Military Wiki
Tom Pickering
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

In office
May 27, 1997 – December 31, 2000
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Peter Tarnoff
Succeeded by Marc Grossman
United States Ambassador to Russia

In office
May 12, 1993 – November 1, 1996
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Robert S. Strauss
Succeeded by James F. Collins
United States Ambassador to India

In office
April 6, 1992 – March 23, 1993
President George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Preceded by William Clark
Succeeded by Frank G. Wisner
18th United States Ambassador to the United Nations

In office
March 20, 1989 – May 7, 1992
President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Vernon A. Walters
Succeeded by Edward J. Perkins
United States Ambassador to Israel

In office
August 6, 1985 – December 28, 1988
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Samuel W. Lewis
Succeeded by William Andreas Brown
United States Ambassador to El Salvador

In office
September 5, 1983 – June 7, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Deane R. Hinton
Succeeded by Edwin G. Corr
United States Ambassador to Nigeria

In office
November 30, 1981 – July 9, 1983
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Stephen Low
Succeeded by Thomas W. M. Smith
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

In office
October 10, 1978 – February 24, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Patsy Mink
Succeeded by James Malone
United States Ambassador to Jordan

In office
March 2, 1974 – July 13, 1978
President Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded by L. Dean Brown
Succeeded by Nicholas A. Veliotes
Executive Secretary of the Department of State

In office
July 30, 1973 – January 31, 1974
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Theodore L. Eliot Jr.
Succeeded by George Springsteen
Personal details
Born Thomas Reeve Pickering
November 5, 1931(1931-11-05) (age 91)
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Spouse(s) Alice Stover (m. 1955–2011)
Children 2

Thomas Reeve "Tom" Pickering (born November 5, 1931) is a retired United States ambassador. Among his many diplomatic appointments, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992.

Early life and education

Born in Orange, New Jersey, Pickering is the son of Hamilton Reeve Pickering and Sarah Chasteney Pickering. He graduated from Rutherford High School in Rutherford, New Jersey.[1]

He began attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 1949 with plans to join the ministry[2] and graduated cum laude in 1953 with high honors in history and is a member of Theta Delta Chi and Phi Beta Kappa. He then earned a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Upon graduation from Tufts, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and attended the University of Melbourne in Australia where he received a second master's degree in 1956. In addition to the honorary doctorate-in-laws degree that Bowdoin awarded him in 1984, Pickering has been the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.[3]

Before joining the State Department, Pickering served on active duty in the United States Navy from 1956 to 1959,[4] and later served in the Naval Reserve where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander.[5]

Diplomatic career

His four-decade-long career in Foreign Service included ambassadorships in Russia (1993–1996); India (1992–1993); to the United Nations (1989–1992); Israel (1985–1988); El Salvador (1983–1985); Nigeria (1981–1983); and Jordan (1974–1978). Additionally, he served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1997 to 2000. He holds the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service.[6]

Early career

Early in his career, he was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Tanzania and later was Special Assistant to Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. When Pickering served as United States Ambassador to Jordan in the mid-1970s, King Hussein declared him "the best American ambassador I've dealt with."[7] From 1978 to 1981, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. He then spent time as the United States Ambassador to Nigeria before President Ronald Reagan surprisingly replaced the Ambassador to El Salvador, Deane R. Hinton, and put Pickering in his place.[8]

Pickering's time as United States Ambassador to El Salvador was particularly eventful. Only a year after having been appointed ambassador in 1984, Pickering was the subject of assassination threats from right-wing Salvadoran politicians.[7] The same year, Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina urged that Pickering be dismissed, arguing that he helped manipulate the country's elections.[9] In both cases, President Ronald Reagan offered Pickering his full support and he secured him a job as United States Ambassador to Israel after his appointment in El Salvador. It was later noted when Pickering was nominated as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations that he played a minor role in the Iran–Contra affair while Ambassador to El Salvador.[10]

As Ambassador to Israel, Pickering led the United States' criticism of an Israeli policy that expelled Palestinians accused of instilling uprising.[11] Pickering stressed to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that the United States considered the actions illegal and unhelpful for peace efforts.[12]

