Dr. David M. Abshire (1926-2014)

Former President & CEO, CSPC (1999-2012)
@CSPC_DC 202-872-9800 202-872-9811

David M. Abshire was Vice Chairman and Counselor of the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress (CSPC) in Washington, DC. He also was the President of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation of New York, which gives grants in the fields of science and education and Vice Chairman of the Board of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC, which he co-founded with Admiral Arleigh Burke in 1962, and served as its chief executive for many years. In 2002, he led in the establishment of the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy at CSIS. He served as one of the four co-convenors of the 2006 Congressionally-mandated Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.

Dr. Abshire was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1926. He graduated from Baylor Preparatory School in Chattanooga in 1944, of which he is designated a distinguished graduate and served as a trustee for six years. Dr. Abshire is a 1951 graduate of West Point, where, in 1996, he received the Distinguished Graduate Award. In the Korean War, he served as a platoon leader, company commander, and a division intelligence officer. He received the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster with V for Valor, Commendation Ribbon with medal pendant, and Combat Infantry Badge. He subsequently served as an instructor at the Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Georgia. He later received his doctorate with Honors (Gold Key Society) in History from Georgetown University. For many years he was an adjunct professor at its School of Foreign Service, and initially, CSIS was affiliated with the university. In 2006, Georgetown University bestowed on him an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, before a special convocation where he spoke about the Character Crisis in America. In addition to Georgetown University, he received three honorary degrees from other institutions—a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1992, a Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, from the University of the South in 1994, and a Doctor of Letters from Washington College in 2006.

Dr. Abshire served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations from 1970-1973 and worked out the plan that saved Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty from extinction. In 1974, he was asked to become the first chairman of the Board for International Broadcasting. He was a member of the Murphy Commission on the Organization of the Government, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and the President's Task Force on U.S. Government International Broadcasting. During the transition of government in 1980, Dr. Abshire was asked by President-elect Reagan to head the National Security Group, which included the State and Defense Departments, the U.S. Information Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency. He also served on the Advisory Board of the Naval War College and on the Executive Panel of the Chief of Naval Operations.

More recently, from 1983-1987, he was Ambassador to NATO where, in reaction to the threat posed by Soviet SS-20 missiles, he was the United States point man in Europe for deployment of Pershing and Cruise missiles. It was this NATO success that convinced the Soviets to sign the historic INF Treaty and withdraw their missiles. Ambassador Abshire initiated a new conventional defense improvement effort so that NATO would not have to rely heavily on nuclear weapons. For this, he was given the highest Defense Department civilian award-its Distinguished Public Service Medal.

In December 1986, at the depths of the Iran-Contra crisis, he was called by President Reagan to leave NATO to serve in his Cabinet and help restore confidence in the Presidency. He coordinated the Tower Board, the Independent Counsel, and the Congressional investigation committees, and often met with the President alone.

Dr. Abshire was a vice chair of the Council of American Ambassadors, a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Public Service at St. Albans School, a Trustee of the George C. Marshall Foundation, a member of the Council on Competitiveness, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Fondation Paul-Henri Spaak (Brussels), and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London). As an Episcopalian, he also is the co-convenor and a founding member of the Trinity National Leadership Roundtable, in conjunction with Trinity Church Wall Street. In 2003, he served on the Advisory Group for Public Diplomacy mandated by Congress. In 2005, he chaired a panel for the Homeland Security Advisory Board for developing a layered defense against weapons of mass effect for the maritime domain.

In the corporate world, from 1987-1996, he served on the Board of Procter and Gamble Company and was the first chairman of its Public Policy Committee. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Ogden Corporation and on the Advisory Board of BP America.

Dr. Abshire received the John Carroll Award for outstanding service by a Georgetown University alumnus; the 1994 U.S. Military Academy's Castle Award; the Gold Medal of the Sons of the American Revolution; the Order of the Crown (Belgium); Commander de l'Ordre de Leopold (Belgium); the Medal of the President of the Italian Republic, Senate, Parliament and Government; Grand Official of the Order of the Republic of Italy; Order of Diplomatic Service Merit Heung-In Medal (Korea); the insignia of the Commander, First Class, Order of the Lion of Finland; in 1999 the Order of the Liberator (Argentina); and in May 2001, the Order of the Sacred Treasure Gold and Silver Star (Japan). In addition to the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Dr. Abshire was the author of seven books: The South Rejects a Prophet, 1967; International Broadcasting: A New Dimension of Western Diplomacy, 1976; Foreign Policy Makers: President vs. Congress, 1979; Preventing World War III: A Realistic Grand Strategy, 1988; Putting America’s House in Order: The Nation as a Family, with Brock Brower, 1996; Saving the Reagan Presidency: Trust Is the Coin of the Realm, 2005; and A Call to Greatness: Challenging Our Next President, 2008. He also wrote an essay for the Fetzer Institute’s “Deepening the American Dream” series titled The Grace and Power of Civility: Commitment and Tolerance in the American Tradition, 2004. He was editor ofTriumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Presidency: Seventy-Six Case Studies on Presidential Leadership, 2002, and author of CSPC publications: The Character of George Washington, 1999; Lessons For The 21st Century: Vulnerability and Surprise December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001, 2002; and The Character of George Marshall, 2005.

He was a contributing editor to Vietnam Legacy, 1976; Détente: Cold War Strategies in Transition, 1964; and The Global Economy, 1990. He has also co-edited National Security, 1963, and edited The Growing Power of Congress, 1981. He is founding editor ofThe Washington Quarterly.

Dr. Abshire was a member of the Alfalfa Club, Alibi Club, Cosmos Club, Metropolitan Club, and an honorary member of the University Club. Additionally, he was a co-chair of the New York Opera Ball, which honored Argentina.

Dr. Abshire passed away on October 31, 2014 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia.  He was married to the former Carolyn Sample whose stepfather, Admiral George W. Anderson, was a former Chief of Naval Operations and Ambassador to Portugal. Her father, Rear Admiral Dodge Sample, was lost at the end of the Pacific War. The Abshires have five children.