Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich (1908–1979)

U.S. political leader, governor of New York, and vice president of the United States. Born in Bar Harbor, Maine, on 8 July 1908, Nelson Rockefeller was one of the heirs to the vast Standard Oil fortune of John D. Rockefeller. Nelson Rockefeller was determined to win distinction in the political arena, where his ultimate ambition, never attained, was to become president of the United States. A liberal Republican, he was coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs during 1940–1944; assistant secretary of state for American Republics' Affairs during 1944–1945; chairman of the International Development Advisory Board (Point Four Program) during 1950–1951; undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare during 1953–1954; and special assistant to the president during 1954–1955. Rockefeller demonstrated particular interest in Latin America, where he and his family possessed enormous property and business holdings. Throughout the 1960s he was a leading but perennially disappointed candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

A firm anti-communist and leader of the internationalist wing of the Republican Party who believed implicitly in the prevailing Cold War orthodoxy, Rockefeller originally supported the U.S. commitment to Vietnam and the 1965–1967 military escalation. During the 1968 presidential campaign, he announced that he would attack neither Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson's prosecution of the war nor his turn toward peace negotiations. During that year's Republican convention, both Rockefeller and his rival, Richard M. Nixon, supported and won a platform plank favoring peace negotiations over the opposition of conservative California Governor Ronald Reagan's followers, who urged a more aggressive prosecution of the war.

After Nixon's election, Rockefeller loyally supported the president's Vietnam policies. When the Watergate scandal forced Nixon's resignation in August 1974, his successor, Gerald R. Ford, made Rockefeller his vice president. Conservative opposition to Rockefeller's liberal Republicanism denied him the second place on the presidential ticket in 1976. Rockefeller died in New York City on 27 January 1979.

Priscilla Roberts


Further Reading
Dietz, Terry. Republicans and Vietnam, 1961–1968. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986.; Persico, Joseph. The Imperial Rockefeller. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.; Reich, Cary. The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer. New York: Doubleday, 1996.; Rivas, Darlene. Missionary Capitalist: Nelson Rockefeller in Venezuela. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
 

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