William J. Porter

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William J. Porter
1st United States Ambassador to Algeria
In office
November 29, 1962 – July 29, 1965
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Diplomatic relations established
Succeeded by John D. Jernegan
8th United States Ambassador to South Korea
In office
August 23, 1967 – August 18, 1971
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon
Preceded by Winthrop G. Brown
Succeeded by Philip C. Habib
United States Ambassador to Canada
In office
March 13, 1974 – December 16, 1975
President Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded by Adolph W. Schmidt
Succeeded by Thomas O. Enders
6th United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
In office
December 22, 1975 – May 27, 1977
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded by James E. Akins
Succeeded by John C. West
Personal details
Born (1914-09-01)September 1, 1914
Stalybridge, England
Died March 15, 1988(1988-03-15) (aged 73)
Fall River, Massachusetts
Alma mater Boston College
Profession Diplomat, Career Ambassador

William James Porter (September 1, 1914 – March 15, 1988) was an American diplomat who from 1971 to 1973 headed the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks to end the Vietnam War. Porter was the first-ever United States Ambassador to Algeria, and also served as Ambassador to South Korea, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.


William J. Porter was born in Stalybridge, England on September 1, 1914, the son of a Royal Navy officer who died during World War I. After his father's death, his mother moved to Fall River, Massachusetts to join relatives. He graduated from Boston College in 1930 and took a secretarial course at the Thibodeau College of Business Administration in Fall River 1930–32. Porter became a naturalized American citizen in 1936.

Foreign service career[edit]

After a chance meeting with United States Minister to Hungary John Flournoy Montgomery, Montgomery invited Porter to come with him to Budapest as his private secretary in 1936. The next year, 1937, Porter joined the United States Foreign Service. As a Foreign Service Officer, Porter served in Baghdad 1937–41; Beirut 1941–43; and Damascus 1943–46. While serving in Syria, he met and married Eleanore Henry, a United States Army nurse from Philadelphia, who was posted in Cairo. He spent 1946–47 at the United States Department of State in Washington, D.C. as Palestine Desk Officer. He returned to the field in Nicosia 1947–50. In 1951, he was special assistant to the Chief of Voice of America, and then spent 1951–53 as Officer-in-Charge of Greek Affairs at the State Department.

Porter spent 1953–57 at the American Embassy in Rabat; there, he was a first-hand witness to Moroccan independence in 1956. He was then the Director of the State Department's Office of North African Affairs from 1957 to 1961, and then Director of Voice of America 1961–62.

In 1962, President of the United States John F. Kennedy appointed Porter as the first-ever United States Ambassador to Algeria in the wake of Algerian independence. He showed such skill in handling both French and Algerian officials that United States Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. asked that Porter be assigned to Saigon. He served as Deputy Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1965 to 1967. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Porter United States Ambassador to South Korea and Porter held this post until 1971.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon selected Porter to replace David K. E. Bruce as head of the U.S. delegation at the Paris Peace Talks. Before those talks were ended, in 1973, Nixon named Porter Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, with Porter holding this office from February 2, 1973 until February 18, 1974. Nixon then named Porter United States Ambassador to Canada, with Porter filling this post from March 13, 1974 until December 16, 1975.

President Gerald Ford then selected Porter as United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Porter presented his credentials on February 21, 1976 and left this post on May 27, 1977.


Porter retired to Westport Point, Massachusetts in 1977. He died of cancer at the Rose Hawthorne Lathrop Home in Fall River, Massachusetts on March 15, 1988.


Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
New Office
United States Ambassador to Algeria
1962 – 1963
Succeeded by
John D. Jernegan
Preceded by
Winthrop G. Brown
United States Ambassador to South Korea
1967 – 1971
Succeeded by
Philip Habib
Preceded by
Adolph W. Schmidt
United States Ambassador to Canada
March 13, 1974 – December 16, 1975
Succeeded by
Thomas O. Enders
Preceded by
James E. Akins
United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
February 21, 1976 – May 27, 1977
Succeeded by
John C. West
Government offices
Preceded by
U. Alexis Johnson
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
February 2, 1973 – February 18, 1974
Succeeded by
Joseph J. Sisco