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This Day In History: May 5th
Former United States Ambassador and government official, Clinton E. Knox was able to serve nations such as Haiti and Benin for nearly a decade. Knox is credited as the first African American secretary to the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Knox was born on May 5, 1908, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of five children and attended Massachusetts’ public schools before receiving a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in 1930. He continued his education at Brown University and earned a master’s degree the following year.
After completing his education Knox began his career as an instructor at Morgan State University where he taught history and international relations. He taught with the University from 1931 to 1936 and again from 1939 to 1943. During this time, Knox also pursued a Ph.D. in European history from Harvard University and served as a Bayard-Cutting Fellow.
During World War II, Knox served in the United States Army as a research analyst in the Office of Strategic Services. The next year, he moved into a role with the Department of the State as a department officer. By 1954, Knox was a member of the Foreign Service and three year later he became the first African American secretary to the United States Mission to NATO in 1957.
In this position, he maintained post in France and Honduras. Knox transitioned to the role of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Benin, a West African country. He was ambassador from July 9, 1964 until he left the post in June of 1969. Knox was quickly appointed as Ambassador to Haiti in October of 1969. Knox held the role until April 26, 1973.
His time in Haiti proved to be eventful, as the Ambassador was kidnapped at gunpoint while driving to his Port-Au-Prince residence in 1973. The Ambassador was held hostage by two gunmen and a woman for more than half of a day. The kidnappers wanted $70,000 and 12 prisoners to be released in exchange for Knox’s safe return. Knox made his return to the United States and retired soon after.
Clinton Knox died on October 14, 1980, in Silver Springs, Maryland.