Tributes poured in on Saturday for Lawrence Eagleburger, who died at age 80, hailing his diplomatic career and service as US secretary of state under former US president George H.W. Bush at the end of the Cold War.
“Our nation has lost a distinguished diplomat and public servant,” US President Barack Obama said in a statement.
Eagleburger, the first career foreign service officer to be named secretary of state, “devoted his life to the security of our nation and to strengthening our ties with allies and partners,” Obama added, noting his lengthy service to US diplomacy spanning four decades.
At the US Department of State, he “helped our nation navigate the pivotal days during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War,” the president said.
Eagleburger died from pneumonia at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, following a heart attack last week, reports said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hailed Eagleburger as a strong voice and stalwart champion for US values,” calling his passing “America’s loss.”
US Vice President Joe Biden, who worked with Eagleburger for three decades, honored “one of the finest foreign service officers of his generation,” commending his “candor and straightforward manner.”
Eagleburger, who ran the US Department of State for five months at the end of Bush’s term in 1992, was “one of the most capable and respected diplomats our foreign service ever produced,” Bush said in a statement quoted by US media.
“During one of the tensest moments of the Gulf War, when [former Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein began attacking Israel with Scud missiles trying cynically and cruelly to bait them into the conflict, we sent Larry to Israel to preserve our coalition,” Bush said. “It was an inordinately complex and sensitive task, and his performance was nothing short of heroic.”
Eagleburger, who served under secretaries from both parties, replaced former US secretary of state James Baker at the post in August 1992, first as acting secretary before his official appointment later that year. He brought with him decades of experience as a career diplomat and a solid knowledge of Middle East issues.
He had departed public service in 1984 to launch a consulting firm with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, but returned to become deputy secretary of state in 1989 at Bush’s insistence.