Skip to main content

William S. Cohen

Politician; Born: August 28, 1940 in Bangor, ME

Headshot of William S. Cohen


  • B.A. in Latin cum laude, Bowdoin College, 1962
  • LL.B. cum laude, Boston University School of Law, 1965

After graduation from law school, Bill Cohen, the son of an immigrant baker, joined a Bangor law firm, then worked as Assistant County Attorney for Penobscot County (1968-1970). After two years as a member of the Bangor City Council, he was elected mayor of Bangor in 1971.

From 1972-1979, Cohen served three terms in the House of Representatives (R-Maine). Investigating the Watergate scandal as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during his first term, Cohen became the first Republican to vote for Pres. Nixon's impeachment. Later he was elected to the Senate in which he served for a total of 18 years (1979-1997). Despite his Republican party affiliation, he was appointed Secretary of Defence by Democratic Pres. Bill Clinton and held that office from 1997-2001. Currently, Cohen heads an international business consulting firm located in Washington D.C. called the Cohen Group.

Cohen has published two books of poetry, three mystery novels, and five other books, including an analysis of the Iran-Contra affair (Men of Zeal, with George Mitchell, 1988) and the recent novel Dragon Fire (2006).

William Cohen about the value of Classics

"As far as my passion for writing, I have had the benefit of a Classics education, what was called a liberal arts education, which allowed me to have a sense of history and to study the classics, so that I might gain as much wisdom from studying the past that I might be a better person to deal with the future. That is what I have tried to do. To use words to help persuade one in an argument or on an issue is not inconsistent with being Secretary of Defense. It is a great asset to have."

(From a press conference in Marrakech (Morocco), February 11, 2000)
Willamette University

Classical Studies

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6077 voice
503-370-6944 fax