Lawrence Eagleburger, U.S. Secretary of State

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Lawrence Sidney Eagleburger

Birthdate: (80)
Death: June 4, 2011 (80)
Immediate Family:

Son of Leon Sidney Eagleburger and Helen Mable Eagleburger

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About Lawrence Eagleburger, U.S. Secretary of State

Lawrence Sidney Eagleburger (August 1, 1930 – June 4, 2011) was an American statesman and career diplomat, who served briefly as the Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. Previously, he had served in lesser capacities under Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and as Deputy Secretary of State under George H. W. Bush.

Eagleburger is the only career Foreign Service Officer to have served as Secretary of State.

Education and personal life

Eagleburger was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Helen (née Van Ornum), an elementary school teacher, and Leon Sidney Eagleburger, a physician. He graduated from P J Jacobs High School in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, then attended Stevens Point State College (now the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point), before earning his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. During his time at Wisconsin, he joined Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. On May 6, 1995, he delivered the commencement address to the 1995 graduating class of James Madison University.

He was formerly a member of the Board of Visitors at the College of William and Mary.

Eagleburger also served in the United States Army (1952–1954), attaining the rank of First Lieutenant.

He had three sons, all of whom are named Lawrence Eagleburger, though they have different middle names. The eldest is from his first marriage, which ended in divorce. The other two are from his second marriage, which was to Marlene Heinemann from 1966 until her death in 2010.

Governmental career

In 1957, Eagleburger joined the United States Foreign Service, and served in various posts in embassies, consulates, and the Department of State. From 1961 to 1965 he served as a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

Starting in 1969, he served in the Nixon administration as an assistant to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. He stayed in this appointment until 1971; thereafter he took on several positions, including advisor to the U.S. Mission to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, and, following Kissinger's appointment as Secretary of State, a number of additional posts in the State Department.

Following Nixon's resignation, he briefly left government service, but was soon appointed as ambassador to Yugoslavia by President Jimmy Carter, a post he held from 1977 to 1980.

In 1982, Reagan appointed him as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (the State Department's third-ranking position), a position he held for several years. He then became president of Kissinger Associates, a consultancy firm which provided firms with advice on international politics. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed him Deputy Secretary of State (the Department's second-ranking position); he also served as the President's primary advisor for affairs relating to the quickly disintegrating Yugoslavia. On August 23, 1992, James Baker resigned as Secretary of State (to head up Bush's unsuccessful re-election campaign), and Eagleburger served as Acting Secretary of State until Bush gave him a recess appointment for the remainder of the Bush administration.

His period as advisor for Yugoslavian affairs from 1989 to 1992 was highly controversial. He gained a reputation for being a strong Serbian partisan, most controversially denying that Serbian paramilitaries and the Yugoslav National Army had committed atrocities in the breakaway republic of Croatia. This perceived partisanship led the European press to dub him Lawrence of Serbia (a reference to Lawrence of Arabia).

In 1991, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Citizens Medal. He was a member of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute.

International Commission on Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims

Eagleburger became chairman of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, or ICHEIC, which was set up in 1998. The purpose of the Commission was to resolve unpaid Nazi-era insurance claims for survivors of the Holocaust. In 2005, Eagleburger announced that the ICHEIC was offering approximately 16 million dollars to Holocaust victims and their heirs, noting as he did so the research ability of the ICHEIC staff which allowed them to evaluate claims from companies which no longer existed. In the years prior to this there had been some controversy about the Commission, including reports that it was over-budgeted and too slow, and that insurance companies which had previously agreed to work with the ICHEIC had failed to disclose policyholder lists. Eagleburger responded to these accusations by saying, among other things, that it was difficult to work quickly when many of the claimants lacked basic information such as the name of the insurance company involved.

Stance on Middle Eastern conflict

After serving in the Foreign Service for 27 years, Eagleburger retained an interest in foreign policy and was a familiar figure on current events talk shows. He caused some discussion with public comments about President George W. Bush's foreign policy. In August 2002, Eagleburger questioned the timing of possible military action in Iraq, saying, "I am not at all convinced now that this is something we have to do this very moment." He did indicate he believed that Iraqi regime change could be a legitimate U.S. endeavor at some point, but that at that time he did not believe the administration was fully prepared for such a conflict. In April 2003, following warnings by the Bush administration to the government of Syria, Eagleburger condemned the possibility of military action in Syria or Iran, saying that public opinion would not support such a move and that "If President Bush were to try it now, even I would feel he should be skinned alive."

On January 5, 2006, he participated in a meeting at the White House of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials. On November 10, 2006 it was announced that he would replace Secretary of Defense designate Robert Gates in the Iraq Study Group.

After the election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Eagleburger seemed to think that Iran was moving in a direction which may at some point call for military action, saying in an interview that while "we should try everything else we can first", at some point it would probably be necessary to use force to ensure that Iran did not obtain or use nuclear weapons.

He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Forum for International Policy, and a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) Board of Advisors.

[edit] 2008 Presidential election

Before Republican primaries, Eagleburger endorsed John McCain for President. In an NPR interview on October 30, 2008, he described McCain's running-mate Sarah Palin as "not prepared" for top office. He also stated that many Vice Presidents have not been ready. The next day, in an interview on Fox News, he retracted his comments about Palin.

On October 30, 2008, on the Fox News Channel, Eagleburger referred to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as a "charlatan", citing his fundraising methods and other aspects of his presidential campaign.


Eagleburger died of pneumonia at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 80 and had lived outside Charlottesville since 1990. He is survived by his three sons.

President Barack Obama described Eagleburger as a "distinguished diplomat and public servant who devoted his life to the security of our nation and to strengthening our ties with allies and partners." Former President George H.W. Bush described Eagleburger as "a tireless patriot, principled to the core, selflessly devoted to America and his duty." Vice President Joe Biden remarked "The post-Cold War more stable and secure because of Eagleburger's service." "Larry believed in the strength of America's values, and he fought for them around the world," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Lawrence Eagleburger, U.S. Secretary of State's Timeline

August 1, 1930
June 4, 2011
Age 80