John Hay and Abraham Lincoln first met because Hay’s uncle had a law office next to Lincoln’s in Springfield, Ill.
When Lincoln was looking for an assistant secretary to serve in his White House office, his secretary John Nicolay recommended 22-year-old Hay, a former schoolmate of his. Hay started a lifelong career in government service, save six years as an editor at the New York Tribune.
Hay’s clear, lucid writing tells us much of what we know about Mr. Lincoln. Some believe Hay was the real author of Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby, a letter consoling a bereaved mother for the loss of her sons in the war.
Hay went from secretary to secretary of state. He became assistant secretary of state in the Hayes administration and secretary of state in the McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt administrations.