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n 1954, Foreign Service officer John
PatonDavies Jr.was firedby theDepart-
ment of State for dissent.
Patricia “Tiki”Davies (one of Johnand
PatriciaDavies’ seven children) andTodd
S. Purdum, national editor of
Vanity Fair
came to AFSA headquarters onMarch 19
to share
China Hand
An Autobiography
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).
Davies was born in China in 1908 to
American Baptist missionaries, and grad-
uated fromColumbia University in 1931.
Shortly thereafter, he took theFS examand
joined the Service in 1932. His first pro-
bationary duty was at the American con-
sulate in Windsor, Ontario, earning “a
princely stipend of $2,500 a year,” Davies
The audience listened in rapt attention,
often breaking into laughter, from
as PurdumandTiki took turns read-
ing or relatingmoments inDavies’ life and
career. They painted a vivid picture of a
man who held strong beliefs, made “un-
cannily prescient judgments” and had a
grand sense of humor.
His Foreign Service assignments took
the family to India, Russia and China,
among other posts. Davies’ career crossed
pathswithahost of famous and important
players of the day. Similar to “Forrest
Gump”orWoodyAllen’s “Zelig,”he came
to know (and they to knowhim) the likes
of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas
Gandhi, Franklin D. Roosevelt, General
GeorgeC.Marshall, Eric Sevareid,Wendell
Willkie, LordMountbatten and evenNoel
Coward and Frank Capra.
On Nov. 3, 1954, the department
ordered Davies to return to Washington,
D.C., fromLima, where he was serving as
deputy chief of mission. Two days later,
Davies met with Secretary of State John
Foster Dulles who, after brief pleasantries,
informed him that the
department’s Loyalty
Security Board had
concluded that Davies
was “not a communist
or otherwise disloyal,
butwas lacking in judg-
ment, discretion and
reliability.” He was
then separated from
the Service.
Why was he fired?
Before the end of
World War II, Davies
dong’s communists
would prevail over
U.S.-backed Chiang Kai-shek and his
Nationalist government. He counseled the
U.S. government that “the communists
were there to stay.” To some, this made
Davies out tobe anti-ChiangKai-shekand,
therefore, pro-communist.
By the1950s, Senator JosephMcCarthy,
R-Wis., hadwhippedupa frenzyof domes-
tichysteriabasedonhis belief that the com-
munists would infiltrate U.S. institutions
and take over the country. Without any
substantiation, thousands of Americans
wereaccusedof beingpro-communist sym-
pathizers. U.S. government employees,
educators, entertainers and union leaders
were particularly targeted. Many lost their
jobs, their careersor theirhomes; somewere
blacklisted, others imprisoned.
After his meeting with Dulles, Davies
returned to Lima. Tiki recalled that their
parents spoke little about what had hap-
pened to JPD, but they knew that he had
lost his job and his pension. “He told us
they offered to let him resign, but he pre-
ferred to be fired. We didn’t have much
money, but we didn’t live in poverty. At
school, we felt as though we had become
expats in our expat world.”
After spending a year trying out new
careers, Davies ultimately started a furni-
ture factory, producinghisownaward-win-
ning designs from local hardwoods. The
family remained in Peru for 12 years.
In his forward to the book, Purdum
states, “It was the great tragedy of Davies’
life — and the searing cautionary crux of
this book — that in the most parlous of
those times, John Paton Davies’ country
was deprived of his services.”
In1969,Davies finally succeeded inget-
ting his security clearance and pension
restored. He was never reinstated in the
Foreign Service, however.
At the end of their presentation, Tiki
Davies stamped JPD’s seal on copies of
China Hand
for those who purchased the
F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L / MA Y 2 0 1 2
Dissent in the Time of Hysteria
Patricia “Tiki” Davies (center) signs her father’s book,
China Hand
, for mem-
bers of the audience. Davies played a pivotal role in getting the book pub-
Todd Purdum, national editor of
Vanity Fair,
a passage from
China Hand
during AFSA’s Book
Notes program on March 19.