William Pryce; Ambassador to Honduras

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

William Pryce, 73, a Foreign Service officer who served as ambassador to Honduras and as senior director for Latin America at the National Security Council, died July 11 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Alexandria.

Mr. Pryce was an alternate U.S. representative to the Organization of American States and a senior director at the National Security Council in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a time when democratic governments began to emerge in a number of Latin American nations.

He worked closely with national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Colin L. Powell in developing policy to deal with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and on Operation Just Cause, the military intervention that removed Noriega from office. He also helped coordinate a quick transition from U.S. military occupation to Panamanian democracy.

Mr. Pryce led efforts within the U.S. government in the late 1980s for a new strategy for dealing with Nicaragua, moving from a policy based on support for the Contras to one encouraging free and fair elections in 1990.

William Thornton Pryce was born in San Diego, where his father, a career Navy officer, was stationed. He grew up in China and Pearl Harbor and was on a ship leaving Hawaii for California when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

He received a bachelor's degree with honors from Wesleyan University in 1953 and a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1954. He served as a Navy officer for three years before entering the Foreign Service in 1958.

Early assignments included postings in Mexico and the Soviet Union. As a junior officer in Moscow during the Cold War, he made an effort to get to know ordinary Russians. He and his wife befriended a number of underground ( samizdat ) artists and accumulated a collection of unofficial Russian art.

In 1971, Mr. Pryce became head of the political section at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala during a period of violent guerrilla conflict in which the U.S. ambassador was assassinated.

After working as a special assistant to envoy Ellsworth Bunker on the ratification of the Panama Canal treaties, he became chargé d'affaires to Bolivia in 1981 and then ambassador to Honduras.

At the National Security Council, he was also involved in the resolution of the long-running and bloody civil war in El Salvador.

He retired in 1996 but continued to be involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement and other free-trade issues as vice president and head of Washington operations of the Council of the Americas. He was also a board member for the World Affairs Council and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr. Pryce was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria and was involved for many years in Alexandria civic life. He and his wife have owned a house in Old Town since 1958 and were fixtures in the neighborhood, thanks to daily walks with their dog, Sport, a black Labrador retriever.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Joan M. Pryce of Alexandria; three children, Kathy E. Pryce of Arlington, Jeffrey F. Pryce of Washington and Scott F. Pryce of Barcelona; a sister; and five grandchildren.

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