Examples of Excellence

From among the legions of outstanding diplomats who have served the United States since the middle of the 20th century, the following 25 individuals were chosen to exemplify the highest standards of the profession. The list is by no means intended to be exhaustive, or to suggest that others are not equally, if not more, deserving of such attention.


Ellis O. Briggs (1899-1976)

Beginning his 37-year career at age 26, Ellis Briggs held posts in 12 different countries, serving as ambassador in seven of them between 1944 and 1962 – including the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Czechoslovakia, South Korea, Peru, Brazil and Greece. Earlier he served in Cuba, Chile, Liberia and China (at the Nationalist wartime capital in Chungking). Severe illness prevented him from taking his eighth ambassadorship when President Kennedy nominated him for appointment to Spain. Briggs was respected for his sound judgment, pungent writing style, capacity for managing large diplomatic missions and cool head in difficult situations. After retiring as a career ambassador in 1962, he went public with his longheld dismay over the proliferation of “unnecessary” staff (particularly from agencies other than the Department of State) at U.S. diplomatic missions. And in 1963 he expressed his disapproval of one of President John F. Kennedy’s signature accomplishments, the Alliance for Progress, calling it a product of “the welfare state plus Uncle Sam’s guilt complex [toward Latin America] plus our crusading spirit.”

  • Briggs, Ellis O. Farewell to Foggy Bottom: The Recollections of a Career Diplomat. New York: McKay, 1964.
  • Briggs, Ellis O. Proud Servant: The Memoirs of a Career Ambassador. Kent State, OH: Kent State University Press, 1998.