-1969 person
associatedWith Dunham, William Huse, 1901- person
associatedWith Elizabethan Club (Yale University) corporateBody
associatedWith Foord, Archibald. person
associatedWith Griswold, Alfred Whitney, 1906-1963 person
associatedWith Hemingway, Samuel Burdett, 1883-1958 person
associatedWith Hoover, Calvin B. (Calvin Bryce), 1897- person
associatedWith Joyce, Robert P. person
associatedWith Kent, Elizabeth Gregory. person
associatedWith Kent, Elizabeth Thacher. person
associatedWith Kent family. family
associatedWith Kent, Roger, 1906-1980 person
associatedWith Kent, William, 1864-1928. person
associatedWith Kip, William B. person
associatedWith Labaree, Leonard Woods, 1897- person
associatedWith Langer, William L. (William Leonard), 1896-1977 person
associatedWith McKay, Donald C. (Donald Cope), 1902-1959 person
associatedWith National War College (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Pinkney, David H. person
associatedWith Sawyer, John E. person
associatedWith Seymour, Charles, 1885-1963 person
associatedWith Thacher, Anson. person
associatedWith Thacher School (Ojai, Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Central Intelligence Agency.. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Department of State. Office of Research and Intelligence. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Office of Strategic Services. Research and Analysis Branch. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale College (1887- ). Class of 1926. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Dept. of History. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Faculty. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Military intelligence--United States
History--Study and teaching
Intelligence service--United States


Birth 1903

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SNAC ID: 55911280