Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger Dies, Age 80

Eagleburger, who served under George H.W. Bush, was considered a great friend of Israel and a supporter of Jewish causes.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who served under George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, died on Saturday at the age of 80, a spokeswoman for his family said.

He died in Charlottesville, Va., after a short illness, the spokeswoman said.
Eagleburger headed the State Department from August 1992 to January 1993, capping a diplomatic career that spanned eight presidents, both Democrats and Republicans.

President Barack Obama in a statement said Eagleburger had "helped our nation navigate the pivotal days during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War" when he led the State Department.

Eagleburger entered the foreign service in 1957, but his career took off when he became an assistant to President Richard Nixon's national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, in 1969.

Self-described as a moderate Republican, Eagleburger was widely regarded as a tough pragmatist in foreign affairs. He was also considered a great friend of Israel and a supporter of Jewish causes.

The American Jewish Committee released a statement mourning the loss of a distinguished diplomat and representative of our country, Larry Eagleburger was a strong advocate for Soviet Jewry and steadfast supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship."

After Republicans lost the White House to Jimmy Carter in 1976, Eagleburger was asked to stay on and served as ambassador to Yugoslavia in the Democratic administration.

He also served in the State Department during the Reagan administration, leaving in 1984 to become president of Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm founded by Kissinger.

Bush brought him back to government in 1989 as deputy secretary of state, the No. 2 job, even though he had not been a member of Bush's inner circle of advisers headed by Secretary of State James Baker.

On Saturday, Bush praised the role Eagleburger played during the first Gulf War.

"During one of the tensest moments of the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein began attacking Israel with scud missiles trying cynically and cruelly to bait them into the conflict, we sent Larry to Israel to preserve our coalition," Bush said in a statement. "It was an inordinately complex and sensitive task, and his performance was nothing short of heroic."

Eagleburger became acting secretary when Baker left to run Bush's re-election campaign in August 1992 and was sworn in officially on Dec. 8, 1992 for the last month and a half of Bush's presidential term.

In 2006 Eagleburger was a late addition to the Iraq Study Group headed by Baker and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton that gave a report on the Iraq war to President George W. Bush.

After leaving his position in the State Department, Eagleburger took on chairmanship of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.

An avuncular, cane-carrying figure who suffered from chronic asthma and a muscle disorder, Eagleburger was a heavy smoker known as crusty, charming and wisecracking.

He named each of his three sons Lawrence -- but all with different middle names. Asked to explain that move he reportedly said: "First of all, it was ego. And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system."

Reuters