Cyrus Vance

Last updated
Cyrus Vance
57th United States Secretary of State
In office
January 20, 1977 April 28, 1980
President Jimmy Carter
Deputy Warren Christopher
Preceded by Henry Kissinger
Succeeded by Edmund Muskie
11th United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
In office
January 28, 1964 June 30, 1967
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Roswell Gilpatric
Succeeded by Paul Nitze
7th United States Secretary of the Army
In office
July 5, 1962 January 21, 1964
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Elvis Jacob Stahr Jr.
Succeeded by Stephen Ailes
General Counsel of the Department of Defense
In office
January 29, 1961 June 30, 1962
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byVincent Burke
Succeeded byJohn McNaughton
Personal details
Cyrus Roberts Vance

(1917-03-27)March 27, 1917
Clarksburg, West Virginia, U.S.
DiedJanuary 12, 2002(2002-01-12) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Gay Sloane
(m. 1947;his death 2002)
Children5, including Cyrus Jr.
Relatives John W. Davis (Adoptive father)
Education Yale University (BA, LLB)
Signature Cyrus Vance Signature.svg
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Navy (official).svg  United States Navy
Years of service1942–1946
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Lieutenant
Unit USS Hale (DD-642)
Battles/wars World War II

Cyrus Roberts Vance (March 27, 1917 January 12, 2002) was an American lawyer and United States Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1980. [1] Prior to serving in that position he was the Secretary of the Army [2] and the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe, which is 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

United States Secretary of State U.S. cabinet member and head of the U.S. State Department

The secretary of state is a senior official of the federal government of the United States of America, and as head of the United States Department of State, is principally concerned with foreign policy and is considered to be the U.S. government's minister of foreign affairs.

Jimmy Carter 39th president of the United States

James Earl Carter Jr. is an American politician and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as a Georgia State Senator from 1963 to 1967 and as the 76th Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. After his presidency, Carter has remained active in the private sector; in 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.


As Secretary of State, Vance approached foreign policy with an emphasis on negotiation over conflict and a special interest in arms reduction. In April 1980, Vance resigned in protest of Operation Eagle Claw, the secret mission to rescue American hostages in Iran. He was succeeded by Edmund Muskie.

Operation Eagle Claw United States Armed Forces operation during the Iran Hostage Crisis

Operation Eagle Claw, known as Operation Tabas in Iran, was a United States Armed Forces operation ordered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter to attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 embassy staff held captive at the Embassy of the United States, Tehran on 24 April 1980. Its failure, and the humiliating public debacle that ensued, damaged U.S. prestige worldwide. Carter blamed his loss in the 1980 U.S. presidential election mainly on his failure to secure the release of the hostages.

Iran hostage crisis diplomatic standoff between Iran and the United States, 1979–81

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Edmund Muskie senator of the USA

Edmund Sixtus Muskie was an American politician who served as the 58th United States Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, a United States Senator from Maine from 1959 to 1980, the 64th Governor of Maine from 1955 to 1959, a member of the Maine House of Representatives from 1946 to 1951, and the Democratic Party's candidate for Vice President of the United States in the 1968 election.

Vance was the cousin (and adoptive son) of 1924 Democratic presidential nominee and lawyer John W. Davis. He was the father of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

1924 United States presidential election Election of 1924

The 1924 United States presidential election was the 35th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 1924. In a three-way contest, incumbent Republican President Calvin Coolidge won election to a full term.

John W. Davis American politician

John William Davis GBE was an American politician, diplomat and lawyer. He served under President Woodrow Wilson as the Solicitor General of the United States and the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The culmination of his political career came when he ran for President in 1924 under the Democratic Party ticket, losing to Republican incumbent Calvin Coolidge.

Cyrus Vance Jr. American trial lawyer

Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr. is the incumbent District Attorney of New York County, New York, encompassing the island of Manhattan and Marble Hill, as a Democrat. He was a principal partner at the law firm of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello, & Bohrer, P.C. He is the son of the late Cyrus Vance, former Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter. He is known as an outspoken critic of encryption of mobile devices. In October 2018, several news organizations reported that Vance and his office were under investigation for allegedly refusing to prosecute the adult children of Donald Trump following reports of improprieties in real estate transactions.

