Following World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in 1946, delivered one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century. Known officially as the “Sinews of Peace,” Churchill’s speech came to be known as the “Iron Curtain” speech, and it foreshadowed the Cold War.
Churchill chose to deliver the speech in an unorthodox place – Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, after receiving an invitation from the president of the college.
“I’m sure that invitation would have been given to a secretary and politely declined, say for a very famous postscript on the bottom of the letter written in longhand,” said Timothy Riley, director and chief curator of the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College in Fulton.
That postscript was written and signed by U.S. President Harry S. Truman and it read: “This is a wonderful school in my home state, hope you can do it. If you come, I will introduce you.”
“When Churchill saw that, he knew that he would be on the same stage with the President of the United States. He would be back in the game and he accepted the invitation to come to Fulton,” Riley said.
Coming to Fulton also helped Churchill reenergize his career. Following Victory in Europe Day, the British leader’s political party lost an election and Churchill was forced to resign as prime minister.
“He was arguably the most recognizable figure in the world but without a job,” Riley said.
Indeed, Churchill’s career was reenergized and he would again serve as prime minister.
Commemorating the British Leader
Fifteen years after the famed “Iron Curtain” speech, leaders at the college sought to commemorate Churchill’s historic visit.
In 1961, they identified and began the process of acquiring the stones of a centuries old church in central London that was destroyed in The Blitz, the German bombing offensive that occurred in 1940 and 1941.
St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury was originally built in the 12th century, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and reconstructed a few years later by noted architect Christopher Wren, who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral.
To hear more about the church and how Churchill is commemorated in Fulton, listen to the audio below. It features a conversation between St. Louis on the Air producer Alex Heuer and Timothy Riley, as well as a conversation between Heuer and host Don Marsh about the church.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.