Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William Cohen (1997–2001): Secretary of Defense

William Cohen served as secretary of defense in the second Clinton administration, from 1997 to 2001.

Born in Bangor, Maine, in 1940, Cohen received his undergraduate degree in Latin from Bowdoin College (1962) and his law degree from Boston University Law School (1965).

Cohen served in several local political offices, including assistant county attorney for Penobscot County, Maine (1968-1970), and mayor of Bangor (1971-1972), before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1972. He was twice reelected from his congressional district before being elected to the Senate in 1978. Cohen served in the Senate until he was nominated and confirmed to the position of secretary of defense in 1997.

In addition to holding political office and serving in the Clinton administration, Cohen was an instructor at the University of Maine from 1968 to 1972.