Angier Biddle Duke

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Angier Biddle Duke (November 30, 1915 – April 29, 1995) was an American soldier, diplomat in the United States Foreign Service and a White House aide. In 1952, at age 36, he became the youngest American ambassador in history when he was appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador.

Angier Biddle Duke in 1962

Family and youth[edit]

Duke was born in New York City.[1] His father was Angier Buchanan Duke (1884–1923) an heir to the American Tobacco Company fortune; his paternal grandfather was Benjamin Newton Duke (1855–1929), a major benefactor of Duke University (named for the family).[2] His mother was Cordelia Drexel Biddle. His maternal grandfather was Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Sr. of the Biddle family of Philadelphia. A great-great-grandfather through his mother was banker Anthony Joseph Drexel.

Duke attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He dropped out of Yale University in 1936.


Duke became skiing editor for a sports magazine in the late 1930s. In 1940 he enlisted as a private in the United States Army Air Forces, and by discharge in 1945 was a major serving in North Africa and Europe. His uncle Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr. was serving as ambassador to most of the governments-in-exile that were occupied by Germany during World War II.[3]

In 1949, Duke joined the United States Foreign Service as an assistant in Buenos Aires and subsequently Madrid. From 1952 to 1953, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador during the Truman administration and was, aged 36, the youngest ever U.S. Ambassador up to that time. With the Democratic Party out of power in 1953–1961, he left the foreign service and returned to private life. During much of this time, he served as President of the International Rescue Commission. Originally a Republican, he later became a Democrat.

In 1960, Duke accepted a call from the Kennedy administration to serve as Chief of Protocol for the U.S. Department of State with the rank of Ambassador, holding this position until 1965. His most visible task during this term was to supervise the protocol for the world leaders who attended the November 25, 1963 funeral of John F. Kennedy.

At end of his term as Chief of Protocol, the Johnson administration asked him to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Spain (1965–1967) and then to Denmark (1968–1969). In 1969 he was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree from Duke University.[4]

With the Democratic Party again out of power, he was again out of the U.S. Foreign Service. The Carter administration brought him back again to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco in 1979–1981.

From 1992 to 1995, Duke served as the elected president of the Council of American Ambassadors.

He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Duke died at the age of 79, from being struck by a car while rollerblading.[1] His papers are archived by Duke University in North Carolina.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1936, he married Priscilla St. George (great-granddaughter of George Fisher Baker). Their son Angier "Pony" St. George Duke was born in 1938, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1940.[4] Priscilla St. George married State Senator Allan A. Ryan, Jr. (1903–1981) in 1941.[5] Duke married Margaret Screven White in 1940. They divorced in 1952, the same year Duke married Maria-Luisa de Aranal of Spain. His third wife died in a plane crash in 1961. In 1962, he married Robin Chandler Lynn.[6]


  1. ^ a b Richard Severo (May 1, 1995). "Angier Biddle Duke, 79, an Ambassador And Scion of Tobacco Family, Has Died". New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ "A Washington Duke genealogy as it pertains to Duke University". Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ Noel F. Busch (October 4, 1943). "Ambassador Biddle: As multiple envoy to governments-in-exile, he is foremost U.S. expert on postwar plans and problems of Europe's courageous little nations". Life magazine: 106–114, 117–120. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Guide to the Angier Biddle Duke Papers, 1923-1990s and undated". Duke University Libraries. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ ALLAN A. RYAN WEDS MRS. ST. GEORGE DUKE in the New York Times on August 6, 1941 (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Angier B. Duke, 79; Former Envoy, White House Aide". Los Angeles Times. May 1, 1995. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
George P. Shaw
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
Succeeded by
Michael J. McDermott
Preceded by
Robert F. Woodward
United States Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
Frank E. McKinney
Preceded by
Katharine Elkus White
United States Ambassador to Denmark
Succeeded by
Guilford Dudley Jr.
Preceded by
Richard B. Parker
United States Ambassador to Morocco
Succeeded by
Joseph Verner Reed, Jr.