John L. Sampson

February 05, 2010


1st U.S. black foreign minister to Europe


During a distinguished career that spanned nearly four decades, Clifton R. Wharton, Sr. (1899-1990) was the first black Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State. While he was not the nation’s first black ambassador, Wharton was the first black diplomat to become ambassador by rising through the ranks of the Foreign Service rather than by political appointment and the first black diplomat to lead a U.S. delegation to a European country.

After a series of postings that included Liberia, the Canary Islands, Spain and Madagascar, Wharton became consul general in Portugal in 1949. In 1953 he became consul general in Marseilles, France.