|Intro||American businessman, politician and diplomat|
|Countries||United States of America|
|Occupations||Diplomat Politician Polo player|
|A.K.A.||W. Averell Harriman|
|Birth||November 15, 1891 (New York City)|
|Death||July 26, 1986 (New York City)|
William Averell Harriman (November 15, 1891 – July 26, 1986) was an American Democratic politician, businessman, and diplomat. He was the son of railroad baron E. H. Harriman. He served as Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman and later as the 48th Governor of New York. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952, and again in 1956 when he was endorsed by President Truman but lost to Adlai Stevenson both times.
Harriman served President Franklin D. Roosevelt as special envoy to Europe and served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and U.S. Ambassador to Britain. He served in numerous U.S. diplomatic assignments in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. He was a core member of the group of foreign policy elders known as "The Wise Men".
Better known as Averell Harriman, he was born in New York City, the son of railroad baron Edward Henry Harriman and Mary Williamson Averell. He was the brother of E. Roland Harriman and Mary Harriman Rumsey. Harriman was a close friend of Hall Roosevelt, the brother of Eleanor Roosevelt.
During the summer of 1899, Harriman's father organized the Harriman Alaska Expedition, a philanthropic-scientific survey of coastal Alaska and Russia that attracted 25 of the leading scientific, naturalist, and artist luminaries of the day, including John Muir, John Burroughs, George Bird Grinnell, C. Hart Merriam, Grove Karl Gilbert, and Edward Curtis, along with 100 family members and staff, aboard the steamship George Elder. Young Harriman would have his first introduction to Russia, a nation on which he would spend a significant amount of attention in his later life in public service.
He attended Groton School in Massachusetts before going on to Yale where he joined the Skull and Bones society.:127,150–1 He graduated in 1913. After graduating, he inherited the largest fortune in America and became Yale's youngest Crew coach.
His first marriage, two years after graduating from Yale, was to Kitty Lanier Lawrence. Lawrence was the great-granddaughter of James Lanier, a co-founder of Winslow, Lanier & Co., and the granddaughter of Charles D. Lanier (1837-1926), a close friend of Pierpont Morgan Together, Harriman and Lawrence had two daughters:
- Mary Averell Harriman (1917-1996), who married Dr. Shirley C. Fisk
- Kathleen Lanier Harriman (1917–2011), who married Stanley Grafton Mortimer Jr. (1913–1999), who had previously been married to socialite Babe Paley (1915-1978)
He divorced Lawrence in 1928 and she later died in 1936. About a year after his divorce from Lawrence, he married Marie Norton Whitney, who had left her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, to marry him. On their honeymoon in Europe, they purchased oil paintings by Van Gogh, Degas, Cézanne, Picasso, and Renoir. She and her husband later donated many of the works she bought and collected, including those of the artist Walt Kuhn, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. They remained married until her death on September 26, 1970, at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
His third and final marriage was in 1971 to Pamela Beryl Digby Churchill Hayward, the former wife of Winston Churchill's son Randolph, and widow of Broadway producer Leland Hayward.
Using money from his father he established W.A. Harriman & Co banking business in 1922. In 1927 his brother Roland joined the business and the name was changed to Harriman Brothers & Company. In 1931, it merged with Brown Bros. & Co. to create the highly successful Wall Street firm Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. Notable employees included George Herbert Walker and his son-in-law Prescott Bush.
Harriman's main properties included Brown Brothers & Harriman & Co, Union Pacific Railroad, Merchant Shipping Corporation, and venture capital investments that included the Polaroid Corporation. Harriman's associated properties included the Southern Pacific Railroad (including the Central Pacific Railroad), Illinois Central Railroad, Wells Fargo & Co., the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., American Ship & Commerce, Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Aktiengesellschaft (HAPAG), the American Hawaiian Steamship Co., United American Lines, the Guaranty Trust Company, and the Union Banking Corporation.
He served as Chairman of The Business Council, then known as the Business Advisory Council for the United States Department of Commerce in 1937 and 1939.
Harriman's older sister, Mary Rumsey, encouraged Averell to leave his finance job and work with her and their friends, the Roosevelts, to advance the goals of the New Deal. Averell joined the NRA National Recovery Administration, the first government consumer rights group (actually it was an effort to control production and sales on the model of Fascist Italy - and was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, by nine justices to zero, in 1935), marking the beginning of his political career.
Following the death of August Belmont, Jr., in 1924, Harriman, George Walker, and Joseph E. Widener purchased much of Belmont's thoroughbred breeding stock. Harriman raced under the name of Arden Farms. Among his horses, Chance Play won the 1927 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also raced in partnership with Walker under the name Log Cabin Stable before buying him out. U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee Louis Feustel, trainer of Man o' War, trained the Log Cabin horses until 1926.
Of the partnership's successful runners purchased from the August Belmont estate, Ladkin is best remembered for defeating the European star Epinard in the International Special.
