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William P. Rogers

In office
January 22, 1969 – September 3, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Dean Rusk
Succeeded by Henry Kissinger

In office
October 23, 1957 – January 20, 1961
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Herbert Brownell, Jr.
Succeeded by Robert F. Kennedy

In office
1953 – 1957
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by A. Devitt Vanech
Succeeded by Lawrence Edward Walsh

Born June 23, 1913(1913-06-23)
Norfolk, New York
Died January 2, 2001 (aged 87)
Bethesda, Maryland
Alma mater Colgate University
Cornell University Law School
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Unit USS Intrepid
Battles/wars World War II

William Pierce Rogers (June 23, 1913 – January 2, 2001) was an American politician, who served as a Cabinet officer in the administrations of two U.S. Presidents in the third quarter of the 20th century.


Life and career

Rogers was born June 23, 1913, in Norfolk, New York. He was raised, from early in his teens, following the death of his mother, by his grandparents, in Canton, New York.

After education at Colgate University and Cornell University Law School, he passed the bar in 1937. Under Thomas E. Dewey he worked from 1938 to 1942 in the prosecution of organized crime in New York City. He entered the US Navy in 1942, serving on the USS Intrepid, including her action in the Battle of Okinawa. His final rank in the Navy was lieutenant commander.

While serving as a Committee Counsel to a US Senate committee, he examined the documentation from the House Un-American Activities Committee's investigation of Alger Hiss at the request of then-Congressman Richard M. Nixon, and advised Nixon that Hiss had lied and that the case against him should be pursued.

In 1950, Rogers became a partner in a New York City law firm, Dwight, Royall, Harris, Koegel & Caskey. Thereafter he returned to this firm when not in government service. It was later renamed Rogers & Wells, and subsequently Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells. He worked in the firm's Washington, D.C. office until several months before his death.

Rogers joined the Administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower as Deputy Attorney General in 1953, and then served as Attorney General from 1957 to 1961. He remained a close advisor to then-Vice-President Nixon, throughout the Eisenhower administration, especially in the slush fund scandal that led to Nixon's Checkers speech, and during Eisenhower's two medical crises.

As Deputy Attorney General, Rogers had some role in or insight into the process that led to the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage.[1]

He also served as Secretary of State in the Nixon Cabinet, from January 22, 1969 through September 3, 1973, when he among other things initiated efforts at a lasting peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict through the so-called Rogers Plan. However, his influence was drastically circumscribed throughout his tenure by Nixon's determination to handle critical foreign policy strategy and execution directly from the White House through his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.

On October 15, 1973, Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Richard Nixon. At the same ceremony, his wife Adele Rogers was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Rogers is also notable for leading the investigation into the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. This panel, called the Rogers Commission, was the first to criticize NASA management for its role in negligence of safety in the Space Shuttle program. Among the more famous members of Rogers' panel were astronauts Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride, Air Force general Donald Kutyna, and physicist Richard Feynman.

Rogers died of congestive heart disease in January 2, 2001, in Bethesda, Maryland, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. At the time of his death, Rogers was the last surviving member of the Eisenhower Administration.[2]


In 2001, the Rogers family generously donated to Cornell Law Library materials that reflect the lives of William and Adele Rogers, the majority of items from the years 1969-1973.


External links


  1. ^ "Spies and Secrecy". New York Times. June 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-27. "Shortly before he died, I interviewed William Rogers. He was the deputy attorney general when the Rosenbergs were executed. I guess, I said to him, the government got what it wanted: the Rosenbergs were indicted, convicted and executed. No, he replied, the goal wasn’t to kill the couple. The strategy was to leverage the death sentence imposed on Ethel to wring a full confession from Julius — in hopes that Ethel’s motherly instincts would trump unconditional loyalty to a noble but discredited cause."  
  2. ^ "William P. Rogers, Who Served as Nixon's Secretary of State, Is Dead at 87". New York Times. January 4, 2001. Retrieved 2008-12-25. "William P. Rogers, a suave and well-connected Republican lawyer who was secretary of state under President Richard M. Nixon and attorney general in the Eisenhower administration, died on Tuesday in Bethesda, Md. He was 87. Mr. Rogers lived in Bethesda and worked in the Washington office of the law firm of Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, where he was senior partner, until becoming ill several months ago. He suffered from congestive heart failure, his family said."  
Legal offices
Preceded by
A. Devitt Vanech
United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Lawrence E. Walsh
Preceded by
Herbert Brownell, Jr.
United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennedy
Political offices
Preceded by
Dean Rusk
United States Secretary of State
Served under: Richard Nixon

Succeeded by
Henry Kissinger


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