The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

W. Averell Harriman (1891-1986)

Averell Harriman was born into a prominent New York City family and educated at Groton and Yale University. Upon graduation, Harriman worked in his father's Union Pacific Railroad business. During World War I, he went into shipbuilding and turned his Merchant's Shipbuilding Corporation into one of the world's largest merchant fleets when he merged with the Hamburg-American Line. In 1926 he left shipping and, after several failed business ventures in Europe and the Soviet Union, he was elected chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, the company his father built. In 1931 he formed an investment firm with his brother, which, when it joined with Brown Brothers, became Brown Brothers Harriman. Harriman became interested in politics during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration and the president appointed him to replace General Hugh Johnson as administrator of the National Recovery Administration (NRA), a New Deal agency he ran until 1935. With war threatening in Europe, Harriman joined the Office of Production Management and then worked in the Lend-Lease administration. Harriman served as ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1943 to 1946, where he served as the chief presidential envoy to Josef Stalin, and was influential in foreign policy affairs in the Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations.

Harriman was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 but lost to Adlai Stevenson. In 1954, he won the New York gubernatorial election and, in 1956, he was again defeated by Stevenson in a bid for the presidential nomination. In the Kennedy administration, Harriman was given various high level posts that would take advantage of his experience in foreign affairs. His diplomatic and political career ended with the Nixon administration. In 1986, Harriman died from bone cancer in Westchester County, New York.

Source: American National Biography Online. Internet on-line. Available From

Published by the Model Editions Partnership

Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .

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