Jefferson Caffery

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Jefferson Caffery
U.S. President Roosevelt and Brazilian President Getulio Vargas aboard USS Humboldt (AVP-21), 1943 (25132077365).jpg
Caffery (bottom right) with U.S. President Roosevelt and Brazilian President Vargas at the Potenji River Conference in 1943.
United States Ambassador to Egypt
In office
September 29, 1949. – January 11, 1955
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byStanton Griffis
Succeeded byHenry A. Byroade
United States Ambassador to France
In office
December 30, 1944 – May 13, 1949
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Preceded bySomerville Pinkney Tuck (Acting)
Succeeded byDavid K. E. Bruce
United States Ambassador to Brazil
In office
August 17, 1937 – September 17, 1944
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byHugh S. Gibson
Succeeded byAdolf A. Berle, Jr.
United States Ambassador to Cuba
In office
February 28, 1934 – March 9, 1937
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded bySumner Welles
Succeeded byJ. Butler Wright
United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
July 12, 1933 – December 4, 1933
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
United States Ambassador to Colombia
In office
November 28, 1928 – May 20, 1933
PresidentCalvin Coolidge
Herbert Hoover
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded bySamuel H. Piles
Succeeded bySheldon Whitehouse
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
In office
July 20, 1926 – July 22, 1928
PresidentCalvin Coolidge
Preceded byMontgomery Schuyler, Jr.
Succeeded byWarren Delano Robbins
Personal details
Born(1886-12-01)December 1, 1886
Lafayette, Louisiana
DiedApril 13, 1974(1974-04-13) (aged 87)
Lafayette, Louisiana
Gertrude McCarthy
(m. 1937; died 1973)
RelationsDonelson Caffery (cousin)
Patrick T. Caffery (cousin)
Parent(s)Charles Duval Caffery
Mary Catherine Parkerson
Alma materSouthwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute
Tulane University

Jefferson Thomas Caffery (December 1, 1886 – April 13, 1974) was an American diplomat. He served as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador (1926–1928), Colombia (1928–1933), Cuba (1934–1937), Brazil (1937–1944), France (1944–1949), and Egypt (1949–1955).[1]

Early life[edit]

Caffery was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, to Charles Duval Caffery and Mary Catherine (née Parkerson) Caffery.[2] He was privately educated in primary and secondary school. He was a member of the first graduating class of Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, which later became the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He also graduated with a bachelor's degree from Tulane University in 1906. He was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1909.[3]

Caffery was the cousin of U.S. Senator Donelson Caffery and U.S. Representative Patrick T. Caffery.[3]


Caffery launched his career of international diplomacy in 1911 when he entered the Foreign Service as second secretary of the legation in Caracas in 1911 during the William Howard Taft administration.[2]

He traveled to Iran (then named Persia) in 1916, to Paris after World War I with President Wilson’s peacemakers, then to Washington, D.C., to arrange details for visits by the King of Belgium and the Prince of Wales. In 1920, he was named second-in-command at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. In 1933, Caffery briefly served as assistant secretary of state under Cordell Hull.[4]

Throughout his career he also worked in low ranking diplomatic posts in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Japan, Persia, Sweden, and Venezuela.[2]

Service in Colombia[edit]

As the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Jefferson was heavily involved in the Banana Massacre that occurred in 1928 in the small, coastal town of Ciénaga. Tired of terrible working conditions and very little wages (workers were paid in United Fruit Company store credit), banana farmers went on strike in protest. In order to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company, Caffery reported to U.S. Secretary of State Frank Billings Kellogg that leaders of the strike would be immediately arrested and sent to prison in nearby Cartagena. Martial law was declared soon after and an unknown number of workers and their families were shot by a firing squad in the town square.[5] On December 29, 1928, he wrote a dispatch from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá to the U.S. Secretary of State stating, "I have the honor to report that the legal advisor of the United Fruit Company here in Bogotá stated yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military authorities during the recent disturbance reached between five and six hundred; while the number of soldiers killed was one."[6]

Service in Cuba[edit]

In 1934, while ambassador to Cuba, four assailants attempted to assassinate Caffery in front of his home in Havana. The assailants waited outside of his residence for his daily departure to his yacht club. One assailant was killed by a bodyguard, the others escaped. Caffery was not injured. The event was reported on the front page of the New Orleans Times Picayune on May 28, 1934.[2][7]

Service in Brazil[edit]

While ambassador to Brazil, Caffery took part in the Potenji River Conference also known as the Natal Conference. The conference was a meeting that took place on January 28 and 29, 1943 between the President of Brazil, Getúlio Vargas and the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that occurred during the return of President Roosevelt from the Casablanca Conference to the USA.[8][9] The Potenji River Conference involved discussions of the ongoing support and role of Brazil in World War II and took place aboard the USS Humboldt in the Potenji River harbor in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte and defined the agreements that led to the creation of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.[9]

