According to the New York Times, the White House could be about to remove Rex Tillerson from his position and replace him with the Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo. If Tillerson leaves office within the next month, he will be the twelfth shortest-serving US secretary of all time, and the shortest-serving in the role since the days of George H. W. Bush.
Who were the seven shortest-serving secretaries of state?
7th – Edward Stettinius Jr.
Stettinius served as America’s 48th secretary of state between 1944 and 1945 under Democratic giant Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He was appointed shortly after Roosevelt’s fourth presidential victory, but was replaced 208 days later when Harry S. Truman took over following Roosevelt’s death in early 1945.
6th – William R. Day
This Republican started his time out in America’s executive as the Assistant Secretary of State, but soon found himself catapulted into his department’s top job after John Sherman was removed from office after just over a year in the job in 1898 under Republican President William McKinley.
Day left the role 141 days later.
5th – Edward Everett
Everett lasted just 117 days as United States Secretary of State, serving from 1852-1853. After the 1852 election, in which he did not stand in President Millard Fillmore appointed Everett to the position of secretary of state. When his term ended in March 1853 so too did Everett’s.
4th – Jeremiah S. Black
Black is the first secretary of state to appear on this list with less than 100 days of service although he previously served as the US’s Attorney General. James Buchanan’s then secretary of state resigned near the end of his term, prompting a mini reshuffle in which Black was appointed secretary of state.
His term ended 78 days later.
3rd – Laurence Eagleburger
Eagleburger served under President George H. W. Bush for 43 days. After Bush’s failed campaign to win a second term as president, Eagleburger was appointed secretary of state after acting in the role for four months.
2nd – Robert Bacon
Bacon only served for 37 days, managing to do so at the end of Theodore Roosevelt’s term that ended in 1909. He was replaced by Philander C. Knox in 1909 following Republican William Howard Taft’s 1908 victory.
1st – The shortest-serving US secretary of state
This title goes to Elihu B. Washburne.
Ulysses S. Grant appointed him to the role in 1869, but he resigned just eleven days later due to illness.
What about Tillerson?
At the moment, Tillerson is only the twelfth shortest-serving secretary of state and the second-shortest in modern times so by looking at the broader picture, it would suggest that changing secretaries of state is common practice. But when the detail is looked at closely, the circumstances in which they have been changed does not really match what has been happening in the Trump administration.
The full list of lengths of term in office of US Secretaries of State can be accessed here.