William vanden Heuvel

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William vanden Heuvel
William vanden Heuvel 2014.jpg
Representative of the United States to the European Office of the United Nations
In office
July 1, 1977 — December 5, 1979
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byHenry E. Catto Jr.
Succeeded byGerald B. Helman
Personal details
William Jacobus vanden Heuvel

(1930-04-14)April 14, 1930
Rochester, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 15, 2021(2021-06-15) (aged 91)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
  • (m. 1958; div. 1969)
  • Melinda Fuller Pierce
    (m. 1979)
Children4, including Katrina
EducationDeep Springs College
Cornell University (BA, JD)

William Jacobus vanden Heuvel (April 14, 1930 – June 15, 2021) was an American attorney, businessman, author and diplomat of Dutch descent. He was known for advising Robert F. Kennedy during the latter's campaigns for Senate in 1964 and President in 1968. Vanden Heuvel established the Roosevelt Institute in 1987. He was the father of longtime editor of The Nation magazine Katrina vanden Heuvel and actress[1] Wendy vanden Heuvel, children from his marriage to author-editor Jean Stein, the daughter of MCA founder Jules C. Stein.

Early life and education[edit]

Vanden Heuvel was born in Rochester, New York, on April 14, 1930.[2] His father, Joost, immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands and worked at an R.T. French Company factory; his mother, Alberta (Demunter), immigrated from Belgium.[3][4][5][6] He attended public schools in New York. He attended Deep Springs College (Deep Springs does not "graduate" attendees) and graduated from Cornell University, where he was a member of the Cornell Branch of the Telluride Association. While a student at Cornell Law School, he was editor-in-chief of the Cornell Law Review, served as president of the Young Democrats and Debate Club, and was elected to the Tompkins County Board of Commissioners.[3][7] He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1952, and then joined the law firm of Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine as an associate.[8]


An early protégé of Office of Strategic Services founder William J. Donovan, vanden Heuvel served at the U.S. embassy (1953–1954) in Bangkok, Thailand, as Donovan's executive assistant during his ambassadorship. In 1958, vanden Heuvel served as special counsel to New York State Governor W. Averell Harriman.[9]

Vanden Heuvel became U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's assistant in 1962, and was involved in Kennedy's 1964 and 1968 political campaigns. As special assistant to Attorney General Kennedy, vanden Heuvel played the key role in court, orchestrating the desegregation of the Prince Edward County school system, which expanded the scope of the landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education.[10]

In 1965, vanden Heuvel joined Stroock & Stroock & Lavan as senior partner, where he practiced international and corporate law.[11] In the 1970s, vanden Heuvel, as Chairman of the New York City Board of Corrections, led a campaign to investigate conditions in the city's prison system.[3] He subsequently served as U.S. Ambassador to the European office of the United Nations in Geneva (1977–79)[12] and United States Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations (1979–1981) during the Carter administration.[13]

Vanden Heuvel founded the Roosevelt Institute in 1987 and served as its chairman until the early 2000s.[3][14] He was a Senior Advisor to the investment banking firm Allen & Company starting in 1984.[15] He also served as Chairman of the American Austrian Foundation.[16] He acted as co-chairman of the Council of American Ambassadors,[11] and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[17] He was a Governor and former Chairman of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, and wrote extensively on the United Nations and American foreign policy.[18] He was also a member of Collegium International, an organization of leaders with political, scientific, and ethical expertise whose goal is to provide new approaches in overcoming the obstacles in the way of a peaceful, socially just and an economically sustainable world.[19]

Political campaigns[edit]

In 1960, vanden Heuvel ran as a Democrat for New York's 17th congressional district against incumbent Republican John Lindsay.[20] The 17th district was strongly identified with the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which has been often referred to as the "Silk Stocking" district. Lindsay handily won the highly contested race by 80,000 votes to vanden Heuvel's 54,000.[21]

In June 1973, vanden Heuvel challenged Frank Hogan in the Democratic primary for the position of Manhattan District Attorney. Hogan had served for 32 years in the position and easily won the primary, assuring Hogan victory in the general election in November, with the support of all the political parties.[22][23]

Personal life[edit]

Vanden Heuvel married his first wife, Jean Stein, in 1958. Together, they had two children: Katrina and Wendy. They divorced in 1969. A decade later, he married Melinda Fuller Pierce. They remained married until his death. Vanden Heuvel died on June 15, 2021, at his home in Manhattan. He was 91, and suffered from complications of pneumonia prior to his death.[3]


  • William vanden Heuvel, editor. The Future of Freedom in Russia, Templeton Foundation Press (2000), ISBN 1-890151-43-2.
  • William vanden Heuvel, with Milton S. Gwirtzman. On His Own: Robert F. Kennedy, 1964–1968, Doubleday (1970), OCLC 67339.
  • William vanden Heuvel. Hope and History: A Memoir of Tumultuous Times, Cornell University Press (2019), ISBN 9781501738197.


  1. ^ "Wendy Vanden Heuvel – Broadway Cast & Staff". iBdb. The Broadway League. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  2. ^ Montague, Zach (June 15, 2021). "William vanden Heuvel, Diplomat and a Kennedy Confidant, Dies at 91". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Montague, Zach (June 15, 2021). "William vanden Heuvel, Diplomat and a Kennedy Confidant, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  4. ^ The Village Voice: "Vanden Heuvel: Horatio Alger in Upper Bohemia" October 27, 1960
  5. ^ Berman, Phillip L. (December 22, 2010). The Search for Meaning: Americans Talk About What They Believe and Why. ISBN 9780307775474.
  6. ^ New York Times Obituary: "MRS. VANDEN HEUVEL" March 28, 1974
  7. ^ "Vanden Heuvel Wins Election in Local Commissioner Race". The Cornell Daily Sun. September 30, 1949. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  8. ^ NNDB/Soylent Communications web page.
  9. ^ "AFJ to Honor Ambassador William vanden Heuvel with "Champion of Justice" Award". Alliance for Justice. November 27, 2017. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  10. ^ Eleanor Roosevelt Papers web site.
  11. ^ a b "William J. vanden Heuvel". American Ambassadors Live!. Council of American Ambassadors. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  12. ^ "Representatives of the U.S.A. to the European Office of the United Nations (Geneva)". United States Department of State. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  13. ^ John F. Kennedy Library National Archives web site.
  14. ^ "Mourning Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, Board Chair Emeritus of the Roosevelt Institute". Roosevelt Institute. June 15, 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  15. ^ Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute web page.
  16. ^ [1] web site.
  17. ^ "Council on Foreign Relations".
  18. ^ American Austrian Foundation web site.
  20. ^ Nichols, Mary Perot; Goddard, J. R. (October 27, 1960). "Horatio Alger in Upper Bohemia". No. Vol. VI, No.1. The Village Voice. p. 13. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  21. ^ Dales, Douglas (November 9, 1960). "Lindsay and Ryan win House Races". The New York Times. No. CX, N0.37, 545, 7AM EXTRA. p. 1. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  22. ^ Kramer, Michael (May 7, 1973). "Getting Hogan's Goat". New York Magazine. p. 13. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  23. ^ "Hogan, District Attorney 32 Years, Dies". The New York Times. April 3, 1974. pp. 1, 32. Retrieved October 28, 2014.

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