Thomas R. Pickering: Wikis


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Thomas R. Pickering

In office
1997 – 2000
Preceded by Peter Tarnoff
Succeeded by Marc Isaiah Grossman

In office
1993 – 1996
Preceded by Robert S. Strauss as Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Succeeded by James F. Collins

In office
1992 – 1993
Preceded by William Clark, Jr.
Succeeded by Frank G. Wisner

In office
1989 – 1992
Preceded by Vernon A. Walters
Succeeded by Edward J. Perkins

In office
1985 – 1988
Preceded by Samuel W. Lewis
Succeeded by William Andreas Brown

In office
1983 – 1985
Preceded by Deane R. Hinton
Succeeded by Edwin G. Corr

In office
1981 – 1983
Preceded by Stephen Low
Succeeded by Thomas W. M. Smith

In office
1974 – 1978
Preceded by L. Dean Brown
Succeeded by Nicholas A. Veliotes

Born 5 November 1931
Orange, NJ
Spouse(s) Alice Jean Stover
Children Timothy Pickering
Margaret Pickering
Alma mater Bowdoin College
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University)
University of Melbourne

Thomas Reeve "Tom" Pickering (born November 5, 1931), is a retired United States ambassador. Among his many diplomatic appointments, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992.




Early life

Born in Orange, New Jersey, Pickering is the son of Hamilton Reeve Pickering, and Sarah Chasteney Pickering. He graduated from Rutherford High School in Rutherford, New Jersey.[1]

Education and Service in the Navy

He began attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 1949 with plans to join the ministry[2] and graduated cum laude in 1953 with high honors in history and is a member of Theta Delta Chi and Phi Beta Kappa. He then earned a Master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Upon graduation from Tufts, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and attended the University of Melbourne in Australia where he received a second masters degree in 1956. In addition to the honorary doctorate-in-laws degree that Bowdoin awarded him in 1984, Pickering has been the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.[3]

Before joining the State Department, Pickering served on active duty in the United States Navy from 1956 to 1959,[4] where he reached the rank of lieutenant commander.[5]

Diplomatic career

His four decade long career in Foreign Service included ambassadorships in Russia (19931996), India (1992–1993), United Nations (1989-1992), Israel (19851988), El Salvador (1983–1985), Nigeria (1981–1983), and Jordan (19741978). Additionally, he served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1997 to 2000. He holds the distinction of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service.[6]

Early Career to Israel

Early in his career, he was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Tanzania and later as Special Assistant to Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. When Pickering served as United States Ambassador to Jordan in the mid-1970s, King Hussein declared him “the best American ambassador I’ve dealt with.” [7] From 1978 to 1981, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. He the spent time as the United States Ambassador to Nigeria before President Ronald Reagan surprisingly replaced the Ambassador to El Salvador, Deane R. Hinton, and put Pickering in his place.[8]

Pickering’s time as United States Ambassador to El Salvador was particularly eventful. Only a year after having been appointed ambassador in 1984, Pickering was the subject of assassination threats from right wing Salvadoran politicians.[7] The same year, Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina urged that Pickering be dismissed, arguing that he helped manipulate the country’s elections.[9] In both cases, President Ronald Reagan offered Pickering his full support and he secured him a job as United States Ambassador to Israel after his appointment in El Salvador. It was later noted when he was nominated as US Ambassador to the United Nations that Pickering played a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair while Ambassador to El Salvador.[10]

As Ambassador to Israel, Pickering led the United States’ criticism of an Israeli policy that expelled Palestinians accused of instilling uprising.[11] Pickering stressed to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that the United States considered the actions illegal and unhelpful for peace efforts.[12]

United Nations and on

President George H.W. Bush’s appointment of Pickering as United States Ambassador to the United Nations was approved almost unanimously in the United State Senate in 1989 with no dissentions and only one abstention.[13] Pickering played a critical role as Ambassador during the First Gulf War, when Pickering helped lead the United Nations Security Council’s response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.[14] Bush’s decision to move Pickering from the United Nations to become the United States Ambassador to India was highly criticized given Pickering’s successful tenure. The New York Times declared that Pickering was “arguably the best-ever U.S. representative to that body” [15] and that the move was made simply because he overshadowed Secretary of State James A. Baker during the Persian Gulf Crisis.[16] Pickering’s last ambassadorial appointment was made by President Bill Clinton who designated him United States Ambassador to Russia.

