From a eulogy delivered at Robert Lovett's funeral in Locust Valley, N.Y., by journalist A. T. Hadley:
There were the constant, surprising sunbursts of humor that Robert Lovett used to accommodate himself to the world and the world to himself.
During World War II, when Lovett was secretary of war for air, there was a heated controversy over whether the intelligence test given to select candidates for pilot training was too rigorous. The generals on the air staff insisted the tests measured attributes a pilot must have. Lovett, himself a naval aviation hero from World War I -- his pilot's license was number 67 -- felt the test measured very little necessary for flying. Lovett took the test himself and flunked. But instead of fighting the generals over the test's worth, he gave it to seven seniors at MIT. The only one to pass -- to show pilot qualities -- was a female French major from a family of flutists. When Lovett, with his usual grin, threatened to give this fact to the press, the generals wisely folded. . . .
Lovett was sometimes described in the press as a public servant who was the archetypal insider's insider, the epitome of the establishment. That description misses the man. Lovett stood in a place apart. He . . . knew himself so well he was his own establishment.
From this sprang an intellectual and moral certainty that gave him the ability to shepherd people toward his country's purpose, without their ever feeling they were manipulated or used. He laughed at his own failings as easily as he laughed at those of others. He appreciated power. He used power. But his humorous self-knowledge saved him from power's corruptions.