In the 1940s Bowles turned his attention to government. During World War II, he served as the Connecticut state director of price administration and moved on to Washington, where he served in the Office of Price Administration (OPA). Bowles, a Democrat, returned to Connecticut in 1946 and entered the gubernatorial race but lost his party's nomination. Two years later he again ran for governor, this time winning the Democratic nomination and narrowly defeating the incumbent. Governor Bowles pursued a liberal agenda. During his two-year term he integrated the state's National Guard and expanded educational opportunities. Many of his other programs were stymied, however, and Bowles lost his 1950 reelection bid.
In 1951, President Harry S. Truman appointed Bowles U.S. ambassador to India. Following his return from India, Bowles remained politically active and successfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958 but chose not to seek reelection in 1960.
President John F. Kennedy named Bowles undersecretary of state in 1961. Bowles was not very influential in the Kennedy White House, and his criticism of Kennedy's foreign policy initiatives—especially the Bay of Pigs invasion—led to his replacement by George Ball in December 1961. In 1962 Kennedy named Bowles as special representative and advisor on African, Asian, and Latin American affairs. In July 1963 he was again named ambassador to India, a position he held until 1969.
Bowles published his memoirs in 1971. He died in Essex, Connecticut, in 1986.
Justin P. Coffey
Schaffer, Howard B. Chester Bowles: New Dealer in the Cold War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.