Following the resignation of Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1996, Pickering was reportedly a top contender for the post, but was ultimately passed over in favor of then-UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright.[17]

From 1997 to 2001, Pickering served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the number three position at the State Department. When Albright appointed him to the post, Time Magazine declared him the "five star general of the diplomatic corps".[18]

After the State Department

Following his retirement from the Foreign Service in 2001, Pickering served as Senior Vice President for International Relations at Boeing until 2006. Currently, he is affiliated with the International Crisis Group, and oversees their international actions as a co-chair. In addition, he is Chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy and a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Global Panel Foundation based in Berlin and Prague.[19]

Following his retirement, the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program was renamed the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program to honor Pickering. Fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of State, and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (WWNFF).[20] Also, in May, 2004, Bowdoin awarded Pickering the Bowdoin Prize, the highest award that the College bestows upon its graduates.[21]

He serves on the board of directors for the American Iranian Council, an organization devoted to the normalization of relations between Iran and America.[22] He is currently a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.[23] He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Henry L. Stimson Center board of directors as well as the Advisory Board of Eurasia Group, the political risk consultancy firm. He serves on the Guiding Coalition of the nonpartisan Project on National Security Reform.

Personal life

He lives in Arlington County, Virginia with his wife, the former Alice Jean Stover, whom he married in 1955, and has two children, Timothy and Margaret.

He is fluent in the French, Spanish, and Swahili languages and has a working knowledge of Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic.[24]


  1. ^ About Rutherford High School, Rutherford High School. Accessed July 7, 2007. "Career diplomat and ambassador Thomas H. Pickering and presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan are among those honored as part of this tradition."
  2. ^ "Ambassador Tom Pickering Lecture Introduction". Bowdoin College (Office of the President). Retrieved 2009-09-21.  
  3. ^ "Ambassador Thomas Pickering '53 Wins Bowdoin Prize". Bowdoin College Campus News. Retrieved 2008-02-18.  
  4. ^ "Biography: Thomas Pickering". United States State Department Web Site. Retrieved 2008-02-18.  
  5. ^ "The American Academy of Diplomacy- Powell". The American Academy of Diplomacy Web Site. Retrieved 2008-02-18.  
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 2009-05-05.  
  7. ^ a b "Bush’s Selections for the United Nations, the C.I.A. and Top Economic Posts; Thomas Reeve Pickering, U.S. Representative to the United Nations". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  8. ^ "Disappearing Act at Foggy Botton". Time Magazine.,9171,955164-2,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  9. ^ "Taking Sides?". Time Magazine.,9171,955266-1,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  10. ^ "Bush’s Choice for U.N. Carried Contra Appeal". New York Times.,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=10&sq=Thomas%20Pickering&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  11. ^ "U.S. Criticism Sets Off Furor In Israel". New York Times.,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=5&sq=Thomas%20Pickering%20Israel&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  12. ^ "Middle East Trials and Errors". Time Magazine.,9171,966430-3,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  13. ^ "Senate Backs U.N. Delegate". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  14. ^ "MIDEAST TENSIONS; U.S. Envoy to U.N. on Center Stage". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  15. ^ "Foreign Affairs; End U.S. Dipbaloney". New York Times.,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=1&sq=Thomas%20Pickering%20United%20Nations%20India&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  16. ^ "Jan 24-30: A Quick Study; A Diplomat’s Diplomat Goes to Russia".,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=1&sq=Thomas%20Pickering%20United%20Nations%20India&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-02-19.  
  17. ^
  18. ^ "The Many Lives of Madeleine". Time Magazine.,9171,985910-5,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  19. ^ NBR Board of Adivsors
  20. ^ "The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship". The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Retrieved 2007-06-17.  
  21. ^ "Ambassador Thomas Pickering '53 Wins Bowdoin Prize". Bowdoin College Campus News. Retrieved 2009-09-21.  
  22. ^ "". 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-05-05.  
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2009-05-05.  
  24. ^ "Ambassador Tom Pickering Lecture Introduction". Bowdoin College Office of the President. Retrieved 2009-06-19.  

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
L. Dean Brown
United States Ambassador to Jordan
March 2, 1974–July 13, 1978
Succeeded by
Nicholas A. Veliotes
Preceded by
Stephen Low
United States Ambassador to Nigeria
Succeeded by
Thomas W. M. Smith
Preceded by
Deane R. Hinton
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
Succeeded by
Edwin G. Corr
Preceded by
Samuel W. Lewis
United States Ambassador to Israel
Succeeded by
William Andreas Brown
Preceded by
Vernon A. Walters
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Succeeded by
Edward J. Perkins
Preceded by
William Clark, Jr.
United States Ambassador to India
Succeeded by
Frank G. Wisner
Preceded by
Robert S. Strauss
United States Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded by
James Franklin Collins
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Tarnoff
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Succeeded by
Marc Isaiah Grossman


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