Warren Minor Christopher (October 27, 1925March 18, 2011) was an American lawyer, diplomat and politician. During Bill Clinton
's first term
as President, he served as the 63rd United States Secretary of State
Born in Scranton, North Dakota
, Christopher clerked for Supreme Court
Justice William O. Douglas
after graduating from Stanford Law School
. He became a partner in the firm of O'Melveny & Myers
and served as Deputy Attorney General
from 1967 to 1969 under President Lyndon B. Johnson
. He served as Deputy Secretary of State
under President Jimmy Carter
, holding that position from 1977 to 1981. In 1991, he chaired the Christopher Commission
, which investigated the Los Angeles Police Department
in the wake of the Rodney King
During the 1992 presidential election
, Christopher headed Bill Clinton's search for a running mate
, and Clinton chose Senator Al Gore
. After Clinton won the 1992 election, Christopher led the Clinton administration's transition process
, and he took office as Secretary of State in 1993. As Secretary of State, Christopher sought to expand NATO
, broker peace in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict
, and pressure China
regarding its human rights
practices. He also helped negotiate the Dayton Agreement
, which ended the Bosnian War
. He left office in 1997, and was succeeded by Madeleine Albright
Christopher oversaw the Gore campaign's Florida recount
effort in the aftermath of the disputed 2000 presidential election
. At the time of his death in 2011, he was a Senior Partner at O'Melveny & Myers in the firm's Century City, California
, office. He also served as a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles
Warren Minor Christopher was born in Scranton, North Dakota
, the son of Catherine Anne (née Lemen) and Ernest William Christopher, a bank manager. He was of part Norwegian descent.
Christopher graduated from Hollywood High School
in Los Angeles, and attended the University of Redlands
, before transferring to the University of Southern California
(USC). He was a member of the college fraternity Kappa Sigma Sigma
. He graduated ''magna cum laude
'' from USC in February 1945. From July 1943 to September 1946, he served in the United States Naval Reserve
, with active duty as an ensign in the Pacific Theater. He entered Stanford Law School
in September 1946, where he founded and became the first editor of the new ''Stanford Law Review.'' While there, he was also elected to the Order of the Coif
Legal career, Deputy Attorney General for Johnson
Christopher became the first graduate of Stanford Law School to become a law clerk
for a United States Supreme Court Justice
when he served as law clerk
to Justice William O. Douglas
from October 1949 to September 1950.
He practiced law with the firm of O'Melveny & Myers from October 1950 to June 1967, becoming a partner in 1958 and serving as special counsel to Governor Pat Brown
Christopher served as United States Deputy Attorney General
from June 1967 until January 20, 1969, after which he rejoined O'Melveny & Myers
. President Lyndon B. Johnson
selected him to assist federal efforts to combat the urban riots in Detroit
during July 1967 and in Chicago during April 1968. In 1974, Christopher served as the president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association
Deputy Secretary of State for Carter
Christopher was sworn in on February 26, 1977, as the Deputy Secretary of State
and served in that position until January 20, 1981. As Deputy Secretary, he was involved in negotiating the Algiers Accords
, and securing the release of 52 American hostages in Iran
. He also spearheaded the Sino-American relations
with the People's Republic of China
, helped to win ratification of the Panama Canal
treaties, and headed the first interagency group on human rights
. President Jimmy Carter
awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom
, the nation's highest civilian award, on January 16, 1981.
Professional work and achievements
Christopher's professional activities have included service as President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, 1974–1975; Chairman of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary of the American Bar Association, 1975–1976; member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of California 1975–1976; and Special Counsel to California Governor Edmund G. Brown
Christopher's civic activities included the following: member and President of the Board of Trustees of Stanford University
; Chairman, Carnegie Corporation
of New York Board of Trustees; Director and Vice Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations
; Director, Trilateral Commission
, Bilderberg Group
, Los Angeles World Affairs Council
; Vice Chairman of the Governor's Commission on the Watts riots
(The McCone Commission) in 1965–1966; President, Coordinating Council for Higher Education in the State of California; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
; and Chairman Emeritus, Pacific Council on International Policy
In 1981, Christopher received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards
In 1991, Christopher served as chairman of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department
, which came to be known as the Christopher Commission
. The Commission proposed significant reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department
in the aftermath of the Rodney King
incident (see 1992 Los Angeles riots
), which were approved overwhelmingly at the ballot box. In 1992, Christopher headed the vice presidential search for Governor Bill Clinton and served as the Director of his presidential Transition
Secretary of State for Clinton
Serving as Secretary of State from January 20, 1993 until January 17, 1997, Christopher's main goals were expanding NATO, establishing peace between Israel and its neighbors, and using economic pressure to force China's hand on human rights practices. The major events transpiring during his tenure included the Oslo Accords
, the Dayton Agreement
, normalization of United States–Vietnam relations
, the Rwandan genocide
, Operation Uphold Democracy
, and the Khobar Towers bombing
Assassination attempt on George H. W. Bush, April 1993
On April 13, 1993, eleven Iraqi intelligence agents smuggled a car bomb into Kuwait in an attempt to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush
as he spoke at Kuwait University
. Secretary Christopher, among others, urged President Clinton to make a retaliatory strike against Iraq. On June 26, 1993, the United States launched 23 Tomahawk missiles
against the Baghdad intelligence headquarters.
