Lt. Gen. George Seignious ’42 -- Citadel President 1974-1979
Lieutenant General George M. Seignious II USA (Ret.) died on July 3, 2005 at the age of 84. A highly decorated military leader, he was the 14th president of The Citadel, serving from 1974-1979. He also held key military advisory positions in the administrations of presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
The Orangeburg native played a key role in negotiating peace in Vietnam as military advisor at the Paris Peace Talks and in defusing the nuclear missile threat with the Soviet Union as director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
Seignious was born in Orangeburg, S.C. on June 21, 1921.
A 1942 graduate of The Citadel, Seignious was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant in infantry upon graduation and served in the European Theater during World War II as with the 10th Armored Division and the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion becoming assistant operations officer of the division.
After the war, he held numerous leadership and advisory positions across the United States and in the Caribbean, Brazil, Spain, Europe and Korea. He became assistant executive secretary in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1952. In 1956, he was assigned to the Army Section of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Spain as chief of the Plans and Training Division.
From July 1957 to August 1960, he was military assistant and executive to Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker. He graduated from the National War College in June 1961.
He spent the next four years in Europe as commanding officer of the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment better known as the Black Horse Regiment. He was later chief of the Plans and Requirements Branch of the Operations Division of the Army’s European headquarters, and chief of staff of the Third Armored Division in Europe.
He was promoted to brigadier general in 1964 and, at the age of 42, was one the youngest officers in the history of the Army to attain that rank.
His military awards include Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Silver Star, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Services Commendation Medal, and Army Commendation medal with two oak leaf clusters.
In June 1968, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Seignious to become military advisor at the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam where he worked closely with former N.Y. Governor Averill Harriman and chief negotiator Cyrus Vance.
In March 1969, he became the commanding general of the Third U.S. Infantry Division [Marne Division] in Germany. The following year he became the U.S. commander in Berlin. Seignious was adviser to Ambassador Kenneth Rush during the successful Quadripartite Negotiations on Berlin in 1971.
He then became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Assistance, and then director of the Defense Security Assistance Agency.
In 1972, he was selected to be the first director, Joint Staff, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under a reorganization that streamlined and improved coordination of information and communication among the various branches of service and the Joint Chiefs.
He was serving in that capacity as a Lt General when he resigned to become president of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, where he served from August 1, 1974 until March 1, 1979.
As the college’s 14th president, Seignious addressed sagging enrollment by announcing a goal of raising the size of the Corps of Cadets to 1976 members by 1976. He reached that goal a year early while boosting academic performance by convincing The Citadel Development Foundation to award a merit scholarship of $1,776 to cadets meeting high academic standards. During his administration, there were major improvements to facilities including the construction of Deas Hall, a physical education building; renovation of the mess hall and expansion of Capers Hall.
“General Seignious exemplified true leadership throughout his military career and as president of The Citadel. He was a great man who had a genuine appreciation of the citizen-soldier – one of the defining qualities of a Citadel alumnus,” said Major General John S. Grinalds, president of The Citadel. “I will miss his helpful advice and friendship.”
Seignious Hall, an athletic facility dedicated in 1982, is named in his honor.
General Seignious entered The Citadel in 1938. He was a battalion commander and voted as best officer, most capable and most practical by fellow members of the Citadel’s Centennial Class of 1942 – a class that includes Citadel President Emeritus MGen. Alex Grimsley, Knight Ridder Chairman Emeritus Alvah Chapman, former U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings and the late John West, former governor of South Carolina.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter nominated him to become director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the encouragement of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Superintendent of West Point, General Andrew Goodpasture, former Commander of Allied Forces Europe. Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was immediately “impressed by his intellect, comprehensive grasp of the issues and willingness to challenge the military’s disarmament position.”
He served in that capacity until the end of the Carter administration and then was named U.S. Delegate-at-Large for arms control negotiations with the rank of ambassador by the Reagan administration.
Seignious retired from government service in 1984 to become president of the Atlantic Council of the United States. In 1989, he was named vice chairman of the Atlantic Council and later was voted vice chairman emeritus, a position he held at the time of his death.
In 1991, he became chairman of the board of General Research Corporation Intl., a NYSE company that he helped transform from a government services firm to a high-tech, telecommunications business. He retired as chairman in 1994 prior to the acquisition of General Research Corporation by AT&T.
He returned to Charleston in 1991 and became active in local and state affairs. He chaired Mark Sanford’s congressional campaign and served as honorary chair of his gubernatorial campaign. He worked with economic development in the state, serving as a trade representative for South Carolina on trade missions to Germany and other eastern European countries.
Although interested in maintaining the all-male tradition at the Citadel, when hearing of he US Supreme Court’s decision, Ambassador Seignious charged fellow alumni with the task of “making the integration of women a grand success.”
His first wife, Ann Ficken Padgett Seignious, died in 1975. General Seignious was married to his second wife, Dorette [Dielle] Louise Fleischmann, from 1977 until 1986.
He is survived by a sister, Kent Freeman of Charleston, S.C., and four children. His two sons are Citadel graduates: Richard Paul Padgett, Jr. ’68 of Beaufort, S.C. and George M. Seignious III ’78 of Mt. Pleasant. His two daughters are Pamela Ann Chambers of Atlanta and Molly Kent Johnson of Wellesley, Mass. Additionally, his is survived by step-children: Charles and Melanie Fleischmann. He also leaves 11 grandchildren and one great grandson.
Funeral services will be held at The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel on Thursday, July 7 at 10 a.m. A reception, on campus in Mark Clark Hall will immediately follow the service. The graveside service with full military honors will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, S.C.
The Seignious family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be sent, in their father’s name, to either: The Citadel Foundation, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409-6230 and the Bishop Gadsden Community Chapel Fund, One Bishop Gadsden Way, Charleston, SC 29412.