Bert Fish

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Bert Fish (October 8, 1875 – July 21, 1943) was an American judge, real-estate operator, finance director, philanthropist, and ambassador.

Early life[edit]

Fish originally hailed from Bedford, Indiana,[1] but moved to Volusia County, Florida in 1881. He became the Superintendent of the Volusia County Schools district when he was 25, and went on to study at Stetson Law School and becoming a founding member of Stetson University's Sigma Nu chapter, graduating and being admitted to the Florida bar in 1902.[1] Fish then joined a law partnership in DeLand, and from 1904 to 1910 served as a judge.[2]

Politics and diplomacy[edit]

Fish was the finance director of the Democratic National Committee and Franklin Roosevelt's Florida Campaign Manager during the 1932 presidential election and a reputed friend of Senator Claude Pepper.

Upon Roosevelt's victory, Fish received the ambassadorship to Egypt, being appointed on September 6, 1933, and presenting his credentials December 2, 1933; because his appointment came while the Senate was in recess, he was subsequently confirmed on January 15, 1934 and recommissioned.[3]

In 1935 Stetson University bestowed an honorary LL.D. degree on Fish.[4][5]

Though still residing in Cairo, Fish was appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia on August 7, 1939, presenting his credentials on February 4, 1940.[6] He left both assignments on February 28, 1941.[3][6] That February he took a steamer down the Red Sea to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where he gave a silver-framed photograph of Roosevelt to King Ibn Saud and was treated to a banquet by Prince Faisal.[7]

Even before terminating these assignments, Fish was appointed as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal on February 11, 1941, and presented credentials on March 26, 1941.[8] While at his new post he became ill, and died just two weeks later on July 21, 1943.[1]

The American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan who served under Bert Fish in Lisbon, in his memoirs, describes Fish as a shrewd and amiable diplomat but placid and inactive, spending most of his days in an armchair in his room and seldom appearing at the legation chancery.[9]


During his lifetime, Bert Fish, become considerably wealthy with his wealth coming mostly from properties and businesses in and about Volusia County, Florida. When he died his will established a trust for medical care, focusing on the indigent. In 1952, Fish Memorial Hospital, with contributions made by the Bert Fish Foundation, opened in DeLand with a 50-bed facilities.

Bert Fish was recognized as a "Great Floridian" with a commemorative plaque for significant contributions to the history and culture of Florida. His Great Floridian plaque is located at the Fish Building, 100 North Woodland Boulevard, DeLand.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b c "Bert Fish is Dead; U.S. Diplomat, 67". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1943-07-22. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ "Judge Bert Fish". Volusia County Heritage. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Chiefs of Mission by Country, 1778-2005: Egypt". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  4. ^ "Bert Fish Collection". University of Miami Libraries. Retrieved 5 December 2015. 
  5. ^ St. Petersburg Times (July 22, 1943). "Bert Fish, Florida Envoy Dies at His Lisbon Post". Retrieved 5 December 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Chiefs of Mission by Country, 1778-2005: Saudi Arabia". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  7. ^ "Fish to Jidda". TIME. 1940-02-19. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  8. ^ "Chiefs of Mission by Country, 1778-2005: Portugal". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  9. ^ Kennan, George F. (1967), Memoirs: 1925–1950, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, OCLC 484922 
  10. ^ "Ambassador Bert Fish - DeLand, Florida.". Florida Memory. Retrieved 5 December 2015. 
  11. ^ "Great Floridians 2000 Program". Florida Division of Historical Resources. Retrieved 5 December 2015. 

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