Early life and family

Vance was born on March 27, 1917, in Clarksburg, West Virginia. [3] He was the son of John Carl Vance II and his wife Amy Roberts Vance, and had an older brother, John Carl Vance III. [3] [4] Following Vance's birth, his family relocated to Bronxville, New York, so that his father could commute to Manhattan, where he was an insurance broker. [5] Vance's father was also a landowner and worked for a government agency during World War I. [2] He died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1922. [2] Vance's mother was Amy Roberts Vance, who had a prominent family history in Philadelphia and was active in civic affairs. [2] Following her husband's death, she moved her family to Switzerland for a year, where Vance and his brother learned French at L'Institut Sillig in Vevey. [5]

Clarksburg, West Virginia City in West Virginia, United States

Clarksburg is a city in and the county seat of Harrison County, West Virginia, United States, in the north-central region of the state. The population of the city was 16,578 at the 2010 census. It is the principal city of the Clarksburg, WV Micropolitan Statistical Area, which had a population of 94,221 in 2014. Clarksburg was named National Small City of the Year in 2011 by the National League of Cities.

Bronxville, New York Village in New York, United States

Bronxville is a village in Westchester County, New York, located about 15 miles (24 km) north of midtown Manhattan. It is part of the town of Eastchester. The village comprises 1 square mile (2.5 km2) of land in its entirety, approximately 20% of the town of Eastchester. As of the 2010 U.S. census, Bronxville had a population of 6,323. In 2016, Bronxville was rated by CNBC as the most expensive suburb of any of America's ten largest cities, with a median home value of $2.33 million. It was ranked eighth in Bloomberg's "America's 100 Richest Places" in 2017 and 2018 and ninth in 2019.

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, , is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City, coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. Manhattan serves as the city's economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

Vance's uncle John W. Davis, an Ambassador to the United Kingdom and 1924 United States presidential candidate, became his mentor and adopted him. [6]

Vance graduated from Kent School in 1935 [2] and earned a bachelor's degree in 1939 from Yale College, [2] where he was a member of the secret society Scroll and Key. He also earned three varsity letters in ice hockey at Yale. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1942. [2] While there, Vance's classmates included Sargent Shriver, William Scranton, Stanley Rogers Resor, and William Bundy, all with whom he would later work. [1]

Kent School

Kent School is a private, co-educational college preparatory school in Kent, Connecticut, United States. Frederick Herbert Sill, Order of the Holy Cross, established the school in 1906 and it retains its affiliation with the Episcopal Church of the United States.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

Yale College undergraduate liberal arts college of Yale University

Yale College is the undergraduate liberal arts college of Yale University. Founded in 1701, it is the original school of the university. Although other schools of the university were founded as early as 1810, all of Yale was officially known as Yale College until 1887, when its schools were confederated and the institution was renamed Yale University.

Vance entered the military during World War II, serving in the United States Navy as a gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Hale (DD-642) until 1946. He saw sea action in the Battle of Tarawa, the Battle of Saipan, the Battle of Guam (1944), the Bougainville Campaign, and the Philippines Campaign (1944–1945). [1] After the war, he worked for the Mead Corporation for a year before joining the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City. [1]

At the age of 29, Vance married Grace Elsie "Gay" Sloane on February 15, 1947. She was a Bryn Mawr College graduate and was the daughter of the board chairman of the W. & J. Sloane furniture company in New York City. They had five children:

Political career

In 1957, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson asked Vance to leave Wall Street to work for the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, where he helped draft the National Aeronautics and Space Act, leading to the creation of NASA. [1]

In 1961, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara recruited Vance to become General Counsel of the Department of Defense. [1] He was then made the Secretary of the Army by President John F. Kennedy. [2] He was Secretary when Army units were sent to northern Mississippi in 1962 to protect James Meredith and ensure that the court-ordered integration of the University of Mississippi took place. [2]

In 1964, Vance became the United States Deputy Secretary of Defense and now-President Johnson sent Vance to the Panama Canal Zone after student riots. [1] After the 1967 Detroit riot, President Johnson sent Vance to Michigan. [1] Vance next attempted to delay the Cyprus dispute. [1] In 1968, President Johnson sent Vance to South Korea to deal with the USS Pueblo hostage situation. [1]

