From our Founding Editor on the occasion of our 15th anniversary
by Henry Mattox
In the fall of 1996, at a university town in North Carolina, several U.S. Foreign Service veterans met at the home of one of the group. They had under consideration, over lunchtime pizzas ordered in, putting some of the final touches on the organization conceived by two of those present, Dr. Henry Mattox and Amb. Frank Crigler. In question was the launching of a brand new Internet journal.
This electronic publication, a type then not common, received the title “American Diplomacy.” Now, more than fifteen years later, the journal continues publication on a regular basis. It brings foreign affairs-related studies, articles, commentaries, and reviews to an audience numbering well over a hundred thousand annually.
The journal resulted from an idea of the two retired FSO’s named above. They had served together in Washington a few decades earlier and, it happened, retired in neighboring towns. Mattox and Crigler formulated the notion of an entirely electronic journal devoted to diplomacy and related questions featuring as much as possible the work of their colleagues. There would be no print runs at all. The concept seemed then, at least to them, markedly novel.
The founders approached the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the person of Dr. Richard Kohn, history professor and head of University-based Triangle Universities Security Studies, with which Dr. Mattox had been affiliated. (The organization later changed its name to the Triangle Institute for Security Studies.) This link permitted the journal’s access to the UNC computer network.
By late 1996, the originators of the new journal had launched the first edition. It has continued in operation ever since at www.americandiplomacy.org, with regular publication. Annual “hits”—Internet visits —by readers have totaled substantially over 200,000 for many years.
The highly informal organizational meeting that took place in 1996 was more or less concurrent with the issue of the journal’s first quarterly edition. (Since then it has changed from a quarterly to an Internet publication undergoing frequent renewal, article-by-article and subject-by-subject.) The “pioneer” 0rganizers confirmed Crigler as publisher and president of a newly constituted board of directors. He also performed the webmaster duties. Mattox, in addition to editing the journal, acted as board vice president and treasurer.
Other founding board members were the now-deceased Dr. Roy Melbourne and the late Carl Fritz. Additional colleagues in at the beginning (or very near the earliest days) were Ed Williams, who became the board secretary, and Bart Moon, who assumed the treasurer’s slot and eventually became publisher. Amb. Bill Dale later took on the presidential position and Curt Jones was an original board member. All were Foreign Service retirees.
In due course, the membership of the American Diplomacy governing board had a broader membership, importantly from academia, including Prof. Kohn, and the business sector.
The journal, reflecting its title and beginnings, continues to provide a range of views bearing importantly on foreign affairs, past and present. Its formal beginning, however, came about with earnest conversations about the proposal at a noontime gathering of a handful of Foreign Service retirees back in the fall of ’96.
And the rest is history.