Meet George Haley, the eldest black U.S. ambassador in diplomatic history

Stephen Nartey March 29, 2023
George Haley/Photo credit: The Weekly Challenger

Attorney George Williford Boyce Haley is part of the 149 black diplomats out of 2,200 individuals who have served on behalf of the U.S. federal government across the world since the title was first used in America’s diplomatic history in 1893. Out of this number, George was the eldest; he was 72 at the time of his appointment to the Gambia, according to black past.  

Born on August 28, 1925, in Henning, Tennessee, to parents who were university professors, George’s family was always moving from one campus to the other. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1949 with colleagues such as Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lerone Bennett. He attended the Arkansas Law School based on a challenge his father threw at him. This made him the third African American student to have gained admission to the University of Arkansas Law School.

Though his teen years were quite tough, none was as challenging as when he was in Arkansas. He battled racism and racial profiling with the worst experience being urine thrown in his face. However, he persevered and came out with a stellar academic performance by the end of his first year at law school.

By his second year, he had begun writing articles for the law review. He attained his law degree in 1952 and was briefly employed by Stevens Jackson’s law firm in Kansas. George served as Deputy City Attorney from 1954 to 1964. His political career began when he was elected as Kansas State Senator in 1964, according to history makers.

Though his big leap at the U.S. Congress hit a snag, he was appointed by President Nixon as Chief Counsel of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. He was later given another opportunity by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 as Chairman of the Postal Rate Commission, where he worked for eight years. He was also appointed by President Bill Clinton as U.S. Ambassador to Gambia where he served until 2001.

George worked at strengthening the relationship between the United States and The Gambia while in the role. He was known for his strong commitment to democracy, human rights, and good governance. During his time as ambassador, he played a critical role in mediating a dispute between The Gambia and neighboring Senegal over the Senegal River. He also worked to promote economic development in The Gambia, particularly in the areas of tourism and agriculture.

After leaving his position as ambassador, George continued to work in the field of international development. He served as a consultant to several organizations, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank. In recognition of his contributions, George received numerous awards and honors throughout his career. He passed away on May 13, 2015, at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was 89 years. He is remembered as a dedicated public servant who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of people.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: March 29, 2023


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