War seizures Nazi assets
Harriman's banking business was the main Wall Street connection for German companies and the varied U.S. financial interests of Fritz Thyssen; who was a financial backer of the Nazi party until 1938. The Trading With the Enemy Act (enacted on October 6, 1917) classified any business transactions for profit with enemy nations as illegal, and any funds or assets involved were subject to seizure by the U.S. government. The declaration of war on the U.S. by Hitler led to the U.S. government order on October 20, 1942 to seize German interests in the U.S. which included Harriman's operations in New York City.
The Harriman business interests seized under the act in October and November 1942 included:
- Union Banking Corporation (UBC) (from Thyssen and Brown Brothers Harriman)
- Holland-American Trading Corporation (from Harriman)
- Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation (from Harriman)
- Silesian-American Corporation (this company was partially owned by a German entity; during the war the Germans tried to take full control of Silesian-American. In response to that, the American government seized German-owned minority shares in the company, leaving the U.S. partners to carry on the portion of the business in the United States.)
The assets were held by the government for the duration of the war, then returned afterward; UBC was dissolved in 1951.
World War II diplomacy
Beginning in the spring of 1941, Harriman served President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a special envoy to Europe and helped coordinate the Lend-Lease program. He was present at the meeting between FDR and Winston Churchill at Placentia Bay, in August 1941, which yielded the Atlantic Charter, a common declaration of principles of the United States and the UK. He was subsequently dispatched to Moscow to negotiate the terms of the Lend-Lease agreement with the Soviet Union. His promise of $1 billion in aid technically exceeded his brief. Determined to win over the doubtful American public, he used his own funds to purchase time on CBS radio to explain the program in terms of enlightened self-interest. This skepticism lifted with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On November 25, 1941 (twelve days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), he noted that "The United States Navy is shooting the Germans—German submarines and aircraft at sea".
In the summer of 1942, Harriman accompanied Churchill to the Moscow Conference to explain to Stalin why the western allies were carrying out operations in North Africa instead of opening the promised second front in France. Harriman was appointed as United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1943.
At the Tehran Conference in late 1943 Harriman was tasked with placating a suspicious Churchill while Roosevelt attempted to gain the confidence of Stalin. The conference highlighted the divisions between the United States and Britain about the postwar world. Churchill was intent on maintaining Britain's empire and carving the postwar world into spheres of influence while the United States upheld the principles of self-determination as laid out in the Atlantic Charter. Harriman mistrusted the Soviet leader's motives and intentions and opposed the spheres approach as it would give Stalin a free hand in eastern Europe.
Harriman also attended the Yalta Conference, where he encouraged taking a stronger line with the Soviet Union—especially on questions of Poland. After Roosevelt's death, he attended the final "Big Three" conference at Potsdam. Although the new president, Harry Truman, was receptive to Harriman's anti-Soviet hard line advice, the new secretary of state, James Byrnes, managed to sideline him. While in Berlin, he noted the tight security imposed by Soviet military authorities and the beginnings of a program of reparations by which the Soviets were stripping out German industry.
In 1945, while Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Harriman was presented with a Trojan Horse gift. In 1952, the gift, a carved wood Great Seal of the United States, which had adorned "the ambassador's Moscow residential office" in Spaso House, was found to be bugged.
Statesman of foreign and domestic affairs
Harriman served as ambassador to the Soviet Union until January 1946. When he returned to the United States, he worked hard to get George Kennan's Long Telegram into wide distribution. Kennan's analysis, which generally lined up with Harriman's, became the cornerstone of Truman's Cold War strategy of containment.
From April to October 1946, he was ambassador to Britain, but he was soon appointed to become United States Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman to replace Henry A. Wallace, a critic of Truman's foreign policies. In 1948, he was put in charge of the Marshall Plan. In Paris, he became friendly with the CIA agent Irving Brown, who organised anti-communist unions and organisations. Harriman was then sent to Tehran in July 1951 to mediate between Iran and Britain in the wake of the Iranian nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
In the 1954 race to succeed Republican Thomas E. Dewey as Governor of New York, Harriman defeated Dewey's protege, U.S. Senator Irving M. Ives, by a tiny margin. He served as governor for one term until Republican Nelson Rockefeller unseated him in 1958. As governor, he increased personal taxes by 11% but his tenure was dominated by his presidential ambitions. Harriman was a candidate for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 1952, and again in 1956 when he was endorsed by Truman but lost (both times) to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson.
Despite the failure of his presidential ambitions, Harriman became a widely respected elder statesman of the party. In January 1961, he was appointed Ambassador at Large in the Kennedy administration, a position he held until November, when he became Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. During this period he advocated U.S. support of a neutral government in Laos and helped to negotiate the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. In December 1961, Anatoliy Golitsyn defected from the Soviet Union and accused Harriman of being a Soviet spy, but his claims were dismissed by the CIA and Harriman remained in his position until April 1963, when he became Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. He retained that position during the transition to the Johnson administration until March 1965 when he again became Ambassador at Large. He held that position for the remainder of Johnson's presidency. Harriman headed the U.S. delegation to the preliminary peace talks in Paris between the United States and North Vietnam (1968–69).