Vance first supported the Vietnam War but by the late 1960s changed his views and resigned from office, advising the president to pull out of South Vietnam. Vance served as a deputy to W. Averell Harriman during the Paris Peace Accords, which stalled due to the involvement of presidential candidate Richard Nixon. [1] Vance called the failed peace talks "one of the great tragedies in history". [1] He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. [2]

Secretary of State

Vance talks with President Carter on the White House lawn, March 1977. Vance Carter 1977.gif
Vance talks with President Carter on the White House lawn, March 1977.
The Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi meeting with Alfred Leroy Atherton, William H. Sullivan, Vance, President Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1977 The Shah with Atherton, Sullivan, Vance, Carter and Brzezinski, 1977.jpg
The Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi meeting with Alfred Leroy Atherton, William H. Sullivan, Vance, President Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1977

President Jimmy Carter initially wanted to nominate George Ball to become Secretary of State, but, fearing Ball was too liberal to be confirmed, nominated Vance instead. [7] Vance played an integral role as the administration negotiated the Panama Canal Treaties, along with peace talks in Rhodesia, Namibia and South Africa. He worked closely with Israeli Ministers Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman to secure the Camp David Accords in 1978. [1] Vance insisted that the President make Paul Warnke Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, over strong opposition by Senator Henry M. Jackson. [1]

Vance also pushed for closer ties to the Soviet Union, and clashed frequently with the more hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Vance tried to advance arms limitations by working on the SALT II agreement with the Soviet Union, which he saw as the central diplomatic issue of the time, but Brzezinski lobbied for a tougher more assertive policy vis-a-vis the Soviets. He argued for strong condemnation of Soviet activity in Africa and in the Third World as well as successfully lobbying for normalized relations with the People's Republic of China in 1978. As Brzezinski took control of the negotiations, Vance was marginalized and his influence began to wane. When revolution erupted in Iran in late 1978, the two were divided on how to support the United States' ally the Shah of Iran. Vance argued in favor of reforms while Brzezinski urged him to crack down – the 'iron fist' approach. Unable to receive a direct course of action from Carter, the mixed messages that the shah received from Vance and Brzezinski contributed to his confusion and indecision as he fled Iran in January 1979 and his regime collapsed.

Vance negotiated the SALT II agreement directly with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, bypassing American Ambassador Malcolm Toon, who then criticized the agreement. [8] In June 1978, President Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev signed the treaty in Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace in front of the international press but the Senate ultimately did not ratify it.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, Vance's opposition to what he had called "visceral anti-Sovietism" led to a rapid reduction of his stature. [7] Vance's attempt to surreptitiously negotiate a solution to the Iran hostage crisis with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini through the Palestine Liberation Organization failed badly. [7] Believing that diplomatic initiatives could see the hostages safely returned home, Vance initially fought off attempts by Brzezinski to pursue a military solution. Vance, struggling with gout, went to Florida on Thursday, April 10, 1980, for a long weekend. [7] On Friday, the National Security Council held a newly scheduled meeting and authorized Operation Eagle Claw, a military expedition into Tehran to rescue the hostages. [7] Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher, who attended the meeting in Vance's place, did not inform Vance. [7]

Furious, Vance handed in his resignation on principle, calling Brzezinski "evil". [7] [9] The only Secretaries of State who had previously resigned in protest were Lewis Cass, who resigned in the buildup to the Civil War, and William Jennings Bryan, who resigned in the buildup to World War I. [7]

President Carter aborted the operation after only five of the eight helicopters he had sent into the Dasht-e Kavir desert arrived in operational condition. As U.S. forces prepared to depart from the staging area, a helicopter collided with a transport plane, causing a fire that killed eight servicemen. [7] Vance's resignation was confirmed several days later, and he was replaced by Senator Edmund Muskie. A second rescue mission was planned but never carried out, and the diplomatic efforts to negotiate the release of the hostages were handed over to Deputy Secretary Christopher. The hostages were released during the first inauguration of Ronald Reagan, after 444 days in captivity. [1] [10]

Later career in law and as Special Envoy

In May 1970, Vance was appointed to serve as a commissioner in a landmark panel known as the Knapp Commission, which was formed and tasked by New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay with investigating systemic corruption at the New York Police Department. The Knapp Commission held televised hearings into police corruption and issued a final report of its findings in 1972. The work of the Knapp Commission led to the prosecution of police officers on charges of corruption and culminated in significant, if short-lived, reforms and oversight in respect of the police department, including the appointment of a temporary special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute corruption committed by NYPD officers, district attorneys, and judges.

