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William Averell Harriman
New York

Gov. William Averell Harriman

  • January 1, 1955 - January 1, 1959
  • Democratic
  • November 15, 1891
  • July 26, 1986
  • New York
  • Yale University
  • Married three times—Kitty Lanier Lawrence, Mrs. Marie Norton Whitney, Pamela Beryl Digby Churchill Hayward; two children
  • Cabinet secretary, Ambassador


W. AVERELL HARRIMAN, the fifty-second governor of New York, was born in New York City on November 15, 1891. His education was attained at Groton School, and then at Yale University, where he graduated in 1913. He established a successful business career, with holdings in the banking, shipbuilding, and railroad industries. Harriman also had a long and distinguished career in public service. In 1934 he served as special assistant administrator for the National Recovery Administration; and from 1937 to 1940 he was a Department of Commerce executive. He served as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1943 to 1946, as well as serving as the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain in 1946. He also served as the U.S. secretary of commerce from 1946 to 1948; was the U.S. representative for the 1948 European Recovery Program; and served as the U.S. ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary from 1948 to 1950. From 1950 to 1951 he was the special assistant to the president; and from 1951 to 1953 he served as the director of the Mutual Security Agency. Harriman next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 2, 1954. During his tenure, legislation was sanctioned that legalized bingo; and the state’s jobless pay plan was authorized. After losing his reelection bid, Harriman later served as an U.S. ambassador-at-large, a post he held in 1961 and 1965. From 1961 to 1963 he was the U.S. assistant secretary of state for eastern affairs; and from 1968 to 1969 he was the chief U.S. negotiator for the Vietnam peace talks. Governor W. Averell Harriman, who was the author of several books, passed away on July 26, 1986. He was buried in the Arden Farm Graveyard in Arden, New York.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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