Audio recordings: interviews, stories and history

Two Chinas: A Leonard Meeker lecture

Portrait of Leonard Meeker. 2005. Photo by Oliver White.

Portrait of Leonard Meeker. 2005. Photo by Oliver White.

By Peter Vankevich

The late Leonard C. Meeker had a long, distinguished career in public service, diplomacy and social justice law. He served as the Legal Adviser to the U.S. State Department under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969 and as Ambassador to Romania 1969 to 1973.

His first visit to Ocracoke was in 1952 with longtime friend,
Charles Runyon.  After he retired, he lived full-time on Ocracoke and was active in the community, passing away on Nov. 29, 2015 at the age of 98.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 2012, Meeker gave a standing-room-only presentation titled “President Kennedy and Cuba” at the Ocracoke School and Public Library.

During the crisis, he was serving as the acting legal adviser to the U.S. State Department,  He presented his views in what he characterized as a “tense meeting” on Oct. 19, 1962, attended by the Kennedy administration’s top officials — including Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, Robert Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy, C. Douglas Dillon, Paul Nitze, Theodore Sorensen and Dean Acheson.

The lecture can be heard here.

Meeker graduated from Harvard Law School in 1940 and joined the Army in 1941 and discharged as a first lieutenant in 1946.  During his period in the Army he worked in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime intelligence agency.

One of his assignments was traveling throughout China to assess the impact should the communists assume power.  This is the second lecture he gave on Oct. 22, 2013 at the Ocracoke Library that recounts his visit to China as the communist movement was taking place entitled Two Chinas.

Listen:

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