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William P. Rogers

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Title: William P. Rogers  
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Subject: Lawrence Walsh, Robert F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Ranan Lurie, United States Deputy Attorney General
Collection: 1913 Births, 2001 Deaths, American Military Personnel of World War II, American Presbyterians, American Prosecutors, Burials at Arlington National Cemetery, Colgate University Alumni, Cornell Law School Alumni, Eisenhower Administration Cabinet Members, New York Republicans, Nixon Administration Cabinet Members, People from Canton, New York, People from Norfolk, New York, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients, United States Attorneys General, United States Deputy Attorneys General, United States Secretaries of State
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William P. Rogers

William Rogers
55th United States Secretary of State
In office
January 22, 1969 – September 3, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Dean Rusk
Succeeded by Henry Kissinger
63rd United States Attorney General
In office
October 23, 1957 – January 20, 1961
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Herbert Brownell
Succeeded by Robert Kennedy
3rd United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
January 1953 – October 23, 1957
President Dwight Eisenhower
Preceded by Ross Malone
Succeeded by Lawrence Walsh
Personal details
Born William Pierce Rogers
(1913-06-23)June 23, 1913
Norfolk, New York, U.S.
Died January 2, 2001(2001-01-02) (aged 87)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Adele Langston
Children Dale
Anthony Wood
Jeffrey Langston
Douglas Langston
Alma mater Colgate University (B.A.)
Cornell Law School (J.D.)
Religion Presbyterianism
Military service
Allegiance  United States
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.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Early legal career and military service 2
  • U.S. Deputy Attorney General 3
  • U.S. Attorney General (1957–1961) 4
  • Return to legal career 5
  • U.S. Secretary of State (1969–1973) 6
  • Later life, death and legacy 7
  • Sources 8
  • Notes 9
  • External links 10

Early life and education

Rogers was born June 23, 1913, in Norfolk, New York. After the death of his mother, the former Myra Beswick, he was reared during his teen years by his grandparents, in Canton, New York.

He attended Colgate University, where he was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity. He then went to Cornell University Law School. He received his law degree and passed the New York Bar in 1937, and he married Adele Langston Rogers (August 15, 1911 – May 27, 2001). The couple had four children, Dale R. Marshall, Douglas L. Rogers, Anthony W. Rogers and Jeffrey L. Rogers.

Early legal career and military service

After serving about a year as an attorney for a organized crime.

He entered the United States 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.

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 he was not in government service.

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 Congressman Richard M. Nixon, and advised Nixon that Hiss had lied and that the case against him should be pursued.

Rogers also advised Nixon in the slush fund scandal that led to Nixon's Checkers speech in 1952.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General

Rogers joined the Administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower as Deputy Attorney General in 1953.

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]

As deputy attorney general, Rogers was involved in the Little Rock Integration Crisis in the fall of 1957 of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In that capacity, he worked with Osro Cobb, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, to implement federal orders and to maintain peace in the capital city. In his memoirs, Cobb recalls that Rogers called him to discuss the possibility of violence. Cobb writes, "Our conversation was somewhat guarded. I had never recommended the use of federal troops, and Rogers asked if I thought they were necessary. I told him I hoped not. Then to my surprise he stated, 'They are on their way already.'"[2]

U.S. Attorney General (1957–1961)

Rogers served as Attorney General from 1957 to 1961. He remained a close advisor to Vice President Nixon throughout the Eisenhower administration, especially during Eisenhower's two medical crises. Rogers became attorney general upon the resignation of his superior, Herbert Brownell, who had worked to implement the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. In 1958, Little Rock closed its public schools for a year to oppose further desegregation required by the U.S. government. At the time Rogers said that "It seems inconceivable that a state or community would rather close its public schools than comply with decisions of the Supreme Court.[3]

In 1959, Martin Luther King, Jr., hailed Rogers for advocating the integration of an elementary school in Alabama that had excluded the children of black military personnel.[4]

Return to legal career

Now renamed to Rogers & Wells, Rogers returned to his law practice, where he worked until his early 80s. He played an important role in the 1964 New York Times Co. v. Sullivan Supreme Court case.

William P. Rogers from the first row (right) into staff members at President Nixon with his speaking to Charles de Gaulle in March 1969.

U.S. Secretary of State (1969–1973)

The official Secretary of State Rogers 1970.

Preceded by Dean Rusk, Rogers served as United States Secretary of State in the Nixon administration from January 22, 1969, through September 3, 1973. One of his notable works was to initiate efforts at a lasting peace in the Arab–Israeli conflict through the so-called Rogers Plan. Throughout his tenure, however, his influence was drastically circumscribed 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.

Later life, death and legacy

Rogers led 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.[5]

Rogers worked at his law firm, now renamed Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells after a 1999 merger, in its Washington office until several months before his death.

He died of congestive heart failure, at the Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on January 2, 2001, at the age of 87. Rogers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving member of the Eisenhower Administration.[6]

In 2001, the Rogers family donated to Cornell Law Library that reflect the lives of William and Adele Rogers, the majority of items from the years 1969–1973.[7]

His son, Jeffrey Langston Rogers, served as City Attorney for Portland, Oregon, from 1985 to 2004.


  • The Presidency Project


  1. ^ Roberts, Sam (June 26, 2008). "Spies and Secrecy".  
  2. ^ Osro Cobb, Osro Cobb of Arkansas: Memoirs of Historical Significance, Carol Griffee,ed. (Little Rock, Arkansas: Rose Publishing Company), (1989), p. 234
  3. ^ Osro Cobb, pp. 267–268
  4. ^ Martin Luther King, Jr (November 19, 1959). "To William P. Rogers" (PDF). Stanford University. 
  5. ^ Richard P. Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, ed. Ralph Leighton, pub. W. W. Norton (1988) p.124
  6. ^ Stout, David (January 4, 2001). "William P. Rogers, Who Served as Nixon's Secretary of State, Is Dead at 87".  
  7. ^ materials

External links

  • Papers of William P. Rogers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
  • Finding aid for the William P. Rogers Oral History, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
Legal offices
Preceded by
Ross Malone
United States Deputy Attorney General
Succeeded by
Lawrence Walsh
Preceded by
Herbert Brownell
United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
Robert Kennedy
Political offices
Preceded by
Dean Rusk
United States Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Henry Kissinger
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