Senator Henry M. Jackson declines on December 6, 1968, to serve as U.S. Secretary of Defense.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 8/08/2003
  • Essay 5507

On December 6, 1968, the Washington Democratic Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (1912-1983) declines an offer by U. S. President-Elect Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) to serve as U. S. Secretary of Defense. Senator Jackson is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a proponent of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System. He also supports U.S. policies in Vietnam. Senator Jackson chooses to remain in the Senate and thus to retain his independence. (The Secretary of Defense is a member of the Cabinet and serves directly under the President.)

President-Elect Nixon had contacted Jackson with the offer three days before, while Jackson was vacationing in Hawaii. Jackson told Nixon that he would consider the job if, when he resigned from the Senate, Republican Governor Dan Evans would appoint in his place another Democrat who would not run for election in 1970. Evans agreed and considered appointing Lieutenant Governor John Cherberg to take Jackson's seat in the Senate.

But Jackson decided to decline the offer. Nixon ultimately appointed Melvin Laird (b. 1922) to be his Secretary of Defense.

Jackson and Nixon had served together in the House of Representatives and agreed on many points of defense and foreign policy. On domestic issues they often conflicted.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 263; William W. Prochnau and Richard W. Larsen, A Certain Democrat: Senator Henry M. Jackson (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1972), pp. 228-234.

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