Service in Egypt[edit]

During Caffery's tenure, the Egyptian revolution of 1952 occurred which led to the abdication of King Farouk. The revolution was led by a military junta headed by Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser who demanded the departure of the British from the Suez Canal zone.[3] According to CIA agent Miles Copeland Jr., Caffery sent former OSS propagandist Paul Linebarger to advise the Egyptians in propaganda.[10]

Caffery served as intermediary between the Egyptian and British Governments in the negotiations, and his "long experience in diplomacy, together with the respect in which he was held by the Egyptian Government, enabled him to arrange for the gradual departure of the British."[3] In 1954, the British agreed to evacuate their military bases in the Canal Zone until the summer of 1956, but were given the right to return in case of an attack by an outside power against an Arab League member state or Turkey.[11]

In total, he worked 43 years in foreign service under eight U.S. presidents: Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.[2][12]

Personal life[edit]

On November 20, 1937, Caffery, then 41 years old, married Gertrude McCarthy of Evansville, Indiana,[13] while in Rio de Janeiro.[14][15] They had no children.[3]

He retired with his wife in 1955 to reside in Rome, where he was an honorary Papal gentleman to Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI. He returned to Lafayette, Louisiana in 1973, shortly before Mrs. Caffery's death on July 13, 1973. Caffery himself died on April 14, 1974.[3] The Cafferys are buried in the cemetery behind St. John’s Cathedral in Lafayette.[16]

Honors and awards[edit]

He was awarded the Foreign Service Cup in 1971 by his fellow Foreign Service officers. He held several honorary degrees and decorations, including the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, in 1954. He received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour from the president of France in 1949 and the Order of the Cordon of the Republic from the president of Egypt in 1955.[3][17]

Ambassador Caffery was also bestowed a knighthood in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) by the Grand Master of that Order, for his outstanding service to the Catholic Church.[3]

A portion of Louisiana Highway 3073 in Lafayette is named the "Ambassador Caffery Parkway" in his memory. In 2000, Caffery was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[18]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Southwestern Louisiana Industrial (Independent) (1907)
1907 Southwestern Louisiana Industrial 1–0
Southwestern Louisiana Industrial: 1–0
Total: 1–0


  1. ^ "Jefferson Caffery - People - Department History". Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs United States Department of State. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Griffin, Harry Lewis (1959). The Attakapas Country: A History of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. Pelican Publishing. pp. 203–205. ISBN 9781455600465. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Jefferson Caffery Dean of Diplomatic Service, Dies". The New York Times. 14 April 1974. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  4. ^ Croft, Clare (2017). Queer Dance. Oxford University Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780199377343. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  5. ^ Koeppel, D. (n.d.). Banana : The fate of the fruit that changed the world. New York: Hudson Street Press.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 July 2002. Retrieved 11 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Cuba's Trade with Us". The New York Times. 24 February 1935. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  8. ^ Smith, Joseph (2010). Brazil and the United States: Convergence and Divergence. Athens - London: University of Georgia Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-8203-3733-3.
  9. ^ a b Roosevelt, Franklin D. (1950). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: F.D. Roosevelt, 1943, Volume 12. Best Books on. p. 52. ISBN 9781623769727.
  10. ^ Copeland, Miles, Jr. (1969). The Game of Nations. Simon & Schuster. pp. 100, 113. ISBN 9780671205324.
  11. ^ "Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Egyptian Government regarding the Suez Canal Base" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  12. ^ "RETIRING CAFFERY HONORED BY EGYPT; U.S. Envoy Wins Recognition for Major Role in Ending Cairo-London Disputes". The New York Times. January 10, 1955. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  13. ^ "JEFFERSON CAFFERY TO WED SATURDAY; United States Ambassador to Brazil to Marry Gertrude McCarthy of Chicago". The New York Times. 18 November 1937. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  14. ^ "CAFFERY WEDDING TODAY; Ambassador's Bride Will Be Miss Gertrude McCarthy of Chicago". The New York Times. 20 November 1937. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  15. ^ "CAFFERY, DIPLOMAT, MARRIED IN BRAZIL; Cardinal Leme de Silviera Officiates at Bridal of Miss McCarthy and Ambassador". The New York Times. 21 November 1937. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Caffery Funeral Is Set for Today". The New York Times. 15 April 1974. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Dijon Honors Caffery". The New York Times. 19 May 1947. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on July 3, 2009. Retrieved August 22, 2009.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by U.S. Minister to El Salvador
20 July 1926–22 July 1928
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Minister to Colombia
28 November 1928–20 May 1933
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Cuba
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Brazil
17 August 1937–17 September 1944
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Egypt
Succeeded by