William Averell Harriman


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US diplomat.

Harriman was born in New York City, the son and heir of the financier and railway magnate Edward Henry Harriman. He became vice-president of the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1915 and served as chairman of the board from 1932 to 1946. In 1920 he set up a private banking firm, which merged with Brown Brothers in 1931. An active Democrat during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, Harriman made his first diplomatic mission in 1941, visiting Britain and the Soviet Union to coordinate lend-lease aid. As ambassador to the Soviet Union (1943–46), Harriman was involved in a number of major wartime conferences and adopted a realistic and unsentimental approach to postwar relations with eastern Europe. He went on to serve as ambassador to Britain in 1946 and secretary of commerce to President Truman (1947–48). In 1955 he was elected governor of New York, a post he held until 1958. During President Kennedy's administration Harriman was appointed ambassador-at-large (1961) and served as assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs (1961–63). He was one of the chief negotiators of the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, signed in 1963 by Britain, the USA, and the Soviet Union. In 1965 he entered the service of a fourth US president, Lyndon B. Johnson, and was appointed to lead the US delegation at the Paris peace talks on Vietnam (1968–69). Having retired from active politics in 1969, Harriman set down his personal observations on international affairs in such works as America and Russia in a Changing World (1971).

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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