1999-2000 (Winter)

An Interview with Former CIA Executive Director Lawrence K. "Red" White

Interview by James Hanrahan


Editor’s Note: “Red” White grew up poor in Tennessee. He was saved from a life of drudgery by a somewhat fortuitous appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. In the Army, he learned to accept responsibility, exercise authority, and, above all, lead men. He fought in the Pacific theater in World War II, earning a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, and three Bronze Stars. Colonel White was severely wounded in the Philippines in 1945 and had to leave the Army after spending nearly two years in various military hospitals.

He joined the newly created CIA in 1947, becoming in short order the chief of the Foreign Broadcast Information Branch–later renamed FBIS–in the Office of Operations, which handled all overt collection functions. White’s success in transforming an unruly and troublesome organization caught the eye of his superiors, and he was promoted to Deputy Assistant Director of the Office of Operations in December 1950. He remained in that post until 1952, when he was named Assistant to the Deputy Director for Administration. White carried much of the DDA’s load in that job, and DCI Allen Dulles formally recognized that fact in 1954 when he appointed Red to be the Deputy Director for Administration. In 1965, DCI Raborn appointed him Executive Director-Comptroller, the position in which he remained until his retirement in 1972.

Red White knew the Agency’s great early leaders–“Beetle” Smith, Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Richard Helms–as few others did. He paints a fascinating portrait of the Agency as it once was.

The following excerpts are from James Hanrahan’s interview of Colonel White at his home in Vero Beach, Florida, on 7 January 1998.

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