Gordon Dean (lawyer)

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Gordon Dean
Gordon Evans Dean.jpg
Gordon Evans Dean

December 28, 1905
DiedAugust 15, 1958(1958-08-15) (aged 52)
OccupationLawyer, prosecutor
Known forChairman of the Atomic Energy Commission 1950=53

Gordon Evans Dean (December 28, 1905 – August 15, 1958) was a Seattle-born [1] American lawyer and prosecutor who served as chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1950 to 1953.

Early years[edit]

Dean received his J.D. from the University of Southern California in 1930 and an LL.M. from Duke University Law School in 1932. In 1934, Dean joined the U.S. Department of Justice during the New Deal administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Dean served under Attorneys General Homer S. Cummings and Frank Murphy as a Criminal Division attorney and press spokesperson. He had taught at Duke Law before being hired as assistant to Brien McMahon in the Criminal Division.[1] Dean helped draft expansions of the federal criminal law and defended them in cases argued before the United States Supreme Court. In 1940, Attorney General Robert H. Jackson made Dean the press spokesperson for the Department of Justice. After six years at Justice, Dean left to join McMahon's law firm as partner.[1]

After World War II military service, Dean served as press spokesperson for now Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson who was the chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials. Prior to his work with the AEC, Dean was professor of criminal law at the University of Southern California (1946–1949).

Atomic Energy Commission[edit]

Dean was appointed by President Harry S. Truman as one of the original Commissioners of the AEC in May 1949, by which time McMahon had become Senator (in 1944), author of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, and chair of the Joint Atomic Energy Committee of Congress. Dean was then appointed as the second Chairman of the AEC beginning in May 1950, following David Lilienthal, again with McMahon's backing.[1] As early as 1950, Dean advocated for the appointment of a Presidential Science Advisor and science advisory task force.[2] Dean served at the time of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's creation in 1952. During Dean's tenure as Chairman, McCarthyism reached its peak. Robert Oppenheimer came under attack by Lewis Strauss, Edward Teller and others for his alleged foot-dragging at Los Alamos. Dean defended Oppenheimer. As Cold War tensions heightened and the Korean War raged on, Dean led a massive industrialization of the United States nuclear facilities. The hydrogen bomb, a nuclear weapon of massive and unprecedented force, was perfected during his tenure as Chairman with the detonation of the Ivy Mike hydrogen bomb, based on Edward Teller's design in October 1952. Dean served for a brief period under President Eisenhower as well, staying until the completion of his term on June 30, 1953.

After the government[edit]

On leaving government service, Dean joined investment bankers Lehman Brothers. He became an executive of General Dynamics in 1955. Mr. Dean also became an active board member of the Fruehauf Trailer Company in Detroit[3]

From 1954, Dean chaired a Council on Foreign Relations study group on nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy. Members of the group included Paul Nitze, Robert Bowie, David Rockefeller, and Lieutenant General James M. Gavin. Henry Kissinger joined as study group director in 1955.[4] Dean would also join the International Security Objectives and Strategy panel of the Rockefeller Brothers' Special Studies Project in 1956.


Dean was killed in a commercial aviation accident on August 15, 1958, when the Northeast Airlines Convair CV-240 he was traveling in crashed on its approach to Nantucket Airport.


On his 1985 album "No Winners" (Chrysalis 1549) british musician Paul Hardcastle includes a reference to Dean in the segment "Ground Zero" of the track "The earth from space". Dean is mentioned in a sampled newsreel-snippet, reporting from an atomic testsite.


  1. ^ a b c d "A friendly favor" Time magazine, Jul. 24, 1950. Retrieved 2-7-09.
  2. ^ Memorandum of William T. Golden, October 27, 1950, found online at http://archives.aaas.org/golden/doc.php?gold_id=70 , accessed July 30, 2006.
  3. ^ "Gordon Dean, 52, Was Truman Aide". The New York Times. August 17, 1958.
  4. ^ Walter Isaacson (September 2005). Kissinger: A Biography. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-8697-9.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Mohammed Mossadeg
Cover of Time magazine
14 January 1952
Succeeded by
Andrea Mead Lawrence