Brewster was born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, the son of Florence Foster (née Besse) and Kingman Brewster Sr., a lawyer. He graduated from Yale in 1941, where he was chairman of the Yale Daily News. His junior year, he turned down an offer of membership in Skull and Bones. In 1948, he received his law degree from Harvard Law School. After teaching at Harvard Law School from 1950 to 1960, he accepted the post of Provost at Yale, serving from 1960 to 1963. Upon the death of President A. Whitney Griswold, he was named President of Yale University, serving from 1963 to 1977.
He was known for the improvements he made to Yale's faculty, curriculum, and admissions policies, and for his skillful handling of student protests during the protests against the Vietnam War, which he himself opposed. He was president during the Black Panther trials in New Haven, and presided over, and largely initiated, the admission of women as undergraduates in 1969.
As president, he appointed an undergraduate admissions director, R. Inslee Clark, under whose tenure the proportion of undergraduate African-Americans, Jews, and public high school graduates rose.
Brewster's appointment of the controversial liberal chaplain William Sloane Coffin, is described in Coffin's autobiography Once to Every Man. After his appointment, Coffin, a former CIA operative and Skull & Bones member, became an ardent anti-war activist, complicating Brewster's dealings with an increasingly wary alumni.
After leaving Yale, he served as United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom (officially the post is known as "U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James") from 1977 to 1981. Later he was appointed Master of University College, Oxford, serving from 1986 until his death there in 1988. He is interred in Grove Street Cemetery, in New Haven, Connecticut.
Brewster's life and career at Yale is the focus of Geoffrey Kabaservice's 2004 book, The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment.
Action liberalism.(Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism)(The Fall of the House of Roosevelt: Brokers of Ideas and Power from FDR to LBJ)(The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment)(Book Review)
Jan 01, 2005; EUGENE MCCARTHY: THE RISE AND FALL OF POSTWAR AMERICAN LIBERALISM BY DOMINIC SANDBROOK Knopf, 416 pages, $25.95 THE FALL OF THE...