Woodcock, Leonard Freel

Woodcock, Leonard Freel

Woodcock, Leonard Freel, 1911-2000, American labor leader, b. Providence, R.I. In 1933 he went to work as a machine assembler at the Detroit Gear and Machine Co., where he joined a union that became a United Automobile Workers (UAW) local a few years later. He served (1947-55) as regional director for UAW in Michigan, and from 1955 to 1970 he was vice president of the union, in charge of the General Motors and aerospace departments. In 1970 he succeeded his mentor, Walter Reuther, as president of UAW, the second largest union in the United States. In 1977 he retired from the union and was named head of the U.S. liaison mission in Beijing. After playing a pivotal role in negotiating the establishment of full diplomatic relations with China in 1979, Woodcock served (1979-81) as ambassador. He later taught at the Univ. of Michigan.
Leonard Freel Woodcock (February 15, 1911January 16, 2001) was an American labor union leader and diplomat who was the president of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) from 1970 to 1977.


Woodcock was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1911, the son of machinist Ernest Woodcock and Mary Freel.

After dropping out of Detroit City College in 1933, Woodcock worked as a machine assembler. In 1941, he married his first wife Loula Martin with whom he had a son John and two daughters, Janet and Leslie. Divorcing Loula, Woodcock remarried in 1978, the a nurse Sharon Tuohy, to whom he remained married until his death.

In 1970, working his way up the ranks, Woodcock became first the International Vice President of the UAW from 1955-1970. Following this, from 1970-1977, he succeeded Walter Reuther as the fifth President of the UAW.

In 1977 Woodcock retired from the union and was named head of the United States Liaison Office in Beijing (which served as the de facto U.S. embassy in the People's Republic of China in the absence of full diplomatic relations) by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. After playing a pivotal role in negotiating the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1979. Woodcock, who served from 1979 to 1981, was the first United States ambassador to the communist Chinese state and the first ambassador to mainland China since 1949, when Leighton Stuart had been ambassador to the Republic of China.

Woodcock later taught at the University of Michigan. He lived in Ann Arbor with his wife Sharon until his death on January 16, 2001. Woodcock had three children, John Woodcock (ret. Maj Colonel, USAF), Janet Woodcock (Photographer) and Leslie Woodcock Tentler (Professor of History); a daughter- and son-in-law (Carol Collins, Framer, partner of Janet and Thomas Tentler, Professor of History, married to Leslie); three grandchildren (Sarah Tentler, Speechwriter; Gregory Tentler, Art Historian; and Daniel Tentler, Lawyer); and a godson, Daniel Miller (high school student).

Woodcock's name appeared on Nixon's enemies list at #9, with the annotation "No comments necessary".


  • "Woodcock, Leonard Freel." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004.

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