John Hugh Crimmins, 88; Career U.S. Diplomat

John Hugh Crimmins, 88, was a State Department employee who specialized in Latin America and served as an ambassador.
John Hugh Crimmins, 88, was a State Department employee who specialized in Latin America and served as an ambassador. (Family - Family)
Saturday, December 15, 2007

John Hugh Crimmins, 88, a career U.S. diplomat who specialized in Latin America and served as ambassador to the Dominican Republic and Brazil before retiring in 1978, died Dec. 12 at the Collington retirement community in Mitchellville. He had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Crimmins began his State Department career after World War II as an intelligence specialist on Latin America and Western Europe.

In the 1960s, he directed the Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs and also was coordinator of Cuban affairs before serving as ambassador to the Dominican Republic from 1966 to 1969.

He arrived in Santo Domingo a year after the U.S. invasion. One of his priorities was to help stabilize the country through American purchases of Dominican sugar as well as funneling aid money to the new government of Joaqu┬┐n Balaguer, said Frank J. Devine, a retired U.S. ambassador who was Mr. Crimmins's deputy chief of mission in the late 1960s.

Mr. Crimmins returned to Washington as deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs before being appointed in 1973 to the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia.

In Brazil, he helped secure the release of an American, Fred Morris, a Methodist missionary and Time magazine stringer who had been kidnapped and tortured for more than two weeks by the military government.

In retirement, Mr. Crimmins co-wrote a State Department-sponsored study that criticized the department for being too cautious about warning signals leading to the Jonestown cult's 1978 mass suicide in Guyana.

Mr. Crimmins was a native of Worcester, Mass., and a 1941 graduate of Harvard University. During World War II, he served in Army intelligence in the Pacific.

More than 20 years ago, he helped create a monthly luncheon group of retired Foreign Service officers with expertise on Latin America. He was fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

He was a longtime Kensington resident before moving to the Collington community in February.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Marguerite Carlson Crimmins of Mitchellville; two children, John "Jack" Crimmins Jr. of Columbia and Deborah Crimmins of South Portland, Maine; and a grandson.

-- Adam Bernstein


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