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