Donald H. Rumsfeld
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Trustee

March 24, 1982 through Present

Donald Henry Rumsfeld served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald R. Ford, and again from January 2001 to December 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the second-oldest person to have served as Secretary of Defense. Additionally, Rumsfeld was a three-term U.S. Congressman from Illinois (1963–1969), director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (1969–1970), counsellor to the president (1969–1973), the United States Permanent Representative to NATO (1973–1974), and White House Chief of Staff (1974–1975). Between his terms as Secretary of Defense, he served as the CEO and chairman of several companies.

Born in Illinois, Rumsfeld attended Princeton University, graduating in 1954 with a degree in political science. After serving in the Navy for three years, he mounted a campaign for Congress in Illinois’s 13th Congressional District, winning in 1962 at the age of 30. While in Congress, he was a leading co-sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act. Rumsfeld reluctantly accepted an appointment by President Richard Nixon to head the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969; appointed counsellor by Nixon and entitled to Cabinet-level status, he would also head up the Economic Stabilization Program before being appointed ambassador to NATO. Called back to Washington in August 1974, Rumsfeld was appointed chief of staff by President Ford. Rumsfeld recruited a young one-time staffer of his, Dick Cheney, to succeed him when Ford nominated him to be Secretary of Defense in 1975. When Ford lost the 1976 election, Rumsfeld returned to private business and financial life, and was named president and CEO of the pharmaceutical corporation G. D. Searle & Company. He was later named CEO of General Instrument from 1990 to 1993 and chairman of Gilead Sciences from 1997 to 2001.

Rumsfeld has been awarded 11 honorary degrees and has received foreign awards and honors from the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Georgia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Latvia, Mexico, the Republic of Nicaragua, the Republic of Poland, Romania Taiwan, and Ukraine. In 1977, he was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Read Oral History Interview with Donald Rumsfeld

Remarks at Donald Rumsfeld “Known and Unknown” book discussion
(remarks begin at 05:20 of video)

November 20, 1975. Swearing-in of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. (Photo Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library)


Published 2018

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