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Dean Acheson

Secretary of State

Dean Acheson

Dean Gooderham Acheson was born in Middletown, Connecticut, on April 11, 1893. He graduated from Yale University in 1915, and from the Harvard Law School in 1918, and served in the U.S. Navy from 1918 to 1919.

In 1919, Acheson became private secretary to Louis D. Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in which position he served until 1921. He was subsequently admitted to the bar, and practiced in Washington, D.C. from 1921 to 1923, and again from 1933 to 1941. In 1933, he served as Under Secretary of the Treasury.

Before becoming Secretary of State, Acheson served as Undersecretary to three Secretaries of State -- Cordell Hull, James F. Byrnes, and George C. Marshall. Under Marshall, he played an important role in devising the Truman Doctrine and the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan). In 1947, he was appointed by President Harry Truman to the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government; from 1947 to 1948, he served as chairman of the American section of the Permanent Joint Defense Board.

In 1949, President Truman named Acheson as his Secretary of State, and he served in this position through the end of Truman's term. As Secretary of State, Acheson participated in negotiations that led to the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, and was responsible for carrying out the Marshall Plan. He also began much of the Truman Doctrine to save Greece and Turkey from Russian imperialism. During the Korean War, Acheson sided with President Truman's decision to fire General Douglas MacArthur, after MacArthur insisted that the United States should carry that war directly into China.

Acheson resumed his private law practice after leaving office, and died at Sandy Spring, Maryland, on October 12, 1971.

Acheson was the author of: Power and Diplomacy (1958); Morning and Noon (1965); Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (1969), for which he won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for History; and The Korean War (1971).


U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian

See Also

Yale University
Secretary of State
George C. Marshall
President Harry Truman
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Douglas MacArthur

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The Robinson Library >> United States >> Early 20th Century >> Biography, A-Z

This page was last updated on October 09, 2018.