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Manatt, Charles T.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Manatt, Charles T.

(June 9, 1936 – July 22, 2011)

Quick Facts

Alumnus Charles Manatt was influential in the Democratic National Party. He served as national co-chairman of Bill Clinton’s winning presidential campaign and was U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican and Republic until March 2001.


Charles (“Chuck”) Manatt was born in Chicago but moved with his parents to a farm near Audubon where he spent his youth. He was active in 4-H, Future Farmers of America and the Boy Scouts of America, where he became the first Eagle Scout in Audubon. He became active in politics starting with the Iowa Young Democrats.

Manatt attended Iowa State and received a BA degree in Rural Sociology in 1958. After serving in the Army JAG Corps, he and his wife, Kathleen, moved to Washington, D.C., to study law at George Washington University and received his JD in 1962. Manatt was the Chairman of the law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips which he founded in Los Angeles, California in 1965. He also co-founded the First Los Angeles Band and served as its chairman from 1973 to 1989.

Active in politics from an early age, Manatt was elected Chairman of the California Democratic Party in 1969. During the Carter Administration he served as Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee and was elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1981 and served until 1985. During his tenure he led the construction of the Democratic National Headquarters and the modernization of its operation. In 1992, Manatt served as national co-chairman of Bill Clinton’s winning presidential campaign. In December 1999 he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican and Republic and served in that role until March 2001.

Ambassador Manatt was the founding Chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He served as Vice Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, Chairman of the International Foundation for Elections Systems, and served on the board of directors of the Center for International Private Enterprise and the Center for Democracy.

He served on the boards of the Mayo Foundation, the National Museum of American History, the Wesley Foundation, the National Legal Center for the Public Interest and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Manatt was a member of the George Washington University Board of Trustees from 1980 to 2008 and served as chairman from 2001 to 2007. The Manatts established the Manatt Democracy Fellowship Studies Program in 1998 at Iowa State University, annually awarding scholarships to two ISU graduate students to conduct research in democracy-building. In 2002 the Manatts established the Manatt-Phelps Lecture in Political Science at Iowa State.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the 2006 Manatt-Phelps Lecture when he was U.S. Senator from Delaware. Photographed with him are Kathleen Manatt and the late Charles T. Manatt. Source:

Manatt’s Iowa roots were deep. He maintained as subscription to the Audubon News Advocate, and had farms in Audubon County. He built Taylor Hill Lodge outside Audubon. He brought guests from Washington, D.C., and the West Coast to his farms each fall to hunt pheasants. David Yepsen, past director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University and former Des Moines Register political columnist was quoted, “I look at him as a bit of a role model for a lot of young people – you don’t have to forget where you come from and you shouldn’t.”

Selected Sources

“Former national Democratic leader dies,” The Des Moines Register, Sunday, July 24, 2011.

“Charles T. Manatt dies at 75; Democratic Party leader and diplomat,” The Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2011.

“Firm Mourns the Passing of Founder Charles T. Manatt,” July 23, 2011

Charles T. Manatt obituary, Audubon County Advocate Journal, August 44, 2011.

“Biography: Charles T. Manatt”, U.S. Department of State,

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