Oslo Accords, September 1993
In August 1993, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meeting in Norway
drew up the Oslo Accords
, which created the Palestinian Authority
in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel's right to exist. Secretary Christopher accepted Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
's offer to host the signing ceremony. The ceremony took place in Washington D.C. on 13 September 1993, with Mahmoud Abbas
signing for the Palestine Liberation Organization
, Peres signing for the State of Israel, Secretary Christopher signing for the United States and Andrei Kozyrev
signing for Russia, in the presence of President Clinton. Christopher was one of the main visionaries
and proponent of an integrated Middle East
Partnership for Peace NATO expansion, January 1994
In order to initiate further enlargement of NATO
with minimal backlash from Russia, Secretary Christopher promoted the Partnership for Peace
program as a stepping-stone into full NATO membership. This was against protests from the Pentagon.
Rwandan Genocide, 1994
In what is recognized as the terrible failure of the international community, the US and UN failed to intervene to stop the Rwandan genocide
in 1994. Over the course of a hundred days, some 800,000 Tutsis were massacred by Hutu militia.
China: Delinking human rights and trade status, May 1994
During the 1992 presidential campaign
, then-candidate Clinton blasted President George H. W. Bush for giving China
low-tariff trading privileges despite its human rights abuses. Secretary Christopher agreed with this view and believed that the US should use economic pressure to force China to improve its human rights record. However, on May 26, 1994, President Clinton renewed China's low-tariff trading privileges, effectively delinking the human rights issue from China's trade relations with the US. U.S.-Sino relations improved as a result, with President Jiang Zemin
visiting the U.S. in November 1997 and President Clinton visiting China in June 1998.
Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, September 1994
On September 19, 1994, a US-led coalition returned Haiti
's popularly elected President Jean-Bertrande Aristide
to power after a coup had unseated him. The US military effort, known as Operation Uphold Democracy
, was largely the product of Colin Powell
's diplomatic efforts, with little role played by Christopher.
Israel-Jordan peace treaty, October 1994
In the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Secretary Christopher encouraged Jordan's King Hussein
to make a peace treaty with Israel. Christopher eventually offered Hussein $200 million in military equipment and $700 million in debt forgiveness to sweeten the deal. On October 27, 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin
and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali signed the Israel–Jordan peace treaty
. The signing was witnessed by President Clinton and Secretary Christopher. Christopher sought to obtain a similar treaty between Rabin and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad
, but to no avail.
Vietnam: Normalizing relations, July 1995
Working with Senator John McCain
, in 1994, Secretary Christopher began actively promoting the normalization of United States–Vietnam relations
. At the time, the U.S. had not had an embassy in Vietnam since 1975. The main obstacle to normalization came from veterans and POW/MIA support groups who were convinced that Hanoi was not fully cooperating in the search for the remains of US soldiers in Vietnam. However, after Secretary Christopher convinced President Clinton that the Vietnamese government was fully cooperating in these searches, the President announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam on July 11, 1995.
Dayton Agreement, November 1995
In Dayton, Ohio
, Secretary Christopher—working with Assistant Secretary Richard Holbrooke
—negotiated peace talks between President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević
, President of Croatia Franjo Tuđman
, and President of Bosnia Alija Izetbegović
. The result was the November 1995 Dayton Agreement
, which put an end to the Bosnian War
Khobar Towers bombing, June 1996
In the wake of the Khobar Towers bombing
, Secretary Christopher traveled to Saudi Arabia to witness the site of the attack. In Dhahran (the home of the Khobar Towers), Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
allegedly promised Christopher that the FBI
would have the full cooperation of the Saudi government. Eventually, however, the Saudi government and the FBI repeatedly conflicted during the course of the investigation.
In addition to several honorary degrees, Christopher received the following awards: the Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service for the Greatest Public Service Performed by an Elected or Appointed Official; the UCLA
Medal; the Harold Weill Medal from New York University
; the James A. Garfield
Baller Award; the Thomas Jefferson Award in Law from the University of Virginia
Law School; and the Louis Stein Award from Fordham Law School
Christopher's picture hangs in the War Remnants Museum
in Ho Chi Minh City
, near pictures of John Kerry
, Robert McNamara
, Elmo Zumwalt
, and other American dignitaries, in commemoration of his visit to Vietnam
, after normalization of relations between the two countries.
