Appointed by President Woodrow Wilson
Robert Lansing served as secretary of state for President Woodrow Wilson from 1915 to 1920. Born on October 17, 1864, in Watertown, a small city in northern New York, he was the eldest child of John and Maria Lay Dodge Lansing. John Lansing, Robert's great grandfather, was a member of the New York legislature and a delegate to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. Another paternal ancestor, Jacob C. TenEyck, served as Judge of the State Court of Common Pleas and was prominent in the American Revolution. Both his grandfather and father were distinguished lawyers. His maternal grandfather, Edwin Dodge, served as land agent for Gouverneur Morris and as a member of the state legislature and a judge in the New York Court System.
From the beginning, young Robert “Bert” Lansing seemed destined for a legal and public-service career. After graduating from Amherst College in 1886, he read law in his father's offices and, in 1889, was admitted to the New York Bar. After a trip to Europe, he became the junior partner in the Lansing and Lansing firm of Watertown, an affiliation he kept until his father's death in 1907.
Although not brilliant, Lansing was hard-working and well read in law as well as U.S. history, international relations, and psychology. He was shy and disliked dealing with strangers, and he was reluctant to appear in court, preferring to prepare cases and then turn them over to his father for presentation.
Lansing married Eleanor Foster the eldest daughter of John Watson Foster in 1890, and in so doing took his first real step toward a career in foreign affairs. Foster, a veteran U.S. diplomat who was Minister to Mexico, Russia, and Spain, served as secretary of state during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison (1892-1893) and had an extensive legal practice representing foreign governments in Washington. Lansing assisted in Foster's practice and in 1892 was himself appointed associate counsel for the United States at the Bering Sea Fur Seal Arbitrations.
From 1892 to 1907, Lansing alternated between assisting his father in Water-town and the international law practice of his father-in-law. Over the years, his