Former United States Secretary of State George P. Shultz, a titan for American academia, business and diplomacy who spent most of the 1980s improving relations with the Soviet Union and creating a course for peace in the Middle East, has died. He was 100.
Schultz died Saturday at his home on campus at Stanford University, where he was a prominent colleague at the Hoover Institution, a think tank and professor emeritus at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
The Hoover Institution announced Schultz’s death on Sunday. A cause of death was not provided.
George Shultz, a former US Secretary of State and researcher who had a profound influence on US public policy, has died at 100. https://t.co/ht3wmElIis
– Stanford University (@Stanford) February 7, 2021
Shultz was a lifelong Republican and held three major cabinet positions in GOP administrations during a long career in the public service.
He was Secretary of State, Secretary of State and Head of the Office of Administration and Budget under President Richard M. Nixon before spending more than six years as President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State.
Schultz was the longest-serving Secretary of State since World War II and had been the oldest surviving former cabinet member in any administration.
During his lifetime, Shultz succeeded in almost everything he touched on, including academics, education, government service, and the corporate world, and was widely respected by his comrades from both political parties.
After the October 1983 bombing of Beirut’s naval barracks that killed 241 soldiers, Shultz worked tirelessly to end Lebanon’s brutal civil war in the 1980s. He spent countless hours of shuttle diplomacy between the capitals of the Middle East and tried to secure the withdrawal of Israeli forces there.
The experience led him to believe that stability in the region could only be guaranteed with a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he launched an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful mission to bring the parties to the negotiating table.
Although Shultz underscores his goal of putting the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel on the path to a peace agreement, he paved the way for future governments’ Mideast efforts by legitimizing the Palestinians as a people with valid ambitions and a valid effort to determine their future.
As the nation’s chief diplomat, Shultz negotiated the very first treaty to reduce the size of the Soviet Union’s ground-based nuclear arsenals despite fierce objections from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Reagan’s “Strategic Defense Initiative” or Star Wars.
The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Power Treaty was a historic attempt to reverse the nuclear race, a goal he never abandoned in his private life.
“Now that we know so much about these weapons and their power,” Shultz said in a 2008 interview, “they are almost weapons we would not use, so I think we would be better off without them.”
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who reflected in his memoirs on the “highly analytical, calm, and selfless Shultz,” paid Shultz an exceptional compliment in his diary: “If I could choose an American whom I would entrust the nation’s fate to a crisis, it’s George Shultz. ”
George Pratt Shultz was born on December 13, 1920 in New York City and grew up in Englewood, New Jersey. He studied economics and public and international affairs at Princeton University, graduating in 1942. His affiliation with Princeton led him to have the school mascot, a tiger, tattooed on his back, a fact confirmed to journalists decades later by his wife aboard a plane that took them to China.
On Shultz’s 90th birthday, his successor as Secretary of State James Baker joked that he would do anything for Shultz “except kiss the tiger.” After Princeton, Shultz joined the Marine Corps and rose to captaincy as an artillery officer during World War II.
He took a doctorate. in economics at MIT in 1949 and taught at MIT and at the University of Chicago, where he was dean of the School of Business. His administrative experience included a time as a senior economist with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Council of Financial Advisers and as Nixon’s OMB chief.
Shultz was president of the construction and engineering company Bechtel Group from 1975-1982 and taught part-time at Stanford University before joining the Reagan administration in 1982 and replacing Alexander Haig, who resigned after frequent collisions with other members of the administration.
A rare general disagreement between Reagan and Shultz came in 1985 when the president ordered thousands of government employees with access to highly classified information to take a “lie detector test” as a way to stop information leakage. Shultz told reporters: “The minute in this government that I do not trust is the day I leave.” The administration soon backed demand.
A year later, Shultz submitted to a government-wide drug test that was considered much more reliable.
A more serious disagreement was over the secret arms sales to Iran in 1985 in the hope of securing the release of US hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah militants. Although Shultz opposed, Reagan continued with the deal and millions of dollars from Iran went to the right Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua. The ensuing Iran-Contra scandal flooded the administration to Shultz’s dismay.
In a testimony from 1986 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he lamented that “nothing ever lives in this city. It’s not like running a business or even a university. It’s a simmering discussion society where the debate never ends, where people never give up, including me, and that’s the atmosphere you administer. ″
After Reagan left office, Shultz returned to Bechtel, having been the longest-serving Secretary of State since Cordell Hull under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He retired from Bechtel’s board in 2006 and returned to Stanford and the Hoover Institution.
In 2000, he became an early supporter of George W. Bush’s presidential candidacy, whose father had been vice president while Shultz was secretary of state. Schultz acted as an informal advisor to the campaign.
Shultz remained an ardent supporter of gun control in his later years but maintained an iconoclastic streak, speaking out against several common Republican political positions. He created some controversy by calling the war on drugs, fought by Reagan, a failure and raised eyebrows by rejecting the long-standing US embargo on Cuba as “crazy”.
He was also a prominent proponent of combating the effects of climate change and warned against ignoring the risks of suicide.
A pragmatist, Shultz, along with former GOP Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, made headlines during the 2016 presidential campaign when he declined to support Republican candidate Donald Trump after being quoted as saying “God help us” when asked about the possibility of Trump in the White House.
Shultz was married to Helena “Obie” O’Brien, an Army nurse he met in the Pacific during World War II, and they had five children. After her death in 1995, he married Charlotte Maillard, San Francisco’s Chief of Protocol in 1997.
Shultz was awarded the country’s highest civilian honor, the President’s Medal of Freedom, 1989.
His survivors include his wife, five children, 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.