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William Sullivan, the Last US Ambassador to Iran, Died at the Age of 90
January 1, 2015

William Sullivan (in the middle)
William Sullivan (in the middle)

William Healy Sullivan, the last US ambassador to Iran, died on October 11, 2013, at the age of 90.

He was born on October 12, 1922 in Rhode Island, and graduated from Brown University in 1943. After obtaining a joint graduate degree from Harvard University and the Fletcher School at Tufts University Sullivan joined the Foreign Service and was posted to Bangkok, Thailand. His subsequent assignments were to Calcutta, India, Tokyo, Japan, Naples and Rome, Italy, and The Hague, The Netherlands.

Sullivan served as Averell Harriman’s deputy at Geneva negotiations about the future of Laos in 1961 and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. When the Vietnam War heated up, he served briefly as deputy chief of mission to the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. In 1964, Sullivan began his tenure as Ambassador to Laos. Pursuant to an order by President Kennedy, all U.S. military operations in Laos were under the direct supervision of the Ambassador. After he left Laos, Sullivan returned to Washington to coordinate the U.S. participation in the Paris Peace Talks. Thereafter, he was appointed Ambassador to the Philippines. South Vietnam fell while he in the Philippines, and Sullivan orchestrated the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people through that nation.

Sullivan next served as U.S. Ambassador to Iran, arriving just before President Jimmy Carter’s visit to the Shah of Iran in December 1977. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution in Iran an before the hostage crisis, Sullivan was called back to Washington DC and then retired.

In 1981, Sullivan published “Mission to Iran” which is about his tenure as the ambassador to Tehran. His autobiography, “Obbligato: Notes on a Foreign Service Career”, was published in 1984.

Following retirement, he lived a quiet life in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and later, Washington, D.C.

William H. Sullivan is survived by 4 children and 6 grandchildren.