Biography and History

Charles W. Yost (1907-1981) led a varied career as a diplomat, United Nations representative, writer, and scholar. He was a member of the foreign service intermittently between 1930 and 1971, after which time he devoted himself full-time to writing and teaching. Yost served in Egypt, Poland, Thailand, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Greece, France, Laos, Syria, and Morocco.

Charles Woodruff Yost was born in Watertown, New York, on November 6, 1907. Prior to attending Princeton University, he traveled throughout Europe and was interviewed by his local newspaper, The Watertown Daily Times. After graduating from Princeton University in 1928, he traveled to Paris to complete post-graduate work.

Yost joined the Foreign Service in 1930, serving first in Alexandria, Egypt as a consular officer and then in Poland. He left the Foreign Service in 1933 to pursue a career as a freelance foreign correspondent in Europe. In 1935, he rejoined the State Department in Washington, D.C., becoming assistant chief of the Division of Arms and Munitions Control. In 1941, he represented the State Department on the Policy Committee of the Board of Economic Warfare. Yost was appointed Assistant Chief of Special Research in 1942 and assistant chief of the Division of Foreign Activity Correlation in 1943. In February 1944, he became executive secretary of the Department of State Policy Committee. He attended the Dumbarton Oaks Conference from August to October 1944, the United Nations Organization Conference in San Francisco in April 1945, and the Potsdam Conference in July 1945.

In late 1945, Yost was named chargè d'affaires to Thailand. Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, he served in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Greece, all countries under political pressure from the Soviet Union. In 1954, he was named minister to Laos and became the first United States ambassador to that nation. In 1957, he was the minister counselor, or second-in-command, of the American Embassy in Paris. At the end of that year, he was named ambassador to Syria. Shortly after his appointment, Syria and Egypt formed the United Arab Republic. Yost was named ambassador to Morocco in 1958.

In 1961, he began his first assignment at the United Nations as the deputy to Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson. Following Stevenson's death in 1965, Yost stayed on as Arthur Goldberg's deputy. Yost obtained the rank of career ambassador, the highest professional Foreign Service rank, before resigning from the Foreign Service in 1966 to begin his career as a writer and teacher on foreign affairs.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon nominated Yost as the permanent United States Representative to the United Nations. He advised the President and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on relationships with the Middle East, the Soviet Union, Southern Africa, and arms control. He resigned in 1971 and returned to writing and teaching.

Yost set forth his views in a syndicated newspaper column and in four books: The Age Of Triumph And Frustration: Modern Dialogues (New York: R. Speller, 1964), The Insecurity of Nations (New York: Published for the Council on Foreign Relations [by] Praeger, 1968), The Conduct and Misconduct of Foreign Relations (New York: Random House, 1972), and History and Memory (New York: Norton, 1980). He also taught at the Columbia University School of International Affairs and Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He gave speeches throughout his career, offering his perspective on the Middle East, Southern Africa, China, and the Soviet Union.

In 1979, Yost was co-chairman of Americans for SALT II, a group that lobbied the Senate for passage of the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. He was a trustee of the American University in Cairo, Egypt and director of the Aspen Institute for cultural exchanges with Iran. He also took part in several unofficial conferences between the United States and Soviet scholars. In 1973, he was named head of the National Committee on United States-China Relations and visited the People's Republic of China in 1973 and 1977.

Yost died of cancer in May 1981 at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Source: From the finding aid for MC193

  • Charles W. Yost Papers. circa 1790-2014 (inclusive), 1930-1980 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC193

    Charles W. Yost (1907-1981) led a varied career as a diplomat, United Nations representative, writer, and scholar. He was a member of the foreign service intermittently between 1930 and 1971, after which time he devoted himself full-time to writing and teaching. Yost's papers document his professional life in the Foreign Service, as well as his time in academia, and include his correspondence, writings, and photographs.

  • Charles W. Yost Papers. circa 1790-2014 (inclusive), 1930-1980 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC193

    Charles W. Yost (1907-1981) led a varied career as a diplomat, United Nations representative, writer, and scholar. He was a member of the foreign service intermittently between 1930 and 1971, after which time he devoted himself full-time to writing and teaching. Yost's papers document his professional life in the Foreign Service, as well as his time in academia, and include his correspondence, writings, and photographs.