Samuel Augustus Nunn Jr. (born September 8, 1938) is an American
lawyer and politician. Currently the co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat
Initiative (NTI), a charitable organization working to prevent
catastrophic attacks with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons,
Nunn served for 24 years as a
United States Senator from Georgia (1972
until 1997) as a member of the Democratic Party. His political
experience and credentials on national defense reportedly made him a
potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidates John
Kerry (2004) and
Barack Obama (2008).
1 Early life
2 Career beginnings
3 Political career
4 Post-Congressional life
5 Speculation of 2008 presidential or vice-presidential candidacy
6 Personal life
7 Awards and honors
8 See also
10 Relevant literature
11 External links
Nunn was born in Macon, Georgia, the son of Mary Elizabeth (née
Cannon) and Samuel Augustus Nunn, who was an attorney and mayor of
Perry, Georgia. Nunn was raised in Perry. He was a grandnephew of
Congressman Carl Vinson.
Nunn is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout
Award from the Boy Scouts of America. In high school, Nunn was a
standout athlete, captaining the school's basketball team to a state
Nunn attended Georgia Tech in 1956, where he was initiated as a
brother of Phi Delta Theta. He transferred to
Emory University in 1959
and received his undergraduate degree in 1960. He then received a
degree from the
Emory University School of Law in 1962.
After active duty service in the
United States Coast Guard, he served
six years in the US Coast Guard Reserve. He was also briefly a
Congressional staff member.
Nunn returned to Perry, Georgia, where he practiced law and managed
his family's farm. He served as the president of the Perry Chamber of
Nunn first entered politics as a member of the Georgia House of
Representatives in 1968. He was elected to the
United States Senate
in 1972, defeating appointed U.S. Senator
David H. Gambrell in the
Democratic primary and U.S. Rep.
Fletcher Thompson in the general
election. Nunn retired from the Senate in 1997, offering a lack of
"zest and enthusiasm" as justification.
During his tenure in the U.S. Senate, Nunn served as chairman of the
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and the Permanent
Subcommittee on Investigations. He also served on the Intelligence and
Small Business Committees. His legislative achievements include the
landmark Department of Defense Reorganization Act, drafted with the
late Senator Barry Goldwater, and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat
Reduction Program, which provided assistance to
Russia and the
former Soviet republics for securing and destroying their excess
nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction
Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program deactivated more
than 7,600 nuclear warheads. He was supposedly a top choice to be
Secretary of Defense or State in 1992 and 1996 and in a prospective
Gore cabinet in 2000.
Overall, Nunn was a moderate-to-conservative Democrat who often
broke with his party on a host of social and economic issues. He
opposed the budget bill of 1993, which included provisions to raise
taxes in order to reduce the budget deficit. He neither supported nor
opposed Hillary Clinton's attempt to nationalize health care, though
he spoke out very strongly against the proposed insurance
Nunn actively worked to block President Bill Clinton's proposal to
allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.
In 2008, Nunn endorsed a new Pentagon study to examine the issue of
homosexuals serving openly in the military: “I think [when] 15 years
go by on any personnel policy, it’s appropriate to take another look
at it—see how it’s working, ask the hard questions, hear from the
military. Start with a Pentagon study.”
According to opensecrets.org,
Sam Nunn received about $2.4 million
during his 1989-1994 political career. His main contributors were the
finance/insurance/real estate sector (totaling $411,665; $46,660 was
received from Goldman, Sachs & Co), the defense industry, lawyers
and lobbyists, the alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages industry
(including Coca-Cola), and the agriculture sector.
He voted in favor of school prayer, capping punitive damage awards,
U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget, and
limiting death penalty appeals. On certain issues like abortion, the
environment, gun control, and affirmative action, Nunn took a more
liberal line. He consistently voted in favor of increased
immigration. One of his most controversial votes was his vote
against the Gulf War.
