WASHINGTON -- Warren M. Christopher, the attorney turned envoy who tirelessly traveled to Bosnia and the Middle East on peace missions during his 1993-96 tenure as secretary of state in the Clinton administration, has died at age 85.
When he took over as secretary of state in the Clinton administration at age 68, Christopher said he didn't expect to travel much. He went on to set a four-year mark for miles traveled by America's top diplomat, including some two dozen trips to Syria alone in a futile effort to promote a settlement with Israel.
After his work finished carrying out the Clinton administration agenda abroad, the longtime Californian returned home for an active life in local and national affairs and with his law firm.
President Barack Obama said Saturday that he mourned the passing of a man who proved to be a "resolute pursuer of peace" and dedicated public servant.
As Christopher prepared to step down in 1996 as secretary "for someone else to pick up the baton," he said in an interview he was pleased to have played a role in making the United States safer.
Along with his peace efforts, he told The Associated Press that his proudest accomplishments included playing a role in promoting a ban on nuclear weapons tests and an extension of curbs on proliferation of weapons technology.
The loyal Democrat also supervised the contested Florida presidential recount on behalf of Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, decided for Republican candidate George W. Bush.
While Christopher often preferred a behind-the-scenes role, he also made news as deputy secretary of state in the Carter administration, conducting the tedious negotiations that gained the release in 1981 of 52 American hostages in Iran.
Christopher spent his childhood in Scranton, N.D., where his father was a bank cashier. The family moved to Southern California during the Depression. After his father's death, his mother supported the family of five children as a sales clerk.
An ensign in the Navy Reserve, he was called up to active duty during World War II and served in the Pacific.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in 1945 and, after attending Stanford Law School, served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in 1949 and 1950.
He is survived by his wife, Marie; and had four children in two marriages, Lynn, Scott, Thomas, and Kristen.
Plans were pending for a private memorial service.