Wilton Burton “Jerry” Persons served as the White House Chief of Staff to President Dwight D. Eisenhower from October 7, 1958 until January 20, 1961.
Persons was a career United States Army officer who had entered the U.S. Army Coast Artillery in 1917 and advanced through the ranks to major general in 1944. He had served in both the American Expeditionary Force in World War I and in Europe in World War II. He headed the office of legislative liaison for the Department of Defense between 1948 and his retirement in 1949. He retired with the rank of Major general.
Persons was called back to active duty as a special assistant to General Dwight D. Eisenhower at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe from 1951–1952 and was active on behalf of Eisenhower’s presidential campaign in 1952. He became a deputy assistant to the president in 1953 and then was made an assistant to the president in 1958. He served throughout the Eisenhower presidency, handling congressional liaison before he replaced Sherman Adams in 1958 as, effectively, Eisenhower’s chief of staff.
Following the 1960 presidential election, Persons was heavily involved as Eisenhower’s representative in the transition of government between the Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy administrations. He met frequently with Clark Clifford, President-elect Kennedy’s transition representative, to work out the details for a smooth transfer of government.