In September 1994, Nunn, former President
Jimmy Carter and former
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Colin Powell were asked by
Bill Clinton to go to
Haiti in order to force the departure
of the military dictator Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras. In 1994
Clinton publicly demanded that the Haitian government step aside and
restore democratic rule. Clinton deployed a large military force to
surround the country in September 1994. Just before the troops reached
Haiti, Clinton sent a delegation led by Carter, Nunn and Powell to
urge Cédras to step down and leave the country. Cédras agreed and
surrendered the government, and he and his top lieutenants left the
country in October. Just days later, American forces escorted the
country’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, into the
capital. Afterwards, Clinton lavished praise on Nunn's delegation for
averting a military strike on the nation. "As all of you know, at my
request, President Carter, Gen. Colin Powell, and Sen.
Sam Nunn went
Haiti to facilitate the dictators' departure. I have been in
constant contact with them for the last two days. They have worked
tirelessly, almost around the clock, and I want to thank them for
undertaking this crucial mission on behalf of all Americans", Clinton
Upon his exit from the Senate at the end of 1996, Nunn was the
recipient of bipartisan praise from his colleagues. Republican Senator
John Warner of
Virginia concluded, "Senator Nunn quickly established
himself as one of the leading experts in the Congress and, indeed, all
United States on national security and foreign policy. He
gained a reputation in our country and, indeed, worldwide as a global
thinker, and that is where I think he will make his greatest
contribution in the years to come, wherever he may be, in terms of
being a global thinker. His approach to national security issues has
been guided by one fundamental criteria: What
Sam Nunn believes is in
the best interest of the
United States of America."
Nunn in 2007
Nunn founded the
Nuclear Threat Initiative
Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2001 and served as
co-chairman and CEO until June 2017, when he became co-chairman with
Ted Turner and Ernest J. Moniz.
In addition to his work with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Nunn has
continued his service in the public policy arena as a distinguished
professor in the
Sam Nunn School of International Affairs
Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia
Tech. There, he hosts the biennial
Policy Forum, a policy
meeting that brings together noted academic, government, and
private-sector experts on technology, public policy, and international
affairs to address issues of immediate importance to the nation.
Nunn is an active Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a
Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating
the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign
policy. He has signed a number of the organization's bipartisan policy
statements on important issues ranging from climate change to enhanced
interrogation practices and nonproliferation.
Additionally, Nunn serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Board of
Trustees for the
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Center for Strategic and International Studies in
Washington, D.C. At CSIS Nunn and former Senator and United States
Secretary of Defense
William Cohen joined together for a series of
public roundtable discussions designed to focus Americans on the
seminal issues that the
United States must face. The Cohen-Nunn
Dialogues featured top thought leaders, public policy experts,
prominent journalists, and leading scholars.
Nunn is a retired partner in the law firm of King & Spalding. He
is a board member of The Coca-Cola Company. In 2005, Nunn teamed up
with former Senator
Fred Thompson to promote a new film, Last Best
Chance, on the dangers of excess nuclear weapons and materials. The
film aired on
HBO in October 2005. He gave a full presentation
outlining his goals at the Commonwealth Club of California.
Nunn—along with William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and George
Shultz—has called upon governments to embrace the vision of a world
free of nuclear weapons, and in five
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal op-eds
proposed an ambitious program of urgent steps to that end. The four
created the Nuclear Security Project to advance this agenda. Nunn
reinforced that agenda during a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School
on October 21, 2008, saying, "I’m much more concerned about a
terrorist without a return address that cannot be deterred than I am
about deliberate war between nuclear powers. You can't deter a group
who is willing to commit suicide. We are in a different era. You have
to understand the world has changed."
In 2010, the four were featured in a documentary film entitled
"Nuclear Tipping Point," also produced by the Nuclear Threat
Initiative. The film is a visual and historical depiction of the ideas
laid forth in the
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal op-eds and reinforces their
commitment to a world without nuclear weapons and the steps that can
be taken to reach that goal.
Nunn is a Member of the Supervisory Council of the International
Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, a not-for-profit
organization uniting leading experts on non-proliferation of nuclear
weapons, materials and delivery vehicles. He also serves on the Board
of Advisors for the National Bureau of Asian Research, a non-profit,
nonpartisan research institution.
In June 2013, Nunn added his voice to public support for an updated
nuclear-arms limitation agreement with Russia. The 1992 Nunn-Lugar
agreement had just expired at a time of increasing political tension
between the two nations. Nunn applauded the determination of
Presidents Obama and Putin to renew its core provisions, while urging
further work to agree on chemical and biological weapons limits
Nunn currently serves as a member the Board of Curators for the
Georgia Historical Society. He is an advisory board member of
Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech company.
