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.


U. Alexis Johnson (1908-1977)

After joining the Foreign Service in 1935, Ural Alexis Johnson was first assigned to Japanese language training in Tokyo and then served in Japan-controlled parts of Korea and China until 1941. He was one of the first U.S. diplomats to return to that country at the end of World War II, and served there during the Occupation period. Respected for his pragmatism, patience and extraordinary diplomatic skills, Johnson was often found at “the right hand of power” (the title he used for his memoirs). He was ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1953-58), Thailand (1958-61) and Japan (1966-69). President Lyndon B. Johnson assigned him to Vietnam in 1964-65, where he held the position of deputy ambassador. During that period, he narrowly escaped serious injury in a car bombing in front of the embassy. On his return from Japan in 1969, Johnson served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under Secretary William Rogers during the first Nixon Administration. During 1973-77, he took on special assignments as U.S. ambassador-at-large until his retirement in 1977 as career ambassador, a rank he had held since 1964.

  • Johnson, U. Alexis, and Jeff Olivarius McAllister. The Right Hand of Power. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1984.