During World War II, Dillon served in the U.S. Navy. In 1946 he was selected chairman of the board of Dillon, Read & Company. In the late 1940s, he became active in Republican politics. His many contacts with Washington power brokers resulted in his being named ambassador to France in 1953. Beginning in 1957 he began consulting with the State Department on economic matters. In 1959 he resigned his ambassadorship to become undersecretary of state for economic affairs. In this capacity he directed the Mutual Security Program and played a key role in the creation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), formed in 1961. He was also a founder of the Inter-American Development Bank. Dillon's work did not go unnoticed by incoming President John F. Kennedy, who took the unusual step of appointing Dillon, a Republican, to head the U.S. Treasury.
Dillon pursued aggressive economic policies that paid handsome dividends in the long term. He was a strong proponent of free and unfettered trade and championed European economic integration. Indeed, under his direction the United States worked more closely than ever with the European Economic Community (EEC). Dillon's policies also produced an overhaul of U.S. trade policy. In addition, he became the chief point man for Kennedy's Alliance for Progress. Dillon stayed on after Kennedy's 1963 assassination but decided to leave his post in April 1965. He went on to serve on many corporate boards, remained active in Republican Party politics, and became a major patron of the arts, donating $20 million to the New York Metropolitan Museum. To this day, Dillon's policies during the early 1960s are credited with helping to create the tremendous economic boom that the United States enjoyed throughout the 1960s. Dillon died in New York City on 10 January 2003.
Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr.
Dallek, Robert. An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.