David Dean Rusk (February 9, 1909 – December 20, 1994) was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He had been a high government official in the 1940s and early 1950s, as well as the head of a leading foundation. He is cited as one of the two officers responsible for dividing the two Koreas at the 38th parallel.
Born to a poor farm family in Cherokee County, Georgia, Rusk graduated from Davidson College and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he immersed himself in English history and customs. After teaching at Mills College in California, he became an army officer in the war against Japan. He served as a staff officer in the China Burma India Theater, becoming a senior aide to Joseph Stilwell, the top American general. As a civilian he became a senior official in 1945 at the State Department, rising to the number three position under Dean Acheson. He became Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in 1950. In 1952, Rusk left to become president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
After Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election, he asked Rusk to serve as secretary of state. Rusk was a quiet advisor to Kennedy, rarely making his own views known to other officials. He supported diplomatic efforts during the Cuban Missile Crisis and, though he initially expressed doubts about the escalation of the U.S. role in the Vietnam War, he became known as one of its strongest supporters. He was a favorite of President Lyndon Johnson after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. He left the secretary role in January 1969 and taught international relations at the University of Georgia School of Law.