Speculation of 2008 presidential or vice-presidential candidacy
On August 19, 2007 Nunn said he would not decide on a presidential bid
until after the 2008 primary season, when presumptive nominees by both
parties would emerge. However, speculation over a Nunn White House
bid ended on April 18, 2008, when he endorsed Democratic presidential
contender Barack Obama.
Despite having publicly declared his lack of interest in being a
candidate for vice president, Nunn continued to be mentioned by some
political pundits and politicians as a potential running mate for
In an interview published June 4, 2008 by The Guardian, former
Jimmy Carter said that he favored Nunn (a fellow Georgian)
as Obama's possible choice for Vice President. Peggy Noonan, a
columnist and former Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush speechwriter
also expressed her support for Nunn. In an interview with
August 22, 2008, billionaire investor
Warren Buffett said that he
favored Nunn as Obama's choice for Vice President.
Nunn is married to the former Colleen O'Brien. Nunn met his future
wife at the U.S. Embassy in Paris while she was working for the
Central Intelligence Agency. They have two children, Mary Michelle
Nunn and Samuel Brian Nunn.
Michelle Nunn served as CEO of Points
of Light and is currently the CEO of CARE and ran unsuccessfully for
the Senate in 2014.
According to the
Lee Iacocca book,
Talking Straight (1988), Chrysler
Corporation came under scrutiny for selling new vehicles which were
driven by company executives before the odometers were connected.
Iacocca, Chrysler's CEO, was not concerned about the scandal at first
but, within days of a meeting with Nunn in 1987 in which Nunn spoke of
his own recently purchased Chrysler Fifth Avenue, Iacocca launched a
detailed investigation into the claims, and extended warranties —
and public apologies — to numerous current Chrysler
In 1989, it was reported that Nunn had had a drunk driving accident in
1964. This report emerged during the
United States Secretary of
Defense confirmation hearings of ex-Senator John Tower. Nunn was
opposing Tower due to Tower's alleged drinking problems.
Senator Nunn's membership in
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National Golf Club became the
focus of a campaign by women seeking membership in the exclusive
all-male club in 2002. The club had admitted its first
African-American member in 1990, but was still closed to women. The
Club chose to air the Masters without commercials rather than succumb
to the pressure to open admissions to women.
Awards and honors
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
In 1990, the
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology renamed its international
affairs department, the
Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.
In 1996, Nunn received the U.S. Senator John
Heinz Award for Greatest
Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out
annually by Jefferson Awards.
In 2004, Nunn and Lugar were jointly awarded the Heinz Awards
Chairman's Medal for their efforts.
An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Oglethorpe University
The Hessian Peace Prize in 2008 for his commitment on nuclear
disarmament and for combating nuclear terrorism.
2011 Georgia Trustee. Given by the Georgia Historical Society, in
conjunction with the Governor of Georgia, to individuals whose
accomplishments and community service reflect the ideals of the
founding body of Trustees, which governed the Georgia colony from 1732
2011 Inaugural recipient of the annual Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social
Courage, awarded by the
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia
Tech's Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
2013 Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of
Lone Sailor Award by the U.S. Navy Veterans Memorial in September
International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament
^ Harris, John F. (2008-08-19) "Nader predicts Obama to pick Clinton",
^ "OBITUARIES [NATIONAL] Series: OBITUARIES". St. Petersburg Times.
August 12, 2000.
^ a b Townley, Alvin (2006-12-26). Legacy of Honor: The Values and
Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press.
pp. 121–122. ISBN 0-312-36653-1. Retrieved
^ "Distinguished Eagle Scouts" (PDF). Scouting.org. Retrieved
^ The New York Times, January 4, 1987.
^ a b c d "A Conversation With Sam Nunn". Georgia Tech Alumni
Magazine. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Spring 1990. Archived from
the original on October 28, 2005. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
^ Sack, Kevin (October 10, 1995). "Nunn, Model Southern Democrat, To
Retire From Senate Next Year". The New York Times. Retrieved
^ Encyclopedia of World Biography on Sam Nunn, BookRags.com. Retrieved
^ "A Retreat on Gay Soldiers". New York Times. 1993-09-19. Retrieved
^ Kasindorf, Martin (1993-03-30). "A Plan for Military Gays; Nunn
would keep them 'in the closet'". Newsday. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
^ Says Nunn: It might be time to take another look at 'don't ask,
don't tell', ajc.com; accessed February 27, 2017.
