Dean Rusk

Dean Rusk

Rusk, Dean (David Dean Rusk), 1909-94, U.S. secretary of state (1961-69), b. Cherokee co., Ga. After teaching (1934-40) and serving in World War II, he entered (1946) the Dept. of State. In 1950 he became assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern Affairs and played a major role in the U.S. decision to take military action in the Korean War. After serving (1952-61) as president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Rusk became (1961) secretary of state in President John F. Kennedy's cabinet and continued to hold the post under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He supported economic aid to underdeveloped nations, low tariffs to encourage world trade, and the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union. A firm believer in the use of military force to prevent Communist expansion, Rusk strongly defended the Vietnam War. Following his retirement from public service, he taught international law at the Univ. of Georgia (1970-84).

See The Winds of Freedom, selections from his speeches, ed. by E. K. Lindley (1963).

David Dean Rusk (February 9, 1909December 20, 1994) was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was the second-longest serving Secretary of State, behind Cordell Hull.

Childhood and Education

Dean Rusk was born a poor farm boy in Cherokee County, Georgia. He was educated in Atlanta's public schools. After graduation from Boys High School in 1925 he worked two years for an Atlanta lawyer. Rusk then worked his way through Davidson College. He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order Sigma chapter,, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel commanding the ROTC battalion, and was graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1931. While attending St. John's College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, he received the Cecil Peace Prize in 1933.

From 1934 to 1940 he taught at Mills College in Oakland, California. He earned his law degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1940.

He married Virginia Foisie [1937-06-19] and they had three children.

Career Prior to 1961

In World War II he joined the infantry as a reserve captain, and served as a staff officer in the CBI Theater. At war's end he was a colonel, decorated with the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster.

He returned to America to work briefly for the War Department in Washington. He joined the Department of State in February 1945 working for the office of United Nations Affairs. In the same year, he suggested splitting Korea into a sphere of U.S. and one of Soviet influence at the 38th parallel north. He was made Deputy Under Secretary of State in 1949. He was made Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in 1950 and played an influential part in the US decision to become involved in the Korean War, and also Japan's postwar compensation for victorious countries, such as the Rusk documents. However he was a cautious diplomat and always sought international support.

Rusk was a Rockefeller Foundation trustee from 1950 to 1961. In 1952 he succeeded Chester L. Barnard as president of the Foundation.

Secretary of State

On December 12, 1960, Democratic President-elect John F. Kennedy appointed Rusk Secretary of State. He was sworn in January, 1961.

As Secretary of State he was a believer in the use of military action to combat Communism. During the Cuban missile crisis he supported diplomatic efforts. Early in his tenure, he had strong doubts about US intervention in Vietnam, but later his vigorous public defense of US actions in the Vietnam War made him a frequent target of anti-war protests. Outside of his work against communism, he continued his Rockefeller Foundation ideas of aid to developing nations and also supported low tariffs to encourage world trade. Rusk also drew the ire of supporters of Israel after he let it be known that he believed the USS Liberty incident was a deliberate attack on the ship, rather than an accident.

As he recalled in his autobiography, As I Saw It, Rusk didn't have a good relationship with President Kennedy. He repeatedly offered his resignation, but it was never accepted. Shortly after the John F. Kennedy assassination, Rusk offered his resignation to the new President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. It has been suggested that President Johnson asked him to stay and that the two became friends. When Johnson died in 1973, he eulogized the former President when he lay in state.


Rusk received both the Sylvanus Thayer Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.

Following his retirement, he taught international law at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia (1970-1984).

Rusk Eating House, the first women’s eating house at Davidson College, was founded in 1977 and is named in his honor.

Dean Rusk Middle School, located in Canton, Georgia, was named in his honor.

See also


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