Vietnamese coup d'état
President-elect Kennedy appointed Harriman as ambassador-at-large, to operate "with the full confidence of the president and an intimate knowledge of all aspects of United States policy." But by 1963, Kennedy had come to suspect the loyalty of certain members on his national security team. According to Colonel William Corson, USMC, by 1963 Harriman was running "Vietnam without consulting the president or the attorney general.". Corson said Kenny O'Donnell, JFK's appointments secretary, was convinced that the National Security Advisor, McGeorge Bundy, followed the orders of Harriman rather than the president. Corson also claimed that O'Donnell was particularly concerned about Michael Forrestal, a young White House staffer who handled liaison on Vietnam with Harriman.
Harriman certainly supported the coup against the South Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. However, it is alleged that the orders that ended in the deaths of Diem and his brother actually originated with Harriman and were carried out by Henry Cabot Lodge's military assistant. The fundamental question about the murders was the sudden and unusual recall of Saigon Station Chief John "Jocko" Richardson by an unknown authority. Special Operations Army officer, John Michael Dunn, was sent to Vietnam in his stead. He followed the orders of Harriman and Forrestal rather than the CIA. According to Corson, Dunn's role in the incident has never been made public but he was assigned to Ambassador Lodge for "special operations" with the authority to act without hindrance; and he was known to have access to the coup plotters. Corson speculated that with Richardson recalled the way was clear for Dunn to freely act.
Harriman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Distinction, in 1969 and West Point's Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1975. Furthermore, in 1983 he received the Freedom Medal.
In 1973 he was interviewed in the now famous TV documentary series, The World at War, where he gives a recollection of his experiences as Roosevelt's Personal Representative in Britain along with his views on Cold War politics; in particular Poland and the Warsaw Pact; along with the exchanges he witnessed between Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin. In one such recollection he describes Stalin as utterly cruel.
Harriman was appointed senior member of the US Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly's Special Session on Disarmament in 1978. He died on July 26, 1986 in Yorktown Heights, New York, at the age of 94. Averell and Pamela Harriman are buried at the Arden Farm Graveyard in Arden, New York.
Summary of career
- Vice President, Union Pacific Railroad Co., 1915–17
- Director, Illinois Central Railroad Co., 1915–46
- Member, Palisades Interstate Park Commission, 1915–54
- Chairman, Merchant Shipbuilding Corp.,1917–25
- Chairman, W. A. Harriman & Company, 1920–31
- Partner, Soviet Georgian Manganese Concessions, 1925–28
- Chairman, executive committee, Illinois Central Railroad, 1931–42
- Senior partner, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., 1931–46
- Chairman, Union Pacific Railroad, 1932–46
- Co-founder, Today magazine with Vincent Astor, 1935–37 (merged with Newsweek in 1937)
- Administrator and Special Assistant, National Recovery Administration, 1934–35
- Founder, Sun Valley Ski Resort, Idaho, 1936
- Chairman, Business Advisory Council, 1937–39
- Chief, Materials Branch & Production Division, Office of Production Management, 1941
- U.S. Ambassador & Special Representative to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 1941–43
- Chairman, Ambassador & Special Representative of the U.S. President's Special Mission to the USSR, 1941–43
- U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, 1943–46
- U.S. Ambassador, Britain, 1946
- U.S. Secretary of Commerce, 1946–48
- United States Coordinator, European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan), 1948–50
- Special Assistant to the U.S. President, 1950–52
- U.S. Representative and Chairman, North Atlantic Commission on Defense Plans, 1951–52
- Director, Mutual Security Agency, 1951–53
- Candidate, Democratic nomination for U.S. President, 1952
- Governor, State of New York, 1955–59
- Candidate, Democratic nomination for U.S. President, 1956
- U.S. Ambassador-at-large, 1961
- United States Deputy Representative, International Conference on the Settlement of the Laotian, 1961–62
- Assistant US Secretary of State, Far Eastern Affairs, 1961–63
- Special Representative to the U.S. President, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 1963
- Under Secretary of State, Political Affairs, 1963–65
- U.S. Ambassador-at-large, 1965–69
- Chairman, President's Commission of the Observance of Human Rights Year, 1968
- Personal Representative of the U.S. President, Peace Talks with North Vietnam, 1968–69
- Chairman, Foreign Policy Task Force, Democratic National Committee, 1976
- Member, American Academy of Diplomacy Charter, Club of Rome, Council on Foreign Relations, Knights of Pythias, Skull and Bones Society, Psi Upsilon Fraternity, and the Jupiter Island Club
Legacy and Honors
- The Harriman Hall at Stony Brook University was named in his honor.
- The W. Averell Harriman State Office Building Campus in Albany, NY also carries his name.