Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“United States Foreign Policy,” Ambassador George W. Ball

Fourth Annual Ava Helen Pauling Memorial Lecture for World Peace

October 9, 1985

Speaker Biography

George W. Ball
George W. Ball (Former Under Secretary of the State Department and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations)

“United States Foreign Policy”  Watch Video

A lawyer, economist, author, investment banker and high governmental official, George W. Ball (1909-1994) was an influential voice of American foreign policy in the 1960s. Serving as Under Secretary of State in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Ball was a prominent supporter of economic and political unity in Europe, and was well-known for his stance against the Vietnam War.

As an undergraduate Ball studied English before launching into post-graduate studies in law, taking both his B. A. and J. D. degrees from Chicago's Northwestern University. He completed his law degree in 1933 and began his career as a lawyer in the U.S. government's Farm Credit Administration.

Over the next two decades, Ball held a number of jobs in both the public and private sectors before his appointment, in 1961, as Under Secretary of State. Ball remained in this position for the better part of five years under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Bitterly opposed to the war in Vietnam, Ball tendered his resignation in September 1966 and returned to the private sector. Despite its differences with Ball on the crucial matter of Vietnam, the Johnson administration, in 1968, asked him to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations, a role that Ball filled for four months.

For the remainder of his life, Ball continued to work in both the public and private realms, serving, at various times, as senior partner at Lehman Brothers and adviser to President Jimmy Carter. He lectured and wrote prolifically before succumbing to cancer on May 26, 1994.