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John Foster Dulles Edit Profile

lawyer , politician

John Foster Dulles was a U.S. attorney and diplomat who served as secretary of state in President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration.


Born in Washington, D.C., he was one of five children and the eldest son born to Presbyterian minister Allen Macy Dulles and his wife, Edith (née Foster). His paternal grandfather, John Welsh Dulles, had been a Presbyterian missionary in India. His maternal grandfather, John W. Foster, doted on Dulles and his brother Allen, who would later become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The brothers attended public schools in Watertown, New York


Dulles attended Princeton University and graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1908. At Princeton, Dulles competed on the American Whig-Cliosophic Society debate team. He then attended the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.


After passing the New York State Bar Exam, Dulles was able to get a job at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell due to his influential grandfather. Dulles eventually became a partner, with much of his output having a pronounced international bent. During his time at S&C, he also served as counsel to the U.S. delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference and on the reparations commission following World War I.

Having formed a political association with New York Governor Thomas L. Dewey, Dulles worked for the Dewey presidential campaigns of 1944 and 1948 as the chief foreign policy adviser. He was influential in the formation of the United Nations during that time, and served as acting chairman of the American delegation to the U.N. General Assembly in 1948. Dulles was also appointed interim senator of New York (by Governor Dewey) following the resignation of Robert F. Wagner in 1949, but lost the election for the seat a few months later.

After Dwight D. Eisenhower won the White House in 1952, Dulles was named secretary of state, while his younger brother Allen Dulles was appointed head of the CIA. Seeking to expand alliances beyond those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, John Foster Dulles was subsequently involved in the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, the Central Treaty Organization and the Austrian State Treaty.

Often working relatively autonomously, Dulles positioned himself in direct opposition to the Soviet Union. He routinely agitated against communism, and as such this stance was acted out via clandestine global maneuvering and severe foreign policy language. Though an extensive traveler with a long network of contacts, Dulles could be a polarizing figure with would-be allies, as exemplified by his alienation of France during the European Defense Community negotiations.

Dulles left the presidential cabinet in April 1959 due to failing health after a three-year battle with cancer. He died on May 24, 1959, in the city of his birth. Decades later, the intertwined lives and careers of the Dulles siblings were chronicled in the Stephen Kinzer book, The Brothers (2013).


  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • Association Bar City of New York

  • Phi Beta Kappa

  • Phi Delta Phi

  • University Club

  • Century Club (New York )

  • Metropolitan Club (Washington).


Both his grandfather, Foster, and his uncle, Robert Lansing, the husband of Eleanor Foster, had held the position of Secretary of State. His younger brother, Allen Welsh Dulles, served as Director of Central Intelligence under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his younger sister Eleanor Lansing Dulles was noted for her work in the successful reconstruction of the economy of post-war Europe during her twenty years with the State Department.

On June 26, 1912, Dulles married Janet Pomeroy Avery (1891–1969), a first cousin of David Rockefeller. They had two sons and a daughter. Their older son John W. F. Dulles (1913–2008) was a professor of history and specialist in Brazil at the University of Texas at Austin. Their daughter Lillias Dulles Hinshaw (1914–1987) became a Presbyterian minister. Their son Avery Dulles (1918–2008) converted to Roman Catholicism, entered the Jesuit order, and became the first American theologian to be appointed a Cardinal.

Allen Macy Dulles

Edith (Foster) Dulles

Janet Pomeroy Avery

John Watson Foster Dulles

Lillias Pomeroy Dulles

Avery Dulles