Rex W. Tillerson (2017-2018)
Rex Wayne Tillerson was born March 23, 1952, in Wichita Falls, Texas. He attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in civil engineering in 1975. He was involved with the Boy Scouts of America, becoming an Eagle Scout, and served as the national president of the Boy Scouts from 2010 to 2012.
After college, Tillerson started working at the Exxon Company, and he spent his entire professional career the ExxonMobile Corporation. In his 31 years with Exxon, Tillerson rose through the ranks from production engineer to various senior executive positions, including President of Exxon Yemen, Inc. In 2006, CEO Lee Raymond personally selected Tillerson to be the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobile. In 2015, Forbes magazine named Tillerson the 25th most powerful person in the world. Tillerson remained CEO of ExxonMobil until the announcement of his nomination as Secretary of State. He resigned effective January 1, 2017.
In 2016, Tillerson’s net worth was estimated to be $245 million. He contributed to Republican political campaigns as a private citizen, including those of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, and Jeb Bush, although he did not donate to Donald Trump’s campaign. Rumors of his potential nomination as Secretary of State began circulating in December 2016, and President-elect Trump confirmed them on December 13, 2016.
All Republican Senators as well as four Democrats and one Independent confirmed Tillerson. However, there were concerns about his corporate ties and relationship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. On behalf of Exxon, Tillerson worked with Putin and other Russian oil executives to broker business deals, and he opposed sanctions against Russia in 2014. Tillerson also served as the director of Exxon Neftegas, a joint US-Russian oil company, from 1998 to 2001, and received an Order of Friendship from Putin in 2013. Tillerson has since severed financial ties with ExxonMobil in accordance with conflict-of-interest requirements of the State Department.
Tillerson has been hesitant to take a firm stance on the human contribution to climate change, but he does favor a carbon tax as an effective means regulating emissions. Since his appointment, he has made diplomatic visits to Germany, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.