Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr.

Arthur Boggess Culvahouse Jr. (born July 4, 1948) is an American attorney who served as the United States Ambassador to Australia from 2019 to 2021.

Arthur Culvahouse
Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr. official photo.jpg
United States Ambassador to Australia
In office
March 13, 2019 – January 19, 2021
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byJohn Berry
Succeeded byMichael B. Goldman
Chargé d’Affaires
White House Counsel
In office
March 20, 1987 – January 20, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byPeter Wallison
Succeeded byBoyden Gray
Personal details
Arthur Boggess Culvahouse Jr.

(1948-07-04) July 4, 1948 (age 73)
Ten Mile, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of Tennessee (BS)
New York University (JD)

He is the former Chair of O'Melveny & Myers, an international law firm of more than 1,000 lawyers with offices around the world. Culvahouse also served as counsel to Ronald Reagan in the last two years of his presidency, and was entrusted by John McCain and Donald Trump to vet their vice presidential candidates.

On November 6, 2018, Culvahouse was announced to be the new appointment as the United States' Ambassador to Australia,[1] a posting confirmed by the Senate on January 2, 2019. He presented his credentials to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove, on March 13, 2019.[2]

Background and early yearsEdit

Culvahouse was born in Ten Mile, Tennessee, the son of Ruth (Wear) and Arthur Boggess Culvahouse.[3] He graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Tennessee and in 1973 as a Juris Doctor from the New York University School of Law.[4]

From 1973 to 1976, Culvahouse was Chief Legislative Assistant/Counsel to Senator Howard H. Baker Jr.[4] He practiced law with O'Melveny & Myers from 1976 to 1984, and again from 1989 until 2018.


Reagan Chief CounselEdit

From 1987 to 1989, Culvahouse served as Counsel to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.[4] As White House Counsel, he advised the President on matters ranging from Iran-Contra investigations, to the Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Anthony Kennedy, to the legal aspects of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Reagan administration photograph of Culvahouse

Culvahouse served as Bork's "handler" during his rejected Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.[4]

In January 1989, Reagan awarded Culvahouse the Presidential Citizens’ Medal, an award established in 1969 to "recognize citizens who performed exemplary deeds of service for the country or their fellow citizens."

Post-White HouseEdit

From 1990 to 1992, Culvahouse served as a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Nuclear Failsafe and Risk Reduction, appointed by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, to evaluate and recommend improvements in the United States' nuclear command and control system.

In December 1992, Cheney awarded Culvahouse the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Culvahouse's prior service on boards and commissions includes service on the Supreme Court Fellows Commission (2002–2005), the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy (1989–1991), and the Counterintelligence Advisory Panel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1989–1990).

Prior to his appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Australia Culvahouse was a member of the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees, and the Leadership Board of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.

McCain campaignEdit

In May 2008, Culvahouse was chosen to head presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's search for a Vice Presidential running mate, the first time that Culvahouse had ever been involved in a presidential campaign.[5][6] At the same time, he won a third four-year term to the chairmanship of his law firm.[4] Culvahouse was mentioned in the American Bar Association's journal as a possible Attorney General in a John McCain presidency, because "a lot of Democrats in Washington respect him and he has private access to a lot of ears on Capitol Hill."[4]

McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for vice president led to controversy over the vetting process.[7][8] In 2009, Culvahouse defended his vetting in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association: Palin "had a lot of capacity. The mistake I made -- and we've laughed about it since -- after giving [McCain] that advice, he said, 'Well, what's your bottom line?' I said, 'John. High risk, high reward.' And his response, ‘You shouldn't have told me that, I've been a risk-taker all of my life.'"[9]

“Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed [Palin], and came away impressed,” Culvahouse said.[9]

Trump campaignEdit

In May 2016, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, chose Culvahouse to head the search for his running mate.[10]

Ambassador to AustraliaEdit

On 6 November 2018, Trump nominated Culvahouse as the next United States Ambassador to Australia,[1] to fill a post that had been vacant since John Berry left the post in September 2016. The appointment was confirmed by the Senate on 2 January 2019.[11] Culvahouse officially took office on March 13, 2019 when his credentials were accepted by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove.[2] He left office in January 2021.[12][13]


  1. ^ a b Donald Trump announces Arthur B Culvahouse Jr as ambassador to Australia after two-year gap, Greg Jennett, ABC News Online, 2018-11-06. Archived at
  2. ^ a b Evans, Steve (13 March 2019). "New US ambassador slips up on Canberra's great architect". Canberra Times. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Ruth Wear b. 17 Feb 1924 Tennessee d. 3 Sep 2001 Watts Bar Lake, Ten Mile, Tennessee: Smoky Mountain Ancestral Quest". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Carter, Terry (November 2008). "The Lawyers Who May Run America". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
  5. ^ Rushing, J. Taylor (May 23, 2008). "McCain picks former Reagan official to head VP search". The Hill. Archived from the original on May 25, 2008. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  6. ^ Sidoti, Liz (June 24, 2008). "McCain choice to help with veep is discreet lawyer". USA Today. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  7. ^ Jones, Ashby (2008-09-03). "As Palin Gets Picked Over, Some Eyes Turn to Culvahouse". The Wall Street Journal.
  8. ^ Baxter, Brian (September 3, 2008). "Palin Disclosures Raise Questions About Lawyers' Vetting Process". The American Lawyer. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Bailey, Holly. "Culvahouse on Palin: Impressive, but Not Ready". Daily Beast. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  10. ^ Haberman, Maggie; Parker, Ashley (May 19, 2016). "Trump Aide Paul Manafort Promoted to Campaign Chairman and Chief Strategist". The New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  11. ^ Incoming US Ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse confirmed by Senate
  12. ^ Whyte, Sally (2021-01-19). "Government is mismanaging US alliance: Albanese". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 2021-01-19.
  13. ^ "US ambassador Arthur Culvahouse takes parting shot at China". Retrieved 2021-01-19.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by White House Counsel
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Australia
Succeeded by
Michael Goldman
Chargé d’Affaires