Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Clayton K. Yeutter (1989–1991): Secretary of Agriculture

Clayton Keith Yeutter, born in Eustis, Nebraska, in 1930, served four Presidents in a political career that spanned several decades. Yeutter earned his B.S. with high distinction in 1952, his J.D. in 1963, and his Ph.D. in 1966, completing all three degrees at the University of Nebraska.

From 1952 to 1957, he served in the United States Air Force, remaining on active reserve from 1957 to 1975. Throughout his years of military service and education, he continued to manage his 2,500 acre farming, ranching, and cattle-feeding operation, located in central Nebraska.

After stints of college teaching at the University of Nebraska and practicing law in Lincoln, he served as executive assistant to the governor of Nebraska and then as the director of the University of Nebraska Mission in Colombia, a program offering technical agricultural assistance.

By 1970, he was serving in the Nixon administration as an assistant secretary of agriculture and, in 1972, became a regional director for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. During the Ford administration, Yeutter served as assistant secretary for marketing and consumer services, assistant secretary for international affairs and commodity programs, and deputy special trade representative. In 1977, Yeutter returned to Nebraska, where he practiced law.

A year later, however, he was in Chicago, where he assumed the job of president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a position he held for seven years. In 1985, as united states trade representative, Yeutter started serving his third president, handling various trade negotiations during the Reagan administration.

In 1989, Clayton Yeutter left his position as U.S. trade representative to become President George H.W. Bush's secretary of agriculture. By 1991, he had changed jobs again, becoming chairman of the Republican National Committee, though a year later he was back with Bush, this time as a counselor to the President. From 1993 to the present, Yeutter has worked at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C., where he focuses on issues of international trade, food, and agriculture.