United Nations and subsequent career

President George H.W. Bush's appointment of Pickering as United States Ambassador to the United Nations was approved almost unanimously in the United States Senate in 1989 with no dissentions and only one abstention.[13] Pickering played a critical role as Ambassador during the First Gulf War, when he helped lead the United Nations Security Council's response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.[14] Bush's decision to move Pickering from the United Nations to become the United States Ambassador to India was highly criticized given Pickering's successful tenure. The New York Times declared that Pickering was "arguably the best-ever U.S. representative to that body" [15] and that the move was made simply because he overshadowed Secretary of State James A. Baker during the Persian Gulf Crisis.[16] Pickering's last ambassadorial appointment was made by President Bill Clinton who designated him United States Ambassador to Russia.

Following the resignation of Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1996, Pickering was reportedly a top contender for the post, but was ultimately passed over in favor of then-UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright.[17]

From 1997 to 2001, Pickering served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the number-three position at the State Department. When Albright appointed him to the post, Time magazine declared him the "five star general of the diplomatic corps".[18] In 1998, he was a special envoy to Nigeria and was meeting with imprisoned leader M. K. O. Abiola on the day of his release. In a BBC interview made at the time, Pickering recounted how during the meeting Abiola became ill, and died soon after.[19]

After the State Department

Following his retirement from the Foreign Service in 2001, Pickering served as Senior Vice President for International Relations at Boeing until 2006. Currently, he is serving as an independent board member at the world's biggest pipe company, OAO TMK, in Moscow. At present, he is affiliated with the International Crisis Group and currently serves as its co-chair,[20] and oversees their international actions as a co-chair. In addition, he is Chairman of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, chairman of the Board of Advisers of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy,[21] Chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy, Chairman of the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation,[22] and a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Global Panel Foundation based in Berlin, Prague and Sydney.[23]

Thomas R. Pickering

Following his retirement, the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program was renamed the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program to honor Pickering. Fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.[24] In May 2004, Bowdoin awarded Pickering the Bowdoin Prize, the highest award that the college bestows upon its graduates.[25]

Secretary Condoleezza Rice with (left to right): Tom Pickering, John Engler and John Breaux at the presentation of Final Report of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy

Pickering serves on the board of directors for CRDF Global and the American Iranian Council, an organization devoted to the normalization of relations between Iran and America.[26] He is currently a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.[27] He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Henry L. Stimson Center board of directors as well as the advisory board of Eurasia Group, the political risk consultancy firm, and America Abroad Media.[28] He serves on the Guiding Coalition of the nonpartisan Project on National Security Reform. Pickering also serves as an advisory board member for the Partnership for a Secure America.

Pickering also serves as co-chairman of the International Economic Alliance (IEA),[29] where he actively hosts and partakes in international forums attended by notable corporate leaders, ambassadors, and senior government officials from member nations of the Alliance.

Pickering is a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization that works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation, and promote good governance. He is also a board member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).[30]

In 2012, along with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Pickering helped lead a State-Department-sponsored panel investigating the Attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.[31]

In 2014, Pickering gave the keynote speech at the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at West Point, New York, addressing the unique challenges that disaster preparedness poses to United States foreign policy planning.[32]

On December 22, 2020, Pickering was a signatory to a letter to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, advocating to not designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization. The letter stated they had no sympathy for their movement and acknowledged the negative role they played in the crisis in Yemen. But said the designation would not advance U.S. national security interests, it could further exacerbate human suffering and interfere with aid being delivered, and that it would complicate the UN-led peace negotiations. Other signatures included, Barbara Bodine, William J. Burns, Gerald M. Feierstein, Michael Mulroy, Anne W. Patterson, and Edmund Hull, among others.[33]

Personal life

Pickering lives in Fairfax County, Virginia. His wife, the former Alice Jean Stover, whom he married in 1955, died in 2011. The couple had two children, Timothy and Margaret.[34]

Pickering is fluent in French, Spanish, and Swahili, and has a working knowledge of Russian, Hebrew, and Arabic.[35]

Honors and awards

In 2002, Thomas R. Pickering was presented the Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award by the American Foreign Service Association.

