William Stuart Symington was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on 26th June, 1901. Soon afterwards the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland. In 1918 he joined the U.S. Army and by they time he left he had reached the rank of second lieutenant.
After graduating from Yale University Symington he briefly became a newspaper reporter in Baltimore. Later he worked as an iron moulder in Rochester (1923-26). After studying mechanical and electrical engineering by correspondence course he became an executive with a steel company. In 1938 he moved to St. Louis to become president of the Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company.
As a member of the Democratic Party, in 1947, Harry S. Truman appointed Symington as his Assistant Secretary of War for Air. This was followed by holding the posts of Secretary of the Air Force (1947-1950), chairman of the National Security Resources Board (1950-51) and Reconstruction Finance Corporation Administrator (1951-52).
In 1952 Symington was elected to the Senate. He became a respected political figure and in 1960 attempted to win the party's presidential nomination. John F. Kennedy won the nomination and decided to make Symington his running-mate. When Clark Clifford brought him the news, Symington accepted the post but said: "I bet you a hundred dollars that no matter what he says, Jack will not make me his running mate. He will have to pick Lyndon".
In the background Philip Graham and Joseph Alsop were attempting to persuade John F. Kennedy to appoint Lyndon B. Johnson instead. Despite the objection of Robert Kennedy and other leading advisers, Kennedy decided to replace Symington with Johnson.
Symington served in the Senate until his resignation on 27th December, 1976. He lived in New Canaan, Connecticut until his death on 14th December, 1988.