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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Electronic Information and Publications Office > Publications > Miscellaneous Publications > U.S. Postage Stamps Commemorate Distinguished American Diplomats

Clifton R. Wharton

U.S. Postage Stamps Commemorate Distinguished American Diplomats

Clifton R. WhartonDuring a distinguished career that spanned nearly four decades, Clifton R. Wharton, Sr. (1899-1990) was the first black Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State. While he was not the nationís first black ambassador, Wharton was the first black diplomat to become ambassador by rising through the ranks of the Foreign Service rather than by political appointment and the first black diplomat to lead a U.S. delegation to a European country.

Wharton was born in Baltimore and raised in Boston, where he practiced law from 1920 until 1923. He then moved to Washington, DC, where he worked as an examiner at the Veterans Bureau and as a law clerk at the State Department. In 1925, after taking and passing the rigorous Foreign Service exam, he became the nationís first black Foreign Service Officer.

After a series of postings that included Liberia, the Canary Islands, Spain and Madagascar, Wharton became consul general in Portugal in 1949. In 1953 he became consul general in Marseilles, France.

In 1958, with his appointment as U.S. minister to Romania by President Eisenhower, Wharton became the first black diplomat to head a U.S. delegation to a European country. In 1961, Wharton was appointed ambassador to Norway by President Kennedy; during his confirmation hearings he was praised as a "highly skillful, understanding and tactful diplomat."

Want to know more? Read about the other diplomats in this special commemorative series.


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