In May 2015, Pickering received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Brandeis University. He addressed the graduates as the commencement speaker.[citation needed]


  1. "About Rutherford High School". "Career diplomat and ambassador Thomas H. Pickering and presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan are among those honored as part of this tradition." 
  2. "Ambassador Tom Pickering Lecture Introduction". 
  3. "Ambassador Thomas Pickering '53 Wins Bowdoin Prize". 
  4. "Biography: Thomas Pickering". 
  5. "The American Academy of Diplomacy- Powell". 
  6. "Thomas R. Pickering". 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mohr, Charles (1988-12-07). "Bush's Selections for the United Nations, the C.I.A. and Top Economic Posts; Thomas Reeve Pickering, U.S. Representative to the United Nations". 
  8. Isaacson, Walter; Wierzynski, Gregory H. (1983-08-08). "Disappearing Act at Foggy Botton". Time.,9171,955164-2,00.html. 
  9. "Taking Sides?". Time. 1984-05-14.,9171,955266-1,00.html. 
  10. "Bush's Choice for U.N. Carried Contra Appeal". 1988-12-08.,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=10&sq=Thomas%20Pickering&st=cse. 
  11. Brinkley, Joel (1988-08-25). "U.S. Criticism Sets Off Furor In Israel".,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=5&sq=Thomas%20Pickering%20Israel&st=cse. 
  12. "Middle East Trials and Errors". Time. 1988-01-11.,9171,966430-3,00.html. 
  13. "Senate Backs U.N. Delegate". 1989-03-08. 
  14. Lewis, Paul (1990-11-10). "MIDEAST TENSIONS; U.S. Envoy to U.N. on Center Stage". 
  15. Gelb, Leslie H. (1992-02-03). "Foreign Affairs; End U.S. Dipbaloney".,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=1&sq=Thomas%20Pickering%20United%20Nations%20India&st=cse. 
  16. Gelb, Leslie H. (1992-02-03). "Jan 24-30: A Quick Study; A Diplomat's Diplomat Goes to Russia".,%20Thomas%20R.&scp=1&sq=Thomas%20Pickering%20United%20Nations%20India&st=cse. 
  17. [1][dead link]
  18. "The Many Lives of Madeleine". 1997-02-17.,9171,985910-5,00.html. 
  19. Turner, Martin (July 7, 1998). "Abiola's death - an eyewitness account". BBC News. Abuja. 
  20. International Crisis Group Annual Report 2014
  21. "Board of Advisers". 
  22. "Our Directors & Staff - Rostropovich Vishnevskaya Foundation". 
  23. "Board of Advisors - About - The National Bureau of Asian Research". 
  24. "The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Scholarship". 
  25. "Ambassador Thomas Pickering '53 Wins Bowdoin Prize". 
  26. "". 2009-03-25. 
  27. "". 
  28. "Archived copy". 
  29. "International Advisory Board – International Economic Alliance" (in en). 
  30. "Staff and Board". 
  31. Politics, NBC. "Chilly reception for McCain idea of special Benghazi panel". 
  32. Eastwood, Kathy (November 20, 2014). "Worst-case scenarios discussed at 66th SCUSA". 
  34. "Alice Pickering Obituary - Demaine Funeral Home - Alexandria VA". 
  35. "Ambassador Tom Pickering Lecture Introduction". 

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Theodore L. Eliot Jr.
Executive Secretary of the Department of State
Succeeded by
George Springsteen
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
L. Dean Brown
United States Ambassador to Jordan
Succeeded by
Nicholas A. Veliotes
Preceded by
Stephen Low
United States Ambassador to Nigeria
Succeeded by
Thomas W. M. Smith
Preceded by
Deane R. Hinton
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
Succeeded by
Edwin G. Corr
Preceded by
Samuel W. Lewis
United States Ambassador to Israel
Succeeded by
William Andreas Brown
Preceded by
Vernon A. Walters
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Succeeded by
Edward J. Perkins
Preceded by
William Clark
United States Ambassador to India
Succeeded by
Frank G. Wisner
Preceded by
Robert S. Strauss
United States Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded by
James F. Collins
Political offices
Preceded by
Patsy Mink
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Succeeded by
James Malone
Preceded by
Peter Tarnoff
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Succeeded by
Marc Grossman

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