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The Best Former US Secretaries of State of All Time

Updated April 25, 2019 18.8k votes 3.4k voters 59.2k views68 items

List RulesIncludes former and current Secretaries of State appointed by the President.

People who've served as US Secretary of State include some of the biggest names in the history of American politics.  Many of the most talked-about politicians even went on to become President of the United States of America. These men and women have served in one of the most important and prominent positions in the world.

The office of the United States Secretary of State is the person in charge of the United States Department of State, which deals primarily with foreign affairs. This person specializes in foreign affairs, and advises the President on such matters, participates in negotiations with other countries, deals with immigration, and is responsible for regulating Americans working, traveling, or serving overseas. 

Serving as Secretary of State means a job filled with lots of travel - something that the 2013 Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, did impressively. Clinton visited a record 112 countries during her time in the office, and helped foster a rapport between the US and other countries's leaders. Only one other Secretary of State logged more travel miles, and not by much. Condoleeza Rice, who served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, notched a record 1,059,247 miles traveling.

While many are appointed Secretary of State after losing presidential elections, others did it the other way around and went on to become President later. James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren and Thomas Jefferson all served as Secretary of State as well as President. Clearly those lucky few who have been appointed Secretary of State, like John Kerry in 2013, are in good company.
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  • 1
    John Quincy Adams
    492
    128

    John Quincy Adams

    Dec. at 81 (1767-1848)
    James Monroe, 1817-1825
  • 2
    George Marshall
    595
    180

    George Marshall

    Dec. at 79 (1880-1959)
    Harry S. Truman, 1947-1949
  • 3
    Thomas Jefferson
    525
    191

    Thomas Jefferson

    Dec. at 83 (1743-1826)
    George Washington, 1790-1793
  • 4
    William H. Seward
    406
    108

    William H. Seward

    Dec. at 71 (1801-1872)
    Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, 1861-1869
  • 5
    James Monroe
    281
    103

    James Monroe

    Dec. at 73 (1758-1831)
    James Madison, 1811-1817
  • 6
    James Madison
    311
    100

    James Madison

    Dec. at 85 (1751-1836)
    Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809
  • 7
    Daniel Webster
    203
    88

    Daniel Webster

    Dec. at 70 (1782-1852)
    William Harrison, 1841, John Tyler, 1841-1843, and Millard Fillmore, 1850-1852
  • 8
    James Baker
    391
    240
    George H. W. Bush, 1989-1992
  • 9
    Dean Acheson
    215
    117

    Dean Acheson

    Dec. at 78 (1893-1971)
    Harry S. Truman, 1949-1953
  • 10
    George P. Shultz
    288
    177
    Ronald Reagan, 1982-1989
  • 11
    Henry Kissinger
    621
    445
    Gerald Ford, 1973-1977
  • 12
    John Hay
    174
    79

    John Hay

    Dec. at 67 (1838-1905)
    William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, 1898-1905
  • 13
    John Marshall
    155
    71

    John Marshall

    Dec. at 80 (1755-1835)
    John Adams, 1800-1801
  • 14
    Henry Clay
    177
    95

    Henry Clay

    Dec. at 75 (1777-1852)
    John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829
  • 15
    Madeleine Albright
    455
    337

    Madeleine Albright

    Age: 83
    Bill Clinton, 1997-2001
  • 16
    Condoleezza Rice
    568
    436
    George W. Bush, 2005-2009
  • 17
    Colin Powell
    430
    300
    George W. Bush, 2001-2005
  • 18
    John Foster Dulles
    186
    136

    John Foster Dulles

    Dec. at 71 (1888-1959)
    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1959
  • 19
    Cordell Hull
    142
    87

    Cordell Hull

    Dec. at 84 (1871-1955)
    Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933-1944
  • 20
    Elihu Root
    126
    82

    Elihu Root

    Dec. at 92 (1845-1937)
    Theodore Roosevelt, 1905-1909
  • 21
    Charles Evans Hughes
    102
    72

    Charles Evans Hughes

    Dec. at 86 (1862-1948)
    Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover, 1921-1925
  • 22
    William Jennings Bryan
    126
    113

    William Jennings Bryan

    Dec. at 65 (1860-1925)
    Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1915
  • 23
    Hamilton Fish
    107
    75

    Hamilton Fish

    Dec. at 85 (1808-1893)
    Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877
  • 24
    James G. Blaine
    65
    46

    James G. Blaine

    Dec. at 63 (1830-1893)
    Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1892, and James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur, 1881-1881
  • 25
    Robert Bacon
    70
    51

    Robert Bacon

    Dec. at 59 (1860-1919)
    Theodore Roosevelt, 1909-1909