Biography and History

Henry R. Labouisse (1904-1987) was a distinguished American diplomat and international public servant. He served as director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from 1954 to 1958 and as executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from 1965 to 1979. He also served as a United States government official working on the formation and implementation of foreign economic policies during World War II and the 1960s.

Henry Richardson Labouisse was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 11, 1904. He was one of two sons of Henry Richardson Labouisse and Frances Devereaux (Huger) Labouisse. He married Elizabeth Scriven Clark on June 29, 1935 and they had one daughter, Anne (Farnsworth). Elizabeth Labouisse died in 1945. Labouisse remarried on November 19, 1954, to Eve Curie, daughter of the scientists Pierre and Marie Curie. Curie was a renowned author and journalist. They met in 1951, while he was on the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) staff and she was a secretary with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Labouisse earned his B.A. from Princeton University in 1926 and graduated from Harvard University Law School in 1929. He was admitted into the New York State bar the following year. Labouisse was an associate and member of the New York City law firm Taylor, Blanc, Capron and Marsh, and its successor firm Mitchell, Taylor, Capron & Marsh, from 1929 to 1941.

When the United States entered the Second World War, Labouisse chose to serve his country by accepting a position in the State Department. He began there in 1941 and rose through a variety of positions over the next several years, most concerned with forming and implementing foreign economic policy. His first position was as assistant chief of the Division of Defense Materials in December 1941. He was promoted to chief of the division in February 1943. Later in 1943, he was made deputy director of the Office of Foreign Economic Coordination, and in January 1944 he was appointed chief of the Eastern Hemisphere Division. In March 1944, he was transferred to the Office of European Affairs, where he was special assistant to the director.

Labouisse was appointed chief of the Foreign Economic Administration mission to France in November 1944 and served concurrently as minister for economic affairs at the American Embassy. He became special assistant to Under Secretary of State, William L. Clayton, in November 1945. Through his work with the undersecretary, and his previous work coordinating aid to various European reconstruction points, Labouisse played an important role in the aid efforts that culminated in the Marshall Plan. In July 1946, he returned to his role as special assistant to the director of the Office of European Affairs.

Labouisse then served as the principal State Department officer working with the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) during the initial implementation of the Marshall Plan. He traveled to Paris in March 1948 as head of the mission to establish the ECA as the agency to administer United States economic aid to Europe. He returned to Europe in May 1948 as the head of the United States delegation to the Geneva meeting of the Economic Commission for Europe. Labouisse then served as coordinator of foreign aid and assistance in the State Department from June 1948 until October 1949, when he became director of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs. He held this post until September 1951. He began arguing for a tougher stance on aid in 1949, one that would force European economies to adjust to market forces. In September 1951, Labouisse was named head of the ECA's mission to France, journeying to Paris as head of the Marshall Plan mission. When the ECA was replaced by the Mutual Security Administration and the Foreign Operations Administration, Labouisse headed the Paris missions of both agencies from 1951 to June 1954.

Labouisse left United States government service in 1954 to work for the United Nations. He was appointed director of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in June 1954 at the request of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. The UNRWA was established in December 1949 to carry out relief and works projects in cooperation with local governments. When Labouisse assumed his directorship, the UNRWA was responsible for the care of 887,000 Arab refugees who had fled Palestine in 1948. Labouisse oversaw the improvement of the standard of living in the refugee camps, raised the standards of health, education, and vocational training, and established a grant program that allowed refugees to make a down payment on a farm or shop. He left the UNRWA in 1958.

Labouisse was appointed as a consultant to the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development in May 1959. He headed a survey mission to Venezuela in September 1959 to assist in the formulation of a program of economic development. He was recalled from that mission by Hammarskjöld to serve as special advisor to the secretary-general during the Congo crisis in 1960. In December 1960, Labouisse was appointed as the International Bank's special representative for Africa and also headed a mission to Uganda to study economic problems.

He returned to United States government service in January 1961, when he was appointed Director of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) by President John F. Kennedy, which was created to coordinate nonmilitary foreign aid programs. Labouisse had been considered for the post by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in February 1959, but his appointment was rejected by Republican national chairman Meade Alcorn on the grounds that Labouisse had registered as a Democrat several years earlier. In May 1961, President Kennedy began to work with Congress to reorganize the foreign aid programs into a single agency. The ICA was eliminated during the reorganization, and Labouisse was named United States Ambassador to Greece. He held that post from 1962 to 1965.

Labouisse was appointed the second Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in June 1965, following the death of the first director, Maurice Pate. During his directorship, Labouisse oversaw the emergency relief efforts for several major conflicts and naturals disasters, and fought to alleviate poor conditions in developing countries. UNICEF provided relief to both sides in the Nigerian civil war in 1968 and to Cambodia in 1979, after the country was invaded by Vietnam.

Labouisse retired from his position with UNICEF in December 1979, although he continued to work as a consultant on the Cambodia and Thailand operations for most of 1980. After his retirement, Labouisse continued to be active in various organizations, including serving as Chairman of the Board of the American Farm School in Thessaloniki Greece from 1980 to 1985 and as trustee of the school from 1965 to 1985. Labouisse died on March 25, 1987.

Source: From the finding aid for MC199

  • Henry R. Labouisse Papers. 1785-2004 (inclusive), 1940-1987 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC199

    Henry R. Labouisse (1904-1987) was a distinguished American diplomat and international public servant. He served as director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from 1954 to 1958 and as executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from 1965 to 1979. He also served as a United States government official working on the formation and implementation of foreign economic policies during World War II and the 1960s. Labouisse's papers document his career with the United Nations and with the State Department and include correspondence, speeches and publications, as well as biographical and genealogical material.

  • Henry R. Labouisse Papers. 1785-2004 (inclusive), 1940-1987 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC199

    Henry R. Labouisse (1904-1987) was a distinguished American diplomat and international public servant. He served as director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from 1954 to 1958 and as executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) from 1965 to 1979. He also served as a United States government official working on the formation and implementation of foreign economic policies during World War II and the 1960s. Labouisse's papers document his career with the United Nations and with the State Department and include correspondence, speeches and publications, as well as biographical and genealogical material.