James R. Bullington

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James R. Bullington
United States Ambassador to Burundi
In office
March 13, 1983 – July 11, 1986
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byFrances D. Cook
Succeeded byJames Daniel Phillips
Personal details
James R. Bullington

1940 (age 80–81)
Tennessee, U.S.
Spouse(s)Tuy Cam
Alma materAuburn University
Harvard University

James Richard ("Jim") Bullington (born 1940) is a retired American diplomat and ambassador to Burundi.

Early life[edit]

Bullington is a native of Tennessee[1] and received his bachelor's degree from Auburn University in 1962 where he was a member of Sigma Pi fraternity and editor of the student newspaper, The Plainsman.[2]

As editor of The Plainsman, Bullington wrote an article calling for the need for desegregation at Auburn University in 1962, which cause criticism from the Governor of Alabama, John Patterson, who threatened to cut Auburn's appropriations were the article not removed. The American Association of University Professors stepped in to intervene and this made national news. [3]


Bullington's early career focused on the war in Vietnam. From 1965 to 1966 he was the Vice Consul for the consulate in Huế.[1] In May 1966 the consulate was attacked and burned by a mob. His actions during the event earned him the State Department's Superior Honor Award.[2] Bullington's experience during the Tet Offensive have been chronicled in several books and articles; most notably in Mark Bowden's Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam. [4]

After the events in Hue he became the aid to U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.[2]

From 1967 to 1968 he was assigned to the Quảng Trị Province to work with CORDS, the joint civil-military counterinsurgency program.[5]

During the 1968 Tet Offensive he was trapped behind enemy lines and disguised himself as a French priest to escape.[2]

He earned his Masters in Public Administration degree from Harvard University in 1969.[2]

From 1969 to 1970 he was assigned to Washington D.C. as the Political Analyst for Vietnam for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State. During this time he was awarded his second Superior Honor Award. From 1973 to 1975 he was the Chief Political Officer for the Vietnam Working Group.[2]

Mid career[edit]

Bullington was assigned to Rangoon, Burma from 1976 to 1978 as the Counselor for the Political and Economic Affairs for the U.S. Embassy. In 1978-79, he was a student at the U.S. Army War College. From 1979 to 1980 he was the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena. He was awarded his third Superior Honor Award in 1980 when he led the evacuation of Americans (while under fire) from Chad during the civil war. Later that year he was moved to Cotonou, Benin where he was permanent charge d'affaires and chief of mission. In 1982 he became Senior Advisor on African Affairs to the U.S. delegation at the United Nations.[2]


Bullington was appointed Ambassador to Burundi in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.[2] He held the post until 1986. From 1986 until his retirement in 1989 he was the State Department's Senior Seminar Dean.[5]


After retiring from 27 years in the U.S. Foreign Service he has kept busy holding several posts. In 1989 he became the Director of International Affairs for Dallas, TX before becoming the Director for the Center for Global Business and a professor at Old Dominion University in 1993.[6] He later became country director for Peace Corps in Niger.[5][7] He later came out of retirement to lead a U.S. State Department "expeditionary diplomacy" effort to help resolve the long-running Casamance conflict in Senegal.[8][9] He published an autobiographical memoir in 2017: Global Adventures on Less-Traveled Roads: A Foreign Service Memoir.


  1. ^ a b "Diplomat Assesses Viet Nam" (PDF). The Emerald of Sigma Pi. Vol. 54 no. 2. Summer 1967. p. 74.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ronald Reagan Appoints Brother as Ambassador" (PDF). The Emerald of Sigma Pi. Vol. 71 no. 2. Spring 1983. p. 16.
  3. ^ http://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Bullington,%20James%20R.toc.pdf
  4. ^ Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam
  5. ^ a b c Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, AMBASSADOR JAMES R. BULLINGTON, Interviewed by: Charles Stuart Kennedy, Initial interview date: July 31, 2001
  6. ^ http://www.enivation.com/SigmaPi/archive/Emerald/1993/SP_Emerald_VOL_79_NO_2_SUMMER_1993.pdf, Pg. 7
  7. ^ James R. Bullington, 2007, Adventures in Service with Peace Corps in Niger, Booksurge Publishing
  8. ^ "The End of a 30-Year Conflict May Be Near," DipNote (blog), 3 April 2013]
  9. ^ James R. Bullington and Tuy-Cam Bullington, 2015, Expeditionary Diplomacy In Action: Supporting the Casamance Peace Initiative
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Frances D. Cook
United States Ambassador to Burundi
Succeeded by
James Daniel Phillips