December 20

Dean Rusk

December 20, 1994 - Cherokee County, Athens

The second Georgian to serve as Secretary of State was a prime architect of the Vietnam War.

Dean Rusk was born in Cherokee County in 1909. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford prior to World War II, Rusk strongly opposed appeasement of Hitler, a position towards tyranny that would shape his worldview all his life.

Rusk joined the Army in 1940. During World War II he served under General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell as deputy chief of staff for the China-Burma-India Theater. At the State Department after the war he was Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s point man on the Korean conflict, which Rusk strongly supported.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy asked Rusk to serve as secretary of state, a position he continued under President Lyndon Johnson. Rusk’s diplomatic skills were tested by Cold War crises in Berlin and Cuba. His anti-appeasement policy led to his strong support of escalation of the Vietnam War, which made him a prime target of the growing anti-war movement.

Rusk spent his last years teaching at the University of Georgia, where he died in Athens on December 20, 1994, Today in Georgia History.