Tuesday, February 23, 2016

John E. Reinhardt, Ambassador and Head of U.S. Information Agency, Dies at 95

Sam Roberts, New York Times; via LJB by email

Image from article, with caption: Vice President Walter Mondale, left, and John E. Reinhardt in April 1978. Credit Charles Harrity/Associated Press

John E. Reinhardt, the first career diplomat to lead the United States Information Agency, died on Thursday in Silver Spring, Md. He was 95.

The cause was a stroke, his grandson John Lancefield said.

Dr. Reinhardt was appointed ambassador to Nigeria by the Nixon administration in 1971 and later served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs under Henry A. Kissinger.

He then became the first career diplomat and the first university educator to be director of the information agency. President Jimmy Carter named him to the post in 1977.

“He was the real thing, a genuine, practicing cultural diplomat,” Richard T. Arndt, another envoy, wrote in 2005 in his book “The First Resort of Kings.”

The agency’s focus, Dr. Reinhardt said at the time, “was always fundamentally one-way. Its mission was to tell others about our society.”

Renamed the United States International Communication Agency and encompassing Voice of America broadcasts and cultural exchanges, the agency under Dr. Reinhardt expanded its agenda to include “speakers sent abroad, seminars held abroad, visitors brought to this country,” he said then.

“Our activities and programs as a whole,” Dr. Reinhardt added, “should be designed to learn as well as to inform, and to inform as well as to learn.”

John Edward Reinhardt was born in Glade Spring, Va., near the Tennessee border, on March 8, 1920, the son of Edward Reinhardt and the former Alice Miller.

He graduated from Knoxville College in 1939 and attended the University of Chicago before enlisting in the Army during World War II. He completed his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received a doctorate in American literature.

He is survived by his wife, the former Carolyn Daves; three daughters, Sharman Lancefield, Nicole Reinhardt and Cecile Fenstermaker; four grandsons; and two great-grandsons.

After teaching at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Va., Dr. Reinhardt joined the Foreign Service in 1957 and served as a cultural officer in the Philippines, Japan and Iran, and as the information agency’s assistant director for Africa and the Far East before being nominated as Washington’s first African-American ambassador to Nigeria in 1971.

When he was confirmed, all five of the black career Foreign Service officers who had been elevated to ambassadorial rank were assigned to Africa.

His memos from Lagos to Washington reflected his political acumen and love of language.

In 1975, he described the leader of a successful coup in Nigeria as “vainglorious, impetuous, corrupt, vindictive, intelligent, articulate, daring,” but added, “Among his considerable faults is not Idi Aminian stupidity.”

The new government, he wrote, might be receptive to private economic investment rather than to political overtures, but should not necessarily be considered anti-American. He concluded, “The Communist countries have no better political opportunities, unless they foment and become involved in the jihad scheme, which I believe to be as imprudent for them as for us.”

In 1978, he was the chief United States delegate to the general conference of UNESCO.

After Dr. Reinhardt retired from the Foreign Service, he was assistant secretary for history and art at the Smithsonian Institution and taught political science at the University of Vermont. In 2004, he was among 27 former diplomats and military officers who criticized the war in Iraq.

Supporting Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president, they said that President George W. Bush had “failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership.”

No comments: