The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

C. Douglas Dillon (1909-2003)

Clarence Douglas Dillon was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 21, 1909. At the age of seventeen he graduated from the Groton School and in 1931 received his undergraduate degree from Harvard magna cum laude in business. After moving to New York City, Dillon served as a member of the New York Stock Exchange from 1931 to 1936, then as director and president at the United States and Foreign Securities Corporation until 1938. From 1938 to 1942 Dillon worked as a vice president for Dillon, Read, and Company, an investment banking firm, but interrupted his career in business to serve in the Navy in World War II. Upon his return to private life at the war's conclusion, Dillon was elected to the chairmanship of Dillon, Read, and Company in 1946.
By the early 1950s, Dillon had distinguished himself as an influential investment banker with extensive international experience. As a result, Eisenhower appointed him U.S. ambassador to France, a position he held from 1951 until 1959 when he was promoted to under secretary of state for economic affairs. As under secretary Dillon co-founded the Inter-American Development Bank, an endeavor that prefigured his deep involvement with Latin American affairs in the 1960s. Although a Republican, Dillon's politically moderate views, background, and connections to Wall Street made him an ideal candidate to head the Treasury Department for the Kennedy Administration. He served as secretary of the treasury from January 21, 1961, until April 1, 1965, during which time he supervised the distribution of U.S. foreign aid to Latin America under the Alliance for Progress program.
Desiring a return to the private sector, Dillon left the Johnson Administration on good terms in April 1965 after resigning his position as secretary of the treasury. Although no longer a government employee, Dillon acted as an informal advisor to the White House on a wide variety of issues. Most notably, Dillon was among the "wise men" summoned to the White House in the fall of 1967 to provide advice about ending the war in Vietnam successfully. Like many of his colleagues, Dillon advised continued firmness against Ho Chi Minh.
Having received a number of honorary degrees for his accomplishments in business, foreign affairs, and government service, Dillon also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush in 1989. He died in New York City on January 13, 2003.
Sources: Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 494; Eric Pace, "C. Douglas Dillon, Financier Who Served in Kennedy Cabinet, Dies at 93," The New York Times, 12 January 2003, p. 12; Richard Reeves, President Kennedy: Profile of Power (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 27; Martin Weil, "Treasury Chief C. Douglas Dillon Dies," The Washington Post, 12 January 2003, Section C, p. 11.