This Place in History: Warren Austin

Vermont Historical Society

BURLINGTON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Burlington with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re going to talk about the building that’s over our shoulder, here. It was the law office of Warren Austin, a very famous senator from Vermont. And, there are a lot of other really cool things that he did. Amanda Gustin, the Public Programs Manager from the Vermont Historical Society is waiting for us over on the lawn of the Fletcher Free Library,” explained Perkins.

“Warren Austin was born in 1877 in Highgate Springs and he graduated from the University of Vermont in 1899. After that, he read law with his father, which was a common way to learn law back then instead of going to law school,” began Gustin.

“He established his own law practice in 1917 in Burlington. And then in 1925, he moved to the building we see behind us, just down the street. His previous offices were right on Church Street, but he moved to this building with his law office on the second floor of 215 College Street in 1925.”

“In 1931, the senator who was from Vermont, Frank Greene, passed away and there was a special election for senator. He ran as a republican, as every national politician from Vermont was at that time period, and he won that special election in 1931. Then, he ran again when the term came up in 1934 against one of the closest democratic challengers to that point in Vermont history. He won his election by 3,500 votes,” said Gustin.

“Austin had this strong interest in what happens beyond the borders of the United States. He had spent a lot of time in Canada as a young man. He had made that trip to China for business and once he became a senator he traveled a lot. He traveled all over Europe, the Middle East, to China, the Philippines and to South America in the 1930s. He had a strong interest in foreign policy as a senator. He’s elected in 1931. He ends his last term as senator in 1946. He steps down to take his next job.”

“His next job is the reason he’s famous today. He accomplished a lot as a senator. He represented Vermont quite well. But, what we really know him as and what he’s famous for today is that he was the first official United States Ambassador to the United Nations, appointed by Harry Truman.”

“He had to wait to finish his term as senator because the position was created while he was a senator. He actually worked on the committee that developed some of the rules for the United Nations and argued strongly that the United States should enter the United Nations,” said Gustin.

“And so he was appointed the first United States Ambassador to the United Nations in January of 1947. Just some of the highlights [during his tenure] are the creation of Israel, the Berlin Air Lift, the implementation of the Marshall Plan, in Europe, the beginning of the Korean War and the beginning of the Cold War. So, it was a really important time to be in the United Nations and to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.”

“Later in his life, actually in his farewell address, he said that once upon a time he was asked if he ever tires of all this talk. Does he ever get tired of all this constant talking and talking and talking? And he said that it is better for aging diplomats to be bored than for young men to die. He believed so strongly in the cause of peace and the cause of diplomacy and of working together between nations to avert war. He credited Vermont with inspiring him to pursue this path with his life,” concluded Gustin.

Voice of Warren Austin: “As a senator from the State of Vermont, I know that the people I represent, like the people of all of the United States, feel that in each day’s newspaper headlines they are reading the obituary of the Nazi regime. One hears the talk of the kind of peace we want. It is a peace that will encompass all nations large and small; all nations who wish to work together to bring about security on an international scale.

At ‘This Place in History’!

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