George C. McGhee

George Crews McGhee (March 10, 1912 – July 4, 2005) was an oilman and a career diplomat in the United States foreign service.

George C. McGhee
13th Counselor of the United States Department of State
In office
February 16, 1961  December 3, 1961
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byTheodore Achilles
Succeeded byWalt Whitman Rostow
3rd Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
In office
December 4, 1961  March 27, 1963
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byLivingston T. Merchant
Succeeded byW. Averell Harriman
1st Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs
In office
June 28, 1949  December 19, 1951
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Succeeded byHenry A. Byroade
8th United States Ambassador to Turkey
In office
January 15, 1952  June 19, 1953
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byGeorge Wadsworth
Succeeded byAvra M. Warren
4th United States Ambassador to West Germany
In office
May 18, 1963  May 21, 1968
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byWalter C. Dowling
Succeeded byHenry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1912-03-10)March 10, 1912
Waco, Texas, U.S.
DiedJuly 4, 2005(2005-07-04) (aged 93)
Leesburg, Virginia, U.S.

Early life

McGhee was born on March 10, 1912 in Waco, Texas, the son of a Waco banker. He studied at the University of Oklahoma, graduating with a degree in geology in 1933. He was initiated into the Oklahoma Kappa chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at OU. For a time McGhee worked for Conoco, working on a crew that made the first oil discovery on the Gulf Coast through reflection seismology. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, gaining a doctorate in physical sciences from Oxford University in 1937. Back in the United States he became vice president of the National Geophysical Company, where he managed reflection seismology surveys in Cuba.[1] On his return to Texas, McGhee found employment with Everette Lee DeGolyer's oil services company DeGolyer and MacNaughton, scouting oilfields and marrying DeGolyer's daughter Cecilia. McGhee described Cecilia as "the most beautiful and richest girl in Texas."[2] In 1940 McGhee established his own company, the McGhee Production Company, and soon discovered a major oil field at Lake Charles, Louisiana, which made his fortune.[2][3]

Wartime service

At the beginning of World War II McGhee was a member of the staff of the Office of Production Management and a member of the War Production Board. Commissioned into the U.S. Navy, McGhee served as a naval air intelligence officer on the staff of Army Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit.[2]

Diplomatic career

Following the war he was recruited to the U.S. State Department by then-Undersecretary of State William L. Clayton, joining in 1946. McGhee initially traveled on behalf of the State Department to disburse a fund of $400 million in economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey, as well as other economic aid in Africa and the Middle East. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey in 1952–1953, where he supported their successful bid for NATO membership. While in Turkey, the McGhees lived in Alanya in an Ottoman-era villa they named "Turkish Delight."[2]

McGhee was instrumental in dealings with the Republic of the Congo and the Dominican Republic in the early 1960s. From November 1961 to April 1963, he served as the third ever Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, during the Kennedy Administration (later to be replaced by W. Averell Harriman). President Kennedy had left this office vacant since January 1961 until McGhee was persuaded to take the position. Following that position, he was again named Ambassador to West Germany from 1963 to 1968.[2]


After retiring in 1969, McGhee served on corporate boards of Mobil, Procter and Gamble and Trans World Airlines.

From 1970 to 1974, McGhee was head of the Federal City Council, a group of business, civic, education, and other leaders interested in economic development in Washington, D.C.[4]

In retirement McGhee wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, entitled The Dance of the Billions: A Novel About Texas, Houston, and Oil (1990), whose lack of success was attributed by his family to its puritanical tone.[3] His 2001 memoir was entitled I Did It This Way.[2]

In 1989, McGhee donated his villa in Alanya, Turkey to Georgetown University. Today it is known as the McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, and welcomes students each spring. His estate, Farmer's Delight in Loudoun County, Virginia, is operated by the McGhee Foundation as a museum, research center and meeting facility.[5] It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[6][7]

McGhee died of pneumonia on July 4, 2005 at the age of 93 at Loudoun Hospital Center in Leesburg, Virginia.[3]


  1. Clark, Dean. "George C. McGhee". Virtual Geoscience Center. Missouri Southern University. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  2. "Ambassador George Crews McGhee". McGhee Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  3. Bernstein, Adam (July 6, 2005). "George C. McGhee Dies; Oilman, Diplomat". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  4. "Federal City Council Elected". The Washington Post. September 30, 1970. p. D9.
  5. "Farmer's Delight Plantation". McGhee Foundation. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  6. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  7. Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission (May 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Farmer's Delight" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 16 September 2011.