R. Smith Simpson, 103

R. Smith Simpson, Foreign Service officer and author, dies at 103

Mr. Simpson retired from the Foreign Service in 1962.
Mr. Simpson retired from the Foreign Service in 1962. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 9, 2010

R. Smith Simpson, 103, a retired Foreign Service officer and author who was an early and forceful advocate of teaching diplomacy along with foreign policy in preparation for an international affairs career, died Sept. 5 at a retirement community in Charlottesville. The cause of death was not reported.

Mr. Simpson served at U.S. embassies in Brussels, Athens and Mexico City in the 1940s and held consular assignments in India and Mozambique. He retired in 1962 as the Foreign Service deputy examiner, a job that left him deeply frustrated by what he considered the "abysmal ignorance" of many applicants of subjects including American geography and culture.

In professional journals and in books such as "Anatomy of the State Department" (1967), he continued to press for improvements in how aspirants to a career in diplomacy were trained, assigned and promoted.

He advocated college-level programs in international affairs intended to strengthen students' focus on the implementation of foreign policy instead of the policy itself.

One of his most persuasive efforts on the subject was an issue he edited in 1968 of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Among the contributors was Peter F. Krogh, a State Department official who became dean of Georgetown University's foreign service school in 1970.

"People were always much more interested in international affairs writ large, but diplomacy was a neglected field," Krogh said. "It wasn't sexy. Everyone wants to talk about what we want to do in the world; not a lot want to talk how to get it done."Krogh said he was persuaded by many of Mr. Simpson's ideas and provided the institutional framework to try them out. The collaboration led to the foreign service school's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Krogh called Mr. Simpson an "absolute pit bull" on making the intricacies of diplomacy central to the new institute and said he was not shy about complaining when he thought "we strayed a bit from the mold he had in mind." Mr. Simpson taught night classes at Georgetown and moved to Charlottesville from Annandale in 1992.

Robert Smith Simpson was born Nov. 9, 1906, in what is now Arlington County. He was a 1923 graduate of Western High School in Washington and a 1927 graduate of the University of Virginia, where he also received a master's degree. He was a 1931 graduate of the Cornell University law school and completed all but his dissertation for a doctorate in international affairs at Columbia University.

After an early career with the National Recovery Administration, a New Deal agency, Mr. Simpson joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. In 1944, he began working for the State Department and participated in drafting the United Nations charter. He was an international affairs adviser to the Labor Department in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

His wife, Henriette LanniƩe, whom he married in 1934, died in 2007.

Survivors include two daughters, Margaret Maurin Stunkard of Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Zelia Broyles of Vinton, Va.; three granddaughters; and five great-grandchildren.

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