Dean Acheson

Dean Acheson was born in Middletown, Connecticut, on April 11, 1893. From an affluent New England family, he graduated from Yale in 1915 and Harvard Law School in 1918. Acheson served as private secretary to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis until 1921, practiced private law in Washington, D.C., until 1933, and then joined the New Deal as under secretary of state. Acheson resigned that post in opposition to the gold buying program of 1933, practiced law again, and then returned to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1941 as an assistant secretary of state. He became under secretary of state in August 1946 and secretary of state under Harry S. Truman in July 1949. Acheson left the State Department in 1953 and returned to his private law practice. During the 1960s, he advised both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations on foreign policy and in 1965 became part of the informal policy group known as the “Wise Old Men.” By 1966, Acheson began expressing grave reservations about the American presence in South Vietnam, and by 1967 he was urging Lyndon B. Johnson to de-escalate the conflict. Acheson was at the March 1968 meeting when the Wise Old Men told Johnson that the Vietnam War was lost. Dean Acheson died in 1971.