From 1974 to 1976, Vance served as president of the New York City Bar Association. [11] Vance returned to his law practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 1980, but was repeatedly called back to public service throughout the 1980s and 1990s, participating in diplomatic missions to Bosnia, Croatia, and South Africa. Vance helped negotiate the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. [1]

In 1991, he was named Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Croatia and proposed the Vance plan for solution of conflict in Croatia. Authorities of Croatia and Serbia agreed to Vance's plan, but the leaders of SAO Krajina rejected it, even though it offered Serbs quite a large degree of autonomy by the rest of the world's standards, as it did not include full independence for Krajina. He continued his work as member of Zagreb 4 group. The plan they drafted, named Z-4, was effectively superseded when Croatian forces retook the Krajina region (Operation Storm) in 1995.

In January 1993, as the United Nations Special Envoy to Bosnia, Vance and Lord David Owen, the EU representative, began negotiating a peace plan for the ending the War in Bosnia. The plan was rejected, and Vance announced his resignation as Special Envoy to the UN Secretary-General. He was replaced by Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg.

In 1997, he was made the original honorary chair of the American Iranian Council. [12]

Later life and death

In 1993, Vance was awarded the United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award.

In 1995 he again acted as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and signed the interim accord as witness in the negotiations between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece. Vance was a member of the Trilateral Commission. [1]

Vance also served on the board of directors of IBM, Pan American World Airways, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, U.S. Steel, and The New York Times , as a trustee of the Yale Corporation, as Chairman of the Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Vice Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. [1]

Vance died at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City on January 12, 2002, at age 84, of pneumonia and other complications. His funeral was held at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. [1] His remains were interred at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. His wife Grace died in New York City on March 22, 2008, at the age of 89. [13]


In 1980, Vance 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. [14]

In 1993 he received the Freedom medal.

The house of Vance's mother, which was known as the Stealey-Goff-Vance House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. [15] It is home to the Harrison County Historical Society. [16]

In 1999 Cyrus Vance was presented the Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award by the American Foreign Service Association.

In the 2012 movie Argo , Vance was portrayed by actor Bob Gunton.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Marilyn Berger (13 January 2002). "Cyrus R. Vance, a Confidant Of Presidents, Is Dead at 84". The New York Times . p. A1. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Bell, William Gardner (1992). ""Cyrus Roberts Vance"". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army: Portraits and Biographical Sketches. United States Army Center of Military History. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007.
  3. 1 2 "Birth Record Detail: Cyrus Roberts Vance". West Virginia Vital Research Records. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  4. "Birth Record Detail: John Carl III Vance". West Virginia Vital Research Records. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  5. 1 2 Mihalkanin 2004 , p. 512.
  6. Harbaugh 1973 , pp. 389–390.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Douglas Brinkley (29 December 2002). "THE LIVES THEY LIVED; Out of the Loop". The New York Times Magazine . Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  8. Goldstein, Richard (2 May 2017). "Malcolm Toon Made Waves as a Diplomat, but His Death Went Largely Unreported". The New York Times . p. B14. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  9. Betty Glad (2009). An Outsider in the White House: Jimmy Carter, His Advisors, and the Making of American Foreign Policy. pp. 264–68.
  10. "Cyrus R. Vance",
  11. "The Legacy of Cyrus R. Vance". New York City Bar - Vance Center. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  12. Khoda Hafez. "A Message from AIC on the Occasion of the New Year". American Iranian Council. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  13. "Vance, Grace Sloane". The New York Times (Paid Notice: Deaths). March 26, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  14. "Jefferson Awards Foundation Past Winners". Jefferson Awards Foundation. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  15. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  16. Harrison County Historical Society Archived July 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

Primary sources

Political offices
Preceded by
Elvis Jacob Stahr Jr.
U.S. Secretary of the Army
Served under: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson

July 1962 – January 1964
Succeeded by
Stephen Ailes
Preceded by
Roswell Gilpatric
United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
Succeeded by
Paul Nitze
Preceded by
Henry Kissinger
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Jimmy Carter

Succeeded by
Edmund Muskie