^ Profile, opensecrets.org; accessed February 27, 2017.
Immigration profile of:Sen.
Sam Nunn (D-Georgia)[permanent dead
link], NumbersUSA.com; retrieved October 25, 2007.
^ Government & Politics:Sam Nunn, The New Georgia Encyclopedia;
retrieved October 25, 2007.
^ "President Carter Leads Delegation to Negotiate Peace With Haiti".
cartercenter.org. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
Sam Nunn School of International Affairs". inta.gatech.edu.
Georgia Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on May 18,
2008. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
Policy Statements". PSAonline.org. Retrieved
^ "Cohen-Nunn Dialogues". csis.org. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
^ Maclin, Beth (2008-10-20). "A Nuclear weapon-free world is possible,
Nunn says". Belfer Center, Harvard University. Retrieved October 21,
^ NBR Board of Advisors; accessed February 27, 2017.
^ "Obama, Putin to sign new deal on reducing nuclear threat". Reuters.
Jun 17, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
^ "A singular board at Theranos". Fortune. June 12, 2014. Retrieved
^ Galloway, Jim (19 August 2007). "Former Sen.
Sam Nunn Weighs Run for
White House". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Sam Nunn lines up behind
Barack Obama as best equipped to stop
political 'demonizing, dumbing down'". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
April 18, 2008. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
^ Peterson, Larry (March 30, 2008). "How about an Obama-Nunn ticket".
savannahnow.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved
April 29, 2008.
^ Mooney, Alexander (May 21, 2008). "Carter: Obama-Clinton ticket
unlikely". blogs.cnn.com. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
^ Brooks, David (May 29, 2008). "The Running Mate Choice". The New
York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
^ Freedland, Jonathan (June 4, 2008). "US elections: Jimmy Carter
Barack Obama not to pick
Hillary Clinton as running mate". The
Guardian. London. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
^ Has Sam Nunn's time for VP spot arrived?, ajc.com, July 12, 2008.
^ Galloway, Jim (July 22, 2013). "
Michelle Nunn declares herself a
U.S. Senate candidate". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived
from the original on April 25, 2014.
^ "Nunn Admits Being Drunk In '64 Crash". Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 22, 2008 – via
^ Sandomir, Richard (September 28, 2002). "GOLF; Women's Group Lobbies
Seven of Augusta's Members". The New York Times. Retrieved February
^ "National - Jefferson Awards". JeffersonAwards.org.
^ "The Heinz Awards :: Richard Lugar + Sam Nunn".
^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe
University. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved
^ LUKA netconsult GmbH. "Hessian Peace Prize". hsfk.de.
^ "Georgia's New Trustees". georgiatrend.com.
^ "Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service - Ivan Allen College
of Liberal Arts". gatech.edu.
^ Lingenfelser, Mike. "Ein Verdienstkreuz am Rande" [A Cross of Merit
on the Edge].
Bayerischer Rundfunk (in German). Archived from the
original on February 8, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
Sam Nunn to be honored by Navy Memorial". Navy Times. 4 September
2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
McElroy, Roland. 2017. The Best President the Nation Ever Had: A
Memoir of Working With Sam Nun. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sam Nunn.
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Annotated Bibliography for
Sam Nunn from the ALsos Digital Library for
Sam Nunn, Chairman Board of Directors CSIS
Sam Nunn, NTI Board of Directors
Appearances on C-SPAN
Sam Nunn at the Commonwealth Club
Sam Nunn Papers from Emory University's
Special Collections Department
Party political offices
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia
1972, 1978, 1984, 1990
Chair of the Democratic Leadership Council
United States Senator (Class 2) from Georgia
Served alongside: Herman Talmadge, Mack Mattingly, Wyche Fowler, Paul
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
United States Senators from Georgia
Chairmen of the
United States Senate
United States Senate Committee on Armed Services
Military Affairs Committee
Naval Affairs Committee
Armed Services Committee
Chairmen of the Democratic Leadership Council
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