Acheson, Dean (Gooderham) (1893–1971), a United States statesman and lawyer. Acheson was a principal architect of United States foreign policy in the early post-World War II period. In the administrations of Presidents Roosevelt and Truman he served as assistant secretary of state, 1941–45; under secretary of state, 1945–47; and secretary of state, 1949–53. Acheson played a major role in shaping the Bretton Woods Agreement, in forming the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and in drawing up the Japanese peace treaty. He helped to formulate and carry out the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine.
Acheson was born in Middletown, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale University, 1915, and Harvard Law School, 1918. He served as private secretary to Louis D. Brandeis, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1919–21. Acheson then practiced corporate and international law until 1933, when he was appointed undersecretary of the treasury. He resigned later that year in a policy disagreement and resumed private law practice.
While Acheson was secretary of state, major international crises included the fall of the Nationalist government of China and the Korean War. There was much domestic controversy over the Truman-Acheson foreign policy. However, “containment” of Communist expansion, the cornerstone of this policy, was continued under the Republican Eisenhower administration. Acheson again resumed his law practice in 1953, but remained an influential Democrat and adviser on foreign policy.
His writings include: A Democrat Looks at His Party (1955); A Citizen Looks at Congress (1957); Power and Diplomacy (1958); Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known (1961); Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (1970), winner of the 1970 Pulitzer Prize in history; Fragments of My Fleece (1971); Grapes from Thorns (1972). Morning and Noon (1965) is his autobiography; Among Friends (1980) is a collection of his personal letters.