In Memoriam: Ambassador Richard B. Parker (1923-2011)

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Former U.S. ambassador to Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco, Middle East expert and writer/historian Richard B. Parker died Jan. 7 in Washington, DC. He had long suffered from vascular disease.

Born in the Philippines, where his father was a U.S. Army officer, Richard Bordeaux Parker graduated from Kansas State University in 1947, and received a master's degree the following year. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1949 and specialized in the Arabic language.

In World War II Parker's division had been captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. He was liberated in Poland 34 days later by the Russian army. On his way home via the Turkish Straits and Port Said he became fascinated by Istanbul's architecture and the intricacies of Arab culture. Parker's P.O.W. status and his unusual trip back to the United States may have had a powerful influence on him.

In 1974 he was appointed U.S. ambassador to Algeria. Three years later he was sent as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon after the former ambassador, Francis E. Melloy, Jr., was assassinated. Parker's third ambassadorship, to Morocco in 1978, was cut short by that country's monarch. In a 1984 interview, Parker explained that King Hassan II had never fully believed that the United States was not involved in two coup attempts against him. Hassan told him that "relations would not improve so long as I was there," Parker recalled.

In addition to his ambassadorships Dick Parker had assignments in Australia, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Following his distinguished diplomatic career Parker won high standing as a writer/historian/teacher. He was a diplomat-in-residence at the University of Virginia, where he taught classes on foreign policy in the Arab world and served as an editor of the Middle East Journal. …