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Homage to Ambassador L. Dean Brown, 1920-2001

The two articles in following sections by Norvell “Tex” DeAtkine and by Hume Horan, not only depict events during Jordan’s civil war in 1970, but present accounts of the stewardship of the U. S. ambassador, L. Dean Brown. Only on rare occasions will one ever find more enthusiastic, admiring endorsements of a diplomat’s leadership while literally under hostile fire. It should perhaps not be too surprising that Ambassador Brown inspired confidence in a wartime setting. He had earned a battlefield commission in the U. S. Army infantry following D Day during the Normandy campaign in 1944. Certainly he showed his mettle during his later career in the Foreign Service, as well.

Following are extracts from DeAtkine’s and Horan’s accounts, but you are invited to read their full reports. —Ed.

“It was at this point [1970] that Ambassador Dean Brown arrived [in Amman]. Instantly by force of his presence, take-charge attitude, and simply his people-oriented personality, a new atmosphere pervaded the embassy. The tired, ineffective or health impaired immediately were sent home to the United States. Everyone knew immediately that the expected standard of performance was excellence. He talked to all of us one on one and even more importantly, he also listened. As a military guy, I particularly appreciated his style in these discussions. He was direct, got to the point quickly, and was not one for long theoretical discussions or for halfhearted, tentative suggestions. His usual manner was one of listening for about five minutes, with an “unh hunh” delivered as he acknowledged each point you made. You knew you were talking too long when the “unh hunh’s” began to be delivered after every sentence in staccato style. It was the signal to get on with it.” Tex DeAtkine

“Oh! One of the great officers of my, or any generation. L. Dean Brown. He arrived while all this was going on. . . . Dean took over and just electrified the entire staff. He was a great war leader. Irreverent, direct. His motto could well have been that of the Infantry School at Fort Banning: ‘Follow Me!’” Amb. Hume Horan

“During this period Ambassador Brown was always present talking to everyone, telling jokes. One could hear his infectious laugh throughout the embassy. He achieved some small degree of celebrity status by traveling to the palace in an armored vehicle to present his credentials to the king. It seems strange now, but during this time of being basically a prisoner in a small, beleaguered embassy surrounded by trigger-happy fedayeen, I do not recall ever being in doubt as to a safe outcome. I credit it to the caliber of the staff and especially the ambassador.” Tex DeAtkine

“There would still be danger and risks, but you knew those risks were calculated. You felt your boss knew what he was doing. Dean was the always cheerful, irreverent, and often sardonic, ‘Happy Warrior.’” Amb. Hume Horan

“The ambassador himself played as hard as he worked. In particular, I remember one party at my house in which, among other events, one of the Jordanian special forces officers while dancing dropped his pistol, which went off sending a round ricocheting off the concrete walls. Later as I walked the ambassador to his car, I asked if he could drive home all right as he did not have his driver. He assured me he could. In fact he claimed he could drive home in reverse — which he proceeded to do. I watched in amazement as his headlights, shining in my direction, gradually disappeared in the night.”Tex DeAtkine

“After joining the Foreign Service [he] dealt with the collapse of the Belgian Congo and the birth of Zaire! What a time! “Mad Mike” Hoar, Patrice Lumumba, the Simbas, etc. Dakar was Dean’s first ambassadorship. Amman was next. Later of course, he went to Beirut after [Ambassador] Frank Meloy and his Econ Chief were assassinated, same with Cyprus after [Ambassador] Rodger Davies’s killing. Last, I guess, he handled the evacuation of Americans from Vietnam! A full helping of life!” Amb. Hume Horan

“Obviously from the subsequent career of Ambassador Brown as something of a permanent trouble-shooter, he has to be considered unique. But I personally believe his example of leadership in Jordan should be a case study at the Foreign Service Institute, as well as in military institutions responsible for political-military instruction.”Tex DeAtkine


A final note from the editor:
Both DeAtkine and Horan mention Ambassador Brown’s irreverence and sense of humor. I had the privilege of serving with L. Dean Brown some twelve years earlier, not under wartime conditions, but rather in pleasant circumstances at the U. S. embassy in Paris. He told a story in those days that reflected how much one should appreciate a choice assignmentThe Foreign Service had (and perhaps still has) a tradition of holding a formal session, virtually a ceremony, when a group of brand-new Foreign Service officers approached the end of junior officer training in Washington prior to assignment abroad. (In those days nearly all Foreign Service officers served overseas.) The young officers were allowed to express in writing their preferences for their first post, but everyone, no matter how new at the game, realized they were unlikely to get a desirable post the first time out

Brown told me years later, in Paris, that he wanted to get to Western Europe, more particularly the Paris embassy, when he finished his training back in 1946. With little expectation that he would get it, he thought maybe he could beat the system by asking, not for Paris, London or Rome, but rather for a Western European capital perhaps not often requested. Something slightly off the beaten track. He settled on Brussels, and entered that city in the paperwork as his request

The great day arrived. Personnel officers came before the class for the dramatic announcements of everyone’s first post. The personnel official, reading down the list slowly, with dramatic announcements of assignments abroad, came to Brown’s name

“Mr. Brown, we noted that you want to go to Belgium. Well, that wasn’t available, but we did arrange for you the next best thingthe Belgian Congo!”

At that point in telling the story, Brown laughed heartily, acknowledging readily that the joke was on him. And Stanleyville was, indeed, Amb. Brown’s first post as a young officer. Ed

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