Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Christian A. Herter (1959–1961): Secretary of State

Christian Herter served as secretary of state to President Eisenhower from April 22, 1959, to January 20, 1961. Herter was born and educated in Paris until 1904, when he went to the United States. He graduated from Harvard in 1915 and attended Columbia University's School of Architecture in 1916, though he left to begin a career in the State Department as clerk to the U.S. embassy in Berlin that same year.

He headed the American legation to Brussels for two months in 1917. The following year, he helped negotiate the release of prisoners of war from Germany. In 1924, he moved to Boston and became active in the magazine business. He bought an interest in the Independent and edited the publication from 1924 to 1928; he did likewise with the Sportsman, purchasing a share and editing the magazine from 1927 to 1936.

At the same time, and for a while thereafter, Herter was both a visiting lecturer on government (1929-1930) and an overseer at Harvard University, holding those posts from 1940 to 1944 and from 1946 to 1952. He also tried his hand at electoral politics, serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1931 to 1943 and acting as the body's speaker from 1939 to 1943. During World War II, Herter was also Deputy Director of the Office of Facts and Figures (1941-1942).

He would later be elected as a congressman from Massachusetts five times (1943-1953) and twice as governor of the state (1953-1957). In 1956, Harold Stassen tried to have him replace Nixon as Eisenhower's vice presidential candidate, but Herter delivered a speech in favor of Nixon, ending that movement.

Eisenhower named Herter undersecretary of state on February 21, 1957, from which post Herter succeeded Secretary of State Dulles in 1959. While not as close to Eisenhower as Dulles, Herter was an important figure in the administration; much of his time was spent dealing with the U-2 spy plane incident in 1960.

After leaving office, he served as cochairman of the United States Citizens Commission on NATO in 1961, urging closer cooperation with the European countries. President Kennedy named him the President's Special Representative for Trade Negotiations, on February 27, 1962, and he continued to serve in that capacity under President Johnson until his death in 1966.