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Alexander Haig, 1924-2010

February 21, 2010
Alexander Haig, 1924-2010

Americans were shocked to learn this week that former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, was in Johns Hopkins Hospital and had been in critical condition since January 28.  Yesterday, Haig died due to complications from an infection.  He was 85.  

Much has been said about a man who played a prominent role in American history over the last few decades.  Upon his death, President Obama praised him as a public servant who “exemplified our finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service.’’ 

Current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said Haig, “served his country in many capacities for many years, earning honor on the battlefield, the confidence of presidents and prime ministers, and the thanks of a grateful nation.’’

Haig was born on December 2, 1924, just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Alexander Meigs Haig, Sr. and Regina Anne Murphy.  He attended Saint Joseph’s Prepatory School and graduated from Lower Merion High School.  He attended the University of Notre Dame for two years before transferring to the United States Military Academy. He graduated in 1947, going on to earn an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1955, as well as a master’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University in 1961. 

Haig has been called a “patriot’s patriot”  by former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and spent many years serving his country, both in the military and in public office. Shultz said, “No matter how you sliced him it came out red, white, and blue.” 

In his early years with the military, he served General Douglas MacArthur in the Korean War.   As an officer, Haig was responsible for briefing the General on the days’ events and eventually served as aide to MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, General Edward Almond.  He was part of four campaigns in that war, including the evacuation of Hungnam.  Haig also served in Vietnam, where he earned several awards, among them, the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars with oak leaf cluster for heroism, the Bronze Star with Valor device and the Purple Heart.

In 1969, he was appointed Military Assistant to the Presidential Assistant for National Security Affairs (Henry Kissinger), and the next year, President Nixon promoted him to  Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.   While in this position, he helped negotiate cease-fire talks with the South Vietnamese President.  He was known to work fifteen hour days, seven days a week.   In 1973, he became Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, where he stayed until he eventually served as White House Chief of Staff during the last year months of the Nixon administration.  Former President Richard Nixon has referred to him amicably as, “the meanest, toughest, most ambitious S.O.B..”   Many say Haig is responsible for keeping things under control during the Watergate Scandal. 

Alexander Haig, 1924-2010

From 1974 to 1979, Haig  served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the Commander of NATO forces in Europe, and Commander-in-Chief of United States European Command.   In 1979, in Belgium, he was the victim of an assassination attempt.  A landmine under a bridge he was riding over blew up; Rolf Clemens Wagner, a former Red Army Faction member, was later blamed for the incident.  Shortly after, he retired from the Army, taking a civilian job: Director and CEO of United Technologies. 

In 1981, Haig became Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan.  It was during Regan’s assassination attempt when Haig became famous for uttering the line, “I am in control here.”  The line led to some criticism, but Haig later explained in a 2001 interview with the TV show 60 Minutes, “I wasn’t talking about transition. I was talking about the executive branch, who is running the government. That was the question asked. It was not, ‘Who is in line should the President die?'”

In 1988, Haig ran unsuccessfully for President.  He was a critic of Vice President George H. W. Bush and when he withdrew from the race, he threw his support behind Senator Bob Dole. 

In his later years, Haig hosted a television show, World Business Review from 2000-2006 and he was hosting 21st Century Business until the time of his death.  He helped found Newsmax Media and served on the advisory board, as well as serving as co-chairman  of the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.  Haig was also a founding board member of America Online.  In 1992, he published his memoirs, Inner Circles: How America Changed The World.  

Haig was married to Patricia Fox from 1950 until his death.  The couple had three children, Alexander Patrick Haig, who serves as Managing Director of Worldwide Associates, Inc.;  Barbara Haig, who serves as  “Deputy to President for Policy & Strategy” at the National Endowment for Democracy; and Brian Haig, author and military analyst.   He was surrounded by his family at the time of his death.

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