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.


Loy W. Henderson (1892-1986)

Known during the latter part of his career as “Mr. Foreign Service,” Loy Henderson had an exceptionally rich and influential series of assignments. He joined the State Department in 1921 and was assigned first to Dublin. A Soviet affairs specialist during the 1930s, he served in the newly opened U.S. Embassy in Moscow along with Charles “Chip” Bohlen and George Kennan. Like them, Henderson was criticized for holding highly critical views of our wartime ally. In 1943 he was sent as ambassador to Iraq, where he served until 1945. He then returned to Washington to head the Office of Near Eastern Affairs until 1948, during which time he played an instrumental role in formulating policies toward Greece and Turkey that became known as the Truman Doctrine. Again finding himself on the wrong side of prevailing political winds, this time for strongly opposing recognition of Israel in 1948, Henderson was sent as ambassador to Nehru’s India and subsequently to Iran under Mossadegh. In 1955 he became Under Secretary of State for Administration, a position he held until his retirement in 1961. In that job he led the Department through a difficult process of “Wristonization” that brought greater integration of its Civil Service and Foreign Service personnel. A hard-line anti-Communist, Henderson viewed America’s postwar foreign relations through the prism of the East-West conflict. He was made a career ambassador when that rank was established in 1956. The Loy Henderson Auditorium at the State Department serves as a lasting tribute, and in May 2006 he was honored with a stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.

  • Brands, H.W. Inside the Cold War: Loy Henderson and the Rise of the American Empire, 1918-1961. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991