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John Foster Dulles always remembered Watertown roots

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: John Foster Dulles always remembered Watertown roots
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As Secretary of State in the Eisenhower Administration, John Foster Dulles was a major player in Washington.

Most known as a crusader against communism, Carol Burnett also wrote a song about him and Washington D.C.'s biggest airport bears his name.

But it's a life and career that started in his hometown of Watertown.

In part one of a two part series, Our Brian Dwyer and Photojournalist R.D. White took a look back at Dulles and the roots he never forgot.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- "I made a fool of myself over John Foster Dulles,” sang Carol Burnett.

"You can look around the whole circle of the world and you find one spot after another, after another, after another where the question is are we going to lose this bit of the free world. Is it going to be Iran? Is it going to be Egypt? Is it going to be Indo-China or Korea?" Dulles said in an interview during his time as Secretary of State.

John Foster Dulles was born in Washington, D.C. back in 1888.

As a baby his family moved to Watertown, N.Y. As his life took shape, he'd end up right where he started, tapped as Secretary of State under Dwight Eisenhower.

St. Lawrence University Foreign Affairs Professor Robert Wells said, "People would have remembered him as the individual who really got the treaty of peace and security for Japan. That was in the mid ‘50's. The way in which he handled that, which was a very delicate thing, I think that's why Eisenhower picked him."

“Many times when he gave speeches in the North Country he would remind people that he was just a Watertown boy and he learned what he knew in this world because of his Watertown experiences," said Johnson Newspaper Corp. Chairman & CEO John Johnson Jr.

"Ever since the Berlin agreement to seek peace in Indo-China, the communist forces have stepped up the intensity and the scope of their aggression," Dulles said in an old interview.

"Strong opinions that he backed up in awesome intellect. Brilliant, brilliant family,” said Johnson.

A family that owned a lakefront cottage in Henderson Harbor, the place they'd all re-unite each summer and on holidays.

He also bought the most remote piece of land on Lake Ontario, Main Duck Island.

"John Foster would, it seemed like he always came up here at Thanksgiving time. He'd fly out to the Main Ducks and they'd leave him off there. It's a pusher plane that Dick Benson from Beaver Falls would fly for him. He would go out there and the great solitude of the Ducks, there's no electricity out there. It's just terrific. Nobody bothers you. It's just a great destination for fishing. It's just great."

Communication was so difficult, the only way Washington could get a hold of him, was through the radio. A CBS show called "World News Roundup."

Dulles would listen everyday and if a story started by saying, "This news will be of particular interest to Secretary of State Dulles,” he knew he needed to find a phone.

"He did have Bob Hart out there on the mainland and Dick Benson. They'd think nothing of flying out there. They didn't care what the weather was. They'd just go."

Author of “Overthrow”, Stephen Kinser said, "In later life he was an elder of the Presbyterian Church and a member of Union Theological Seminaries Board of Directors. After his death he was described as the only religious leader, lay or clerical, ever to become Secretary of State."

"He never ever really forgot his roots in Northern New York. Ever,” said Johnson.

As Carol Burnett sang, “The first time I saw him was at the U.N. I never have been one swoon over men. "

The State Office Building in Watertown was named after Dulles in 1983.

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