Warren Minor Christopher

Lawyer and government official Warren Minor Christopher (born 1925) became U.S. secretary of state in 1993 by appointment of President Bill Clinton.

Warren Minor Christopher was born on October 27, 1925, in Scranton, North Dakota. His parents were Ernest W. and Catherine Anne (Lemen) Christopher. His father, a banker, died when Christopher was young. His mother moved the family to California.

Christopher attended Hollywood High School. In 1942 he entered the University of Redlands, but transferred to the University of Southern California to complete his studies. He graduated in 1945 with a B.S. degree with honors and finished serving his three years, from 1943 to 1946, in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Christopher's plan to become a lawyer began by enrolling in Stanford University's law school in 1946. He earned his LL.B. degree in 1949. After graduation he was selected for a very prestigious position: law clerk to Justice William O. Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court.

After one year in Washington, D.C., Christopher returned to his hometown and joined a law firm. From 1950 on he split his career between practicing law and public service. He was a special counsel to California Governor Edmund Brown and vice-chairman of a commission the governor established in 1965 to investigate the causes of the urban riots in Watts, Los Angeles. Christopher also served as a consultant to the U.S. State Department and helped negotiate several international trade agreements.

President Lyndon Johnson appointed Christopher as deputy attorney general in June 1967. Johnson selected him to assist federal efforts to combat the urban riots in Detroit during July 1967 and in Chicago during April 1968. He served in that office until Johnson's term expired in January 1969. Christopher returned to his law firm in California.

President Jimmy Carter called Christopher back to work in the nation's capital in 1977. Christopher was appointed as deputy secretary of state. A highlight of his term in office occurred after militants in Iran seized the United States embassy and held its occupants as hostages from November 1979 to January 1981. Carter put Christopher in charge of negotiating the release of the 52 captured Americans. For his skillful and successful negotiations, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. When Carter left office in 1981, Christopher returned to California and resumed his law practice. He headed a commission to investigate charges of brutality and racism in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1991.

In 1992 Christopher was again called back into national public service. His record of having worked in every Democratic presidential administration since he was an adult continued with the election of President Bill Clinton. When Clinton won enough votes in the 1992 campaign to be assured of the Democratic Party's nomination, he asked Christopher to head the team to select a vice presidential running mate (Albert Gore). After the November 1992 election, Clinton asked Christopher to help select members to the new cabinet and to head the transition staff for the newly elected president. Clinton appointed Christopher as secretary of state in his first round of cabinet choices.

In 1993, Christopher was sworn in as the 63rd U.S. secretary of state. A series of international problems gave the new secretary of state little time to relax. After establishing some degree of order in Somalia, American troops were withdrawn by the end of March 1994. Meanwhile, in April the civil war among the states of the former Yugoslavia entered its second year and peace negotiations in the Middle East continued to be a sensitive issue. After Clinton was reelected in 1996 to a second presidential term, Christopher resigned. During his four years with the cabinet, he played an important role in several foreign policy successes, including a historic peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

Christopher married Marie Josephine Wyllis on December 21, 1956. An earlier marriage had ended in divorce. He had four children: Lynn, Scott, Thomas, and Kristen.


Further Reading on Warren Minor Christopher

Warren Christopher co-edited a book on the negotiations to free the Americans held in the embassy takeover, American Hostages in Iran: The Conduct of a Crisis (1985). Christopher is listed in Who's Who in America.

Additional Biography Sources

New Republic, February 1, 1993.

Time, June 7, 1993, pp. 32-33; June 26, 1995, pp. 31-33.

U.S. News & World Report, July 5, 1993, p. 24.