In the Arena: A Biography of William Treat ('46) published by Hobblebush Books

12.10.08

A Biography of William Treat
A Biography of William Treat

In the Arena: A Biography of William Treat ('46) published by Hobblebush Books

 Bill Treat, self-made man with a vision of the world, hobnobbed with presidents, served at the United Nations and authored a study on human rights with soviet diplomats. Working with Treat, award-winning New Hampshire writer Merle Drown captures the life of this truly renaissance yankee.

In 1955 Bill Treat, at age 37 and a member of the Republican National Committee, was invited to an “informal stag dinner” by President Eisenhower. He had always admired Ike as a genuine, straight-shooting hero and national leader, but later he learned that Ike was looking to dump Nixon from the ticket, showing himself to be as hypocritical and duplicitous as other politicians. Treat felt Nixon had loyally served his president and organized a write-in campaign for him in the New Hampshire primary. His backing of Nixon was a matter of principle, but again he found such high standards were not always shared. Years later when he heard the Watergate tapes he was shocked at the speech and behavior of his old friend.

Bill Treat grew up in Winterport, Maine, eldest of three in a family of hard working Yankees. Early on he worked in his father’s three businesses, serving customers and keeping meticulous accounts. His parents taught him to make his own opportunities and encouraged industry and perseverance. After graduating from Harvard Business School and Boston University Law School he moved with his wife Vivian to Hampton, New Hampshire where he opened a gift shop. It was a strategy to save money to open his own law practice. From there on it was one project and triumph after another.

1952 Treat entered state and then national politics finally becoming, in 1964, the chairman of the Program Planning Committee for the Republican National Convention. In 1963 he had undertaken a secret mission to Saigon to sound out Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge as Republican presidential candidate. In the judicial field Treat was appointed judge of the Seabrook Municipal Court in 1952. Throughout the ‘50s he reformed the antiquated court system in New Hampshire while running the gauntlet of old guard resistance. 1957, because there was no bank to serve Hampton, he founded the Hampton National Bank. Later, in 1979, as chairman of the stockholders committee of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, Treat seized the opportunity, while introducing William Miller, President Carter’s secretary of the treasury, at the annual shareholders’ lunch, to level scathing criticism at the administration’s regulatory fiscal policy. He never shied away from initiative or pursuing the truth.

In 1987 Treat turned to the field of diplomacy. President Reagan appointed him to the US Delegation at the United Nations where he served on the committee for human rights, and in 1988 he was elected to the Human Rights Sub-Commission in Geneva. His first assignment was to interview Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a person Treat regarded with awe bordering on reverence. Chatting at 10 Downing Street they reviewed the United Kingdom’s positions on such subjects as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and the US strategic defense initiative. In 1988 Treat traveled to Moscow to work with two Soviet diplomats of the Sub-Commission on a study of international standards for fair trials. One of Treat’s last trips was in 1992 as the US delegate to the Human Rights sub-Commission. He visited East Timor where he pressed Governor Soares and other government officials with tough questions about the treatment of dissidents only to find his words reported in the blandest terms by the local press.

“I found Bill a fascinating character . . . who believed in culture and giving to the community, a Yankee with a vision of the world,” says Merle Drown.  A New Hampshire writer and winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Hampshire Arts Council, Drown worked with Treat’s notes and published works and recorded hours of anecdotes and stories. Author, among other things, of the novel Suburbs of Heaven (Soho Press, 2000), which was chosen by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers series and was given rave reviews by the New York Times and Newsday, Drown has crafted a compelling narrative of a fascinating life. Merle Drown has an MFA from Goddard College and is author of the novel Plowing Up a Snake (The Dial Press, 1982). With John Cawelti he edited Meteor in the Madhouse, the posthumous novellas of Leon Forrest (Northwestern University Press, 2001). He is working on a collection of miniature fiction pieces titled Shrunken Heads, which have appeared widely on the web. He teaches in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. The father of three sons, he lives in Concord, NH with his wife Pat. 

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