Sam Nunn (b. 1938)
Samuel Augustus Nunn was born on September 8, 1938, and reared in the small town of Perry, in middle Georgia. He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and Emory Law School, where he graduated with honors in 1962. He served on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and for six years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve before entering politics. Nunn began his political career as a Democratic member of the Georgia General Assembly in 1968.
U.S. Senate Career
Nunn ran for the U.S. Senate in 1972 and won. He was reelected three times, serving continuously from 1972 to 1996. During his long tenure there, Nunn was a member and chair of the
In 1985 Nunn, along with U.S. senators Lawton Chiles and Charles Robb, and U.S. representative Richard Gephardt, formed the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC), the wing of the Democratic Party that sought to maintain a moderate, middle-of-the-road stance on most issues. Nunn
Nunn sponsored legislation in 1989 that encouraged greater citizen participation in the service of the country by offering educational benefits, including federal loans and scholarships, in return for up to two years of public service in a "civilian service corps" or in the military.
As his career progressed, Nunn recognized the critical need for engagement with Russia and the former Soviet republics in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. The landmark Nunn-Lugar Act (1991), which he drafted with Senator Richard Lugar, sought to provide incentives to the former Soviet republics to dismantle their nuclear weapons swiftly and safely. For their
In 1991 Nunn voted to oppose U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Many have speculated, and Nunn himself has admitted, that the negative vote ensured the early demise of his presidential candidacy in 1992. Before the vote Nunn had been widely viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president. After the successful conclusion of the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), however, Nunn found that his earlier stance in opposition was untenable with the larger public and took himself out of consideration for the presidential race.
Although he is no longer in public office, Nunn has continued to
Nunn is a retired senior partner with the law firm of King and Spalding in Atlanta, and a distinguished professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. In addition, he serves on numerous boards of such publicly held corporations as the Coca-Cola Company, Dell Computer Corporation, General Electric, and Scientific Atlanta. In 2011 he was inducted as a Georgia Trustee, an honor conferred by the Georgia Historical Society and the Office of the Governor.
Nunn and his wife, Colleen, have two children, Michelle and Brian.
Kenneth W. Thompson, ed., Sam Nunn on Arms Control (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1987).
Tinaz Pavri, Spelman College
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