William Averell Harriman, the son of the railway magnate, E. H. Harriman, was born in New York City on 15th November, 1891. He joined his father's Union Pacific Company in 1915 and became chairman of the board in 1932.
Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Harriman as U.S. Ambassador of the Soviet Union in 1943. He held the post until 1946 when Harry S. Truman appointed him as Secretary of Commerce. Harriman worked on the Marshall Plan and served as national security adviser during the Korean War.
A member of the Democratic Party Harriman was elected governor of New York in 1954. After two unsuccessful attempts to become the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 and 1956 Harriman served in several posts under President John F. Kennedy. This included negotiating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963.
Despite being named as a Soviet spy by Anatoli Golitsin, Harriman was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as ambassador-at-large for Southeast Asian affairs in 1965. He also served as chief US negotiator when preliminary peace talks opened in France between the United States and North Vietnam in 1968.
Harriman lost this position as US negotiator under President Richard Nixon but returned to office in 1978 when he was appointed the senior member of the US Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly's Special Session on Disarmament. William Averell Harriman died in 1986.