In a Government House statement today, Governor John P. deJongh Jr. said he was deeply saddened by news of the death of former U.S. Ambassador and Virgin Islands native son Terence A. Todman.
“Cecile and I join the people of the Virgin Islands in mourning the death of Ambassador Todman and in extending our condolences to Mrs. Doris Todman and the entire family. We have lost a tremendous individual and son of our soil, a person that made his presence known internationally but never lost touch with his roots and his home,” said Governor de Jongh. “He was a quiet force in our community on so many levels. And with his constant outreach to students, community organizations, his non-profit foundation and most recently the naming of a chair in his honor at the University of the Virgin Islands, his presence and influence will be with us forever.”
De Jongh noted that during a diplomatic career which spanned four decades, Todman served in nearly a dozen countries—six as a United States ambassador. During a decorated career, he rose to the rank of career ambassador, the state department’s highest position.
Terence Alphonso Todman was born on March 13, 1926, in St. Thomas to Rachel Callwood and Alphonso Todman. One of 13 siblings, he attended public school and in 1944 graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School. Todman attended Puerto Rico’s Inter-American University, but dropped out within a year to serve as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He was sent to Japan, which had just surrendered in World War II following the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During four years in Japan, Todman became a first lieutenant. Years later, his service overseas earned him a place in the Infantry Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 1949, Todman returned to Inter-American University and received a degree in political science two years later. His experiences in Japan and in Puerto Rico fueled an interest in international relations and Todman decided to pursue a diplomatic career. He began by earning a master’s in public administration from New York’s Syracuse University in 1953. While a student, Todman worked for the State Department as an international relations officer in the Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs department.
After graduating, Todman moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled in post-graduate political science courses at American University, a private school well-known for its emphasis on public service careers. At about the same time, he married Doris Weston, also of St. Thomas. They are the parents of four children: Terence, Patricia, Kathryn and Michael.
He served for three years on the State Department’s delegation to the United Nations (UN). He held a variety of officer and advisory positions with the UN, particularly in the area of rural and economic development. He also helped develop timetables for the independence of former colonial areas in Africa. His first overseas post was in 1957 as a political officer in the U.S. embassy in Delhi, India.
Todman held political officer positions in the American embassies in Lebanon and Tunisia between 1959 and 1964. He was then promoted to Chief of Mission and sent to the U.S. embassy in Togo, a small West African nation. In 1968, he returned to Washington, D.C., where he served as the officer for East African affairs, covering Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Seychelles Islands. Todman accepted his first ambassadorship in 1969 when he became the ambassador of the American embassy in the Republic of Chad, a central African nation whose main languages are Arabic and French. Todman left Chad in 1972 to become the American ambassador in Guinea, located in northwest Africa.
In 1975, he was appointed ambassador to Costa Rica, the first African American to serve in such a position in Latin America. After two years as ambassador, Todman became assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs. In that role he helped broker the Panama Canal Treaty, and worked with Cuba to develop U.S. interests and maritime and fishing agreements. In 1978, Todman moved into the upper echelon of diplomatic assignments when he was named ambassador to Spain by President Jimmy Carter. In 1983 Todman was asked to serve as ambassador to South Africa. He refused on the grounds that he could not support President Ronald Reagan’s stance on apartheid, the South African political policy of racial segregation. Instead, Todman accepted an ambassadorship to Denmark, a position he held for six years. In 1989, Todman returned to the United States where President George H. W. Bush named him a career ambassador. Equivalent to the military’s four-star general, career ambassador is the state department’s highest rank. Following the appointment, Todman moved directly into his last diplomatic assignment as ambassador to Argentina, a post he held until 1993. During his time in Argentina, Todman worked extensively on promoting American business interests there.
Todman retired from the State Department in August 1993. Like many ex-diplomats, Todman established an international consultancy business, Todman and Associates. Todman also served as an advisor to former governor Roy L. Schneider and as a consultant to both U.S. and Argentinean companies. In 2003 Todman returned to the diplomatic arena when he was named a special envoy by the Organization of American States (OAS) to promote democracy in Haiti. He remained active in international affairs, well into 2005.
“I hope that the ambition and the accomplishments of Ambassador Todman will inspire our young people—that they will realize there are no limits to what they can achieve through education and determination. Today, a grateful community mourns with his family and prays that he attains eternal rest,” de Jongh said.
In Todman’s honor, de Jongh has directed that flags on all public buildings in the Virgin Islands be flown at half-staff from today until sunset of the day of Todman’s interment.
Gov. John P. deJongh Jr., U.S. Virgin Islands.
DeJongh Saddened by Death of Ambassador Terence A. Todman
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