Biography and History

Junius Wilson MacMurray was born in Missouri, the son of Irish immigrant and blacksmith John Dennison MacMurray and Eliza Wilson. At the outbreak of the Civil War he recruited a company for the Union army, which was sworn in with the 1st Missouri Volunteers and reorganized into the 1st Missoury Light Artillery. After participating with his battery in the Battle of Vicksburg he was promoted Captain in 1863. At the end of the Civil War MacMurray participated in the Powder River Indian Expedition into Wyoming and Montana (June-November 1865). He joined the regular army in 1866 and graduated from the Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia in 1870.

MacMurray served as professor of military science and tactics on detail at the University of Missouri (1872-1873) and at Cornell University (1873-1875). He taught on detached service at Union College at Schenectady, New York, where he was in charge of sanitary and landscape engineering (1879-1883). While in Schenectady he was editor of A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times; being Contributions toward a History of the Lower Mohawk Valley, by Jonathan Pearson et al. (1883). In the summer of 1884, while stationed at Vancouver Barracks, WA, he served as Special Inspector of Indian Affairs and spent considerable time with the Native Americans of the region and their leader and prophet Smohalla. He shared his observations about these "Dreamers" of the Columbia River Valley in a lecture at the Albany Institute, which was published in 1886.

Additional places where MacMurray was stationed include Wadsworth, NY, and Fort Barrancas, Florida, where he contracted yellow fever during an outbreak in 1897. He died in May 1898, two months after he was promoted Major. In 1873, he married Henrietta Van Antwerp, daughter of John H. Van Antwerp of Albany, and they had three children: Edna, Ethel and John Van Antwerp MacMurray.

John Van Antwerp MacMurray was born in Schenectady, New York on October 6, 1881 and entered boarding school in 1892 before attending Princeton University (1898-1902). After a year of travel in Europe he entered Columbia Law School in 1903. In 1906 MacMurray was admitted to the New York Bar, though he also sought to secure a position within the Foreign Service. While waiting for an appointment, he studied Elizabethan drama at Princeton, and in 1907 received a master of arts degree. That same year he was appointed Secretary of Legation and Consul General at Bangkok, Siam, followed by a position as Second Secretary of the embassy in St. Petersburg (1908-1911). After a brief interlude as Assistant Chief of the Division of Information, he became Assistant Chief and then Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department (1911-1913).

MacMurray started specializing in Far Eastern affairs with his consecutive appointments as Secretary of Legation in Peking (1913-1917), Counselor of the Embassy in Tokyo (1917-1919), and, back at the State Department, Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (1919-1924). In 1921 he published Treaties and Agreements with and Concerning China. In the same year he served as expert assistant on Pacific and Far Eastern affairs to American Commissioners at the International Conference on the Limitation of Armament in Washington. He also was an observer for the U.S. government at the Chinese-Japanese negotiations for the settlement of the Shantung question (1921-1922). In 1924 MacMurray became Assistant Secretary of State, but one year later he was appointed Minister to China (1925-1929), a position he desired. The unstable situation in China, however, soon led to conficts between MacMurray and his superiors at the State Department. This ultimately led MacMurray to resign in 1929, when he accepted an offer to become Director of the Walter Hines Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University.

Faced with the fact that he could not secure enough funding for the Walter Hines Page School MacMurray relinquished his salary and reentered the Foreign Service in 1933, though he officially retained his position until 1935. President Roosevelt appointed him as Minister to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (1933-1936), which was followed by an ambassadorship to Turkey (1936-1942). In these years, he also served as the Assistant Chairman of the International Wheat Advisory Committee (1933-1938) and chaired the Joint Preparatory Committee on Philippine Affairs (1937-1938). His last two years before retirement were spent back at the State Department as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State (1942-1944).

MacMurray married Lois R. Goodnow in 1916 and they had three children: Joan Goodnow, Frank Goodnow, and Lois ("Bisi") Van Antwerp MacMurray. He died at his home in Norfolk, Connecticut on September 25, 1960.

Source: From the finding aid for MC094


  • Diplomats -- United States -- 20th century..