Rostow, Walt W(hitman) 1916-2003

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ROSTOW, Walt W(hitman) 1916-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born October 7, 1916, in New York, NY; died February 13, 2003, in Austin, TX. Government advisor, educator, and author. Rostow is most often remembered as a foreign policy and security advisor to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and was an important figure in foreign policy during the Vietnam War. An alumnus of Yale University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1940, he also studied at Balliol College, Oxford, for two years as a Rhodes Scholar. He taught economics for a year at Columbia University before World War II, and during the war served in the Office of Strategic Services as a major. After the war, Rostow switched back and forth between academic and government posts. He took his first government post as assistant chief of the German-Austrian Economic Division at the Department of State. He then returned briefly to academia as a professor of American history at Oxford University, was an assistant executive secretary for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva, and then taught history at Cambridge and economic history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the 1950s. At MIT, he was also a staff member of the Center for International Studies. Rostow began his association with John F. Kennedy in the 1950s, when Kennedy was still a Massachusetts senator. In 1961 Rostow, who is credited with providing Kennedy with his 1960 campaign slogan, "Let's get this country moving again," was tagged for a job with the Department of State as counselor and chairman of the Policy Planning Council during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In 1966 President Johnson selected him to be a special assistant to the president on national security. Rostow served in this role for the next three years, a difficult period when the Vietnam War was in full swing. He became known for his advocacy of strong military intervention in Vietnam, including cutting off supply lines by sending troops into Laos, a plan Johnson rejected. Some historians attribute many of America's military policies in Southeast Asia to Rostow, though he denied this and insisted that Johnson was responsible for the big decisions made in Vietnam. After Johnson retired from politics, Rostow looked for work in academia but was by East Coast universities unhappy with his military policies. In 1969 he found a position as a professor of economic history at the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained for the rest of his life. A prolific author, Rostow's writings focused on economics and foreign politics. His best-known known work is The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960); other works include Politics and the Stages of Growth (1971), How It All Began: The Origins of the Modern Economy (1975), Open Skies: Eisenhower's Proposal of July 21, 1955 (1982), The Barbaric Counter-Revolution: Cause and Cure (1983), Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Foreign Aid (1985), The United States and the Regional Organization of Asia and the Pacific: 1965-1985 (1986), Rich Countries and Poor Countries (1987), Essays on a Half Century: Ideas, Policies, and Action (1988), History, Policy and Economic Theory (1989), Theorists of Economic Growth from David Hume to the Present, with a Perspective on the Next Century (1990), and The Great Population Spike (1998).



Crystal, David, editor, The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Toropov, Brandon, Encyclopedia of Cold-War Politics, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2000.

Writers Directory, 17th edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.


Chicago Tribune, February 15, 2003, section 2, p. 11.

Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2003, p. B22.

New York Times, February 15, 2003, p. B17.

Times (London, England), February 19, 2003.

Washington Post, February 15, 2003, p. B6.

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Rostow, Walt W(hitman) 1916-2003

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