At the 1999 unveiling of his portrait at the Department of State, attended by President Clinton, Christopher remarked: "To anyone who has served in Washington, there is something oddly familiar about aving your portrait painted
First, you're painted into a corner, then you're hung out to dry and, finally, you're framed."
He was sent to supervise the contested Florida recount for Al Gore
in the U.S. presidential election, 2000
. In the 2008 film ''Recount
'', which covers the days following the controversial election, Christopher was portrayed by British actor John Hurt
. He was a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
(WINEP) Board of Advisors.
He was an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America
, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.
Former Secretaries of State James Baker
and Christopher served as Co-Chairs of the Miller Center's National War Powers Commission. Baker and Christopher testified on March 5 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
about the War Powers Consultation Act of 2009 – the statute that the Commission unanimously recommended in its July 2008 report. The statute is designed to replace the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and provide for more meaningful consultation between the president and Congress on matters of war.
From 2003 until his death, Christopher taught a small seminar course on international affairs as part of the Honors Program at UCLA
Warren Christopher married twice. He married Joan Southgate Workman
on June 14, 1949, in San Diego, California
; the couple had a daughter, Lynn (born May 30, 1952). They divorced in 1955.
He was married to Marie Wyllis from 1956 until his death; the couple had two sons: Scott (born December 27, 1957) and Thomas (born July 24, 1959)), and a daughter, Kristen (born March 26, 1963).
Christopher had five grandchildren: Andrew, Lauren, Warren, and Chloe Christopher, and Christopher Henderson.
He wrote ''In the Stream of History: Shaping Foreign Policy for a New Era'' (1998) and ''Chances of a Lifetime'' (2001).
Christopher was a recipient of the state of North Dakota
's Roughrider Award
He was a Senior Partner at O'Melveny & Myers
World Justice Project
Christopher served as an Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project
. The World Justice Project
works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law
for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.
Christopher died at his home in Los Angeles on March 18, 2011, from kidney and bladder cancer.
He was survived by his wife and four children from two marriages.
He is interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park
in the Hollywood Hills
President Obama described Christopher as a "resolute pursuer of peace" for his work in the Middle East and the Balkans. Hillary Clinton described Christopher as a "diplomat's diplomat – talented, dedicated and exceptionally wise". He was described as "the best public servant I ever knew" by President Jimmy Carter
in his memoirs.
On March 19, 2011, Carter stated that "merica
has lost a great and revered leader".
*Timeline of United States and China relations 1995–1997
* Cameron, Fraser. ''US foreign policy after the cold war: global hegemon or reluctant sheriff?'' (Routledge, 2006).
* Chollet, Derek. ''The Road to the Dayton Accords'' (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005)excerpt
* Dumbrell, John. "President Clinton's Secretaries of State: Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright". ''Journal of transatlantic studies'' 6.3 (2008): 217–227.
* Girard, Philippe. ''Clinton in Haiti: the 1994 US invasion of Haiti.'' (Springer, 2004).
* Hamilton, Nigel. ''Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency'' (Public Affairs, 2007), with numerous chapters on foreign-policyexcerpt
* Hyland, William G. . ''Clinton's World: Remaking American Foreign Policy'' (1999)excerpt
* Larres, Klaus. "'Bloody as Hell' Bush, Clinton and the Abdication of American Leadership in the Former Yugoslavia, 1990–1995". ''Journal Of European Integration History'' 10 (2004): 179–202. online pp 179–202.
* Levy, Peter B. ''Encyclopedia of the Clinton presidency'' (Greenwood, 2002)
* Maney, Patrick J. ''Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President'' (2016). Scholarly survey; Christopher's foreign policy on pages 116–40.
* Murray, Leonie. ''Clinton, peacekeeping and humanitarian interventionism: rise and fall of a policy'' (Routledge, 2007).
* [[Samantha Power|Power, Samantha.
''[[A Problem from Hell|"A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide'' (2002) covers Bosnia, Kosovo, Srebenica, and Rwanda; Pulitzer Prizonline free to borrow
* Christopher, Warren. ''Chances of a Lifetime: A Memoir'' (2001online
* Christopher, Warren. ''In the Stream of History: Shaping Foreign Policy for a New Era'' (1998) 37 episodes as Secretary of State, with commentary and speecheonline
* Nelson, Michael, et al. eds. ''42: Inside the Presidency of Bill Clinton'' (Miller Center of Public Affairs Books, 2016)excerpt
pp 193–233, analysis of interviews with insiders on Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and the Middle East.
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