Christopher also chaired a commission that proposed reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the videotaped beating by police of motorist Rodney King in 1991. When four officers arrested for beating King were acquitted of most charges the following year Los Angeles erupted in days of deadly rioting.
In examining years of police records following the riots, the Christopher Commission found "a significant number of officers" routinely used excessive force.
Accepting Christopher's resignation as the nation's top diplomat, President Bill Clinton said Christopher "left the mark of his hand on history."
As Clinton considered a successor, Christopher offered the criteria he would apply if the choice was up to him.
"It would be somebody who has the capacity to provide forceful leadership, someone who has great tenacity, someone who has endurance and a lot of stamina," he said.
His travels became the stuff of diplomatic legend.