Cyrus Roberts

Cyrus Roberts

Vance, Cyrus Roberts, 1917-2002, U.S. secretary of state (1977-80), b. Clarksburg, W.Va., grad. Yale (B.A., 1939, LL.B., 1942). After seeing action in the Navy during World War II, Vance practiced law, becoming a respected international lawyer. He entered government service as a Senate commiittee counsel in 1957. and later served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as secretary of the army (1961-62), deputy secretary of defense (1964-67), and U.S. negotiator to the Paris Peace Conference on the Vietnam War (1968-69). He also served as special envoy to Cyprus (1967) and Korea (1968). As President Carter's secretary of state, Vance opposed the 1980 attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran and resigned after the mission failed. He subsequently served on several diplomatic missions, in particular as head of United Nations' efforts to negotiate an end to the violence following the dissolution of Yugoslavia (1991-92). At various times Vance also served on the boards of corporations, universities, foundations, and other organizations, and was chairman (1988-1990) of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

See his memoirs, Hard Choices (1983); study by D. S. McLellan (1985).

Cyrus Roberts Vance (Clarksburg, West Virginia, March 27, 1917January 12, 2002) was the United States Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1980. He approached foreign policy with an emphasis on negotiation over conflict and a special interest in arms reduction. In April 1980, Vance resigned in protest of Operation Eagle Claw, the secret mission to rescue American hostages in Iran. He was succeeded by Edmund Muskie.

Vance was the nephew (and adoptive son) of 1924 Democratic Presidential Candidate and noted lawyer John W. Davis.


Vance graduated from Kent School in 1935, and received a bachelor's degree in 1939 from Yale University, where he was a member of the secret society, Scroll and Key. He also earned three letters in ice hockey at Yale. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1942.

Military and legal career

Vance served in the United States Navy as a gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Hale until 1946, and then joined the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City, before entering government service.

Political career

Vance was the Secretary of the Army in the Kennedy administration. He worked on sending United States Army units into northern Mississippi in 1962 to protect James Meredith, and put down the resistance to the court ordered integration of the University of Mississippi. As Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Lyndon Johnson, he at first supported the Vietnam War but changed his views by the late 1960s, advising the president to pull out of South Vietnam. In 1968 he served as a delegate to peace talks in Paris. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.

As Secretary of State in the Carter administration, Vance pushed for negotiations and economic ties with the Soviet Union, and clashed frequently with the more hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Vance tried to advance arms limitations by working on the SALT II agreement with the USSR, which he saw as the central diplomatic issue of the time. He was heavily instrumental in Carter's decision to return the Canal Zone to Panama, and in the Camp David Accords agreement between Israel and Egypt.

After the Accords, Vance's influence in the administration began to wane as Brzezinski's rose. His role in talks with People's Republic of China was marginalized, and his advice for a response to the Shah of Iran's collapsing regime was ignored. Shortly thereafter, when fifty-three American hostages were held in Iran, he worked actively in negotiations but to no avail. Finally, when Carter ordered a secret military rescue, Operation Eagle Claw, Vance resigned in opposition after the rescue attempt failed.

In 1997 he was made the original honorary Chair of the American Iranian Council.

Later life and death

Vance returned to his law practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 1980, but was repeatedly called back to public service throughout the 1980s and 1990s, participating in diplomatic missions to Bosnia, Croatia, and South Africa. He and Lord David Owen directly negotiated with Radovan Karadzic treating him like a fellow politician. They and the UN connived in maps and "peace plans" that gave Karadzic everything he had won by violence and tolerated the siege of Sarajevo. Vance's plan Z-4 was agreed to by the Croatian president Tudjman, but was rejected by the Krajina Serb leaders, even though it offered Serbs quite a large degree of autonomy, by world's standards. Being that the Serbs wanted no less than a full independence for Krajina, this was seen by Tudjman's administration as the best opportunity for returning the Krajina region back under the Croatian control. The opportunity was ceased by Tudjman by commencing the Operation Storm, a joint military mission of Croatian and NATO forces in 1995.

In 1993, he was awarded the United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award.

He died aged 84 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Vance also was a member of the Trilateral Commission.

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