THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
mbassador Ruth A. Davis receivedthe American Foreign Service Asso- ciation’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award in
recognition of her distinguished
Foreign Service career and lifelong
devotion to diplomacy at a June 23
ceremony in the State Department’s
Benjamin Franklin Room (for her
speech and coverage of the ceremony, see AFSA News).
Born in 1943, Amb. Davis received a bachelor’s degree from
Spelman College and a master’s degree from the University of
California, Berkeley’s School of Social Work in 1968. She joined
the U.S. Foreign Service in 1969.
A trailblazer throughout her 40-year career, Amb. Davis wasthe first female senior watch officer (SWO) in the Operations Center (1982-1984), the first African-American director of the
Foreign Service Institute (1997-2001) and the first African-Amer-
ican femaleDirector General of the Foreign Service
She was also the first and only African-American woman to be
, the longest-serving officer at that
level and, upon retirement, the highest-ranking Foreign Service
officer. She is also the first African American to be awarded
AFSA’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award.
Amb. Davis’ early overseas postings were as a consular officer
in Kinshasa, Nairobi, Tokyo and Naples. She went on to hold
many senior positions besides those in which she was the “first.”
She served as consul general inBarcelona
(1992-1995), principal deputy assistant secretary for
consular affairs (1995-1997), distinguished adviser to theRalph Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University
2005) and senior adviser in theBureau of African Affairs
2009). Amb. Davis retired from the Foreign Service in 2009.
She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the State
Department’s Superior Honor Award (1999), and its Arnold L.
Raphel Memorial Award for mentoring other, especially junior,
officers (1999). She also received two Presidential Distinguished
Service Awards (1999 and 2002), the Secretary of State’s Distin-
guished Award (2003), the State Department’s Equal Employ-
ment Opportunity Award (2005), the Director General’s Foreign
Service Cup and honorary doctorates fromMiddlebury and
A lover of opera, Amb. Davis has remained engaged and
active in retirement. She holds leadership positions in and works
with a variety of organizations to promote women’s economic
empowerment, recruitment and retention of minority members
of the Foreign Service, and the expansion of career-long training
in the Foreign Service.
Foreign Service Journal
Editor Shawn Dorman interviewed
Amb. Davis on June 9.
Foreign Service Journal:
Congratulations! I can’t think of a
more deserving person for the Lifetime Contributions to American
Ruth A. Davis:
You grew up in the South during the last years of legal
segregation. What impact did this have on you and your decision
to go into public service?
A FOREIGN SERVICE
The recipient of AFSA’s 2016 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award
talks about her Foreign Service career and her pioneering work to advance diversity
and promote professional excellence at the State Department.
ON AFSA AWARDS