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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 543

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This is the grave of William Rogers.

Born in 1913 in Norfolk, New York, Rogers was raised by his grandparents after his mother died when he was a child. He went to Colgate University where he was in the same fraternity a couple of years before Andy Rooney showed up there. Did you ever wonder about Bill Rogers’ career? Well, he went to law school at Cornell. He worked on Wall Street for a year before Thomas Dewey hired him as an assistant district attorney in 1938 and then put him on a task force to fight the city’s organized crime problems. He left that in 1942 to join the military in World War II, entering the Navy and rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, seeing serious action at Okinawa.

Rogers returned from the war and, already well connected in the New York Republican Party due to his work with Dewey, rose rapidly in the Republican hack legal ranks. He became close to Richard Nixon and helped out in the HUAC case against Alger Hiss. When Nixon rose, so did Rogers, who helped the future VP out of the mess he made over his dog and the slush fund that was the real issue there. Nixon didn’t have a whole lot of say in the Eisenhower administration, after all the president found him personally detestable. But he was able to help get his buddy Rogers a position as Deputy Attorney General. He played a functionary role in a variety of issues during Eisenhower’s first term, including the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and the Little Rock desegregation case. When Herbert Brownell retired at the end of Eisenhower’s first term, Rogers got the promotion and became Attorney General. He spent a full term there and mostly advised Nixon closely but really was kind of a quiet figure in an administration that did not lack for big personalities. He did a little work on desegregation cases, but came out of those four years as a largely unknown figure.

Probably Rogers would have remained as AG had Nixon won in 1960, but he did not. So Rogers returned to private practice, serving rich clients and being a fairly important figure in both New York and national Republican politics. And when Nixon became president in 1969, Rogers was named Secretary of State. He was, without doubt, the biggest non-entity in the position in the post-war era. It’s possible that Rex Tillerson was a worse Secretary of State, but at least that was intentional, as the corporate slug wanted to reduce his own agency’s influence. Rogers was just a giant nothingburger. He was there because Nixon wanted to handle his own foreign policy, Rogers was his buddy, and the president knew he could count on him to do nothing. Or as Henry Kissinger said, “Few secretaries of state can have been selected because of their president’s confidence in their ignorance of foreign policy.” I hate Kissinger as much as anyone, but it’s hard to argue on this point. He served four years and did absolutely nothing of relevance, even as Nixon went to China and Russia, invaded Cambodia illegally, undermined and overthrew Allende, gave the OK for Suharto to kill a million Indonesians, etc. Rogers was just a total irrelevancy in of all of this as Nixon worked with Kissinger. Maybe that makes him less evil, maybe it just makes him an enabler of evil. They didn’t even tell Rogers what was going on. Finally, Kissinger replaced Rogers as everyone decided to get rid of the charade.

For a guy who served in two of the most important Cabinet positions under two different presidents, Rogers ends up being impressive in what a non-entity he was.

In the post-Nixon, Rogers was the senior Republican guy who was occasionally tasked with things like leading the commission to investigate the Challenger space shuttle disaster, for instance. Mostly, he just worked at his law practice, almost up until the day of his death in 2001, at the age of 87.

William Rogers is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like this series to visit other members of the Nixon administration, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. I regret to say that Satan has not cashed in his part of the deal on Kissinger yet. But his Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans is in Abilene, Kansas and Secretary of the Treasury David Kennedy is in Randolph, Utah. Previous posts in this series are archived here.


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