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Young, Johnny (1940- )

Angie Young and Ambassador Johnny Young
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Ambassador Johnny Young was a career diplomat and the third African American to be appointed ambassador by three presidents. In 1989 President George H.W. Bush appointed Young Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone. Five years later President Bill Clinton named Young Ambassador to the Republic of Togo and then Ambassador to Bahrain in 1997. In 2001 President George W. Bush chose Young as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia. Young is one of a handful of black ambassadors to have served in four nations.

Young was born in 1940 in Savannah, Georgia, and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Temple University in 1966, and completed a fellowship study at the Fels Institute of State and Local Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

Shortly after his graduation Young joined the Foreign Service.  The following year the U.S. State Department assigned him to his first overseas posting.  Young served as a Budget and Fiscal officer at the U.S Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar from 1967 to 1970.  Between 1970 and 1974 he was assigned to U.S. embassies in Conakry, Guinea and Nairobi, Kenya, serving as a supervisory General Services Officer at both posts.  In 1974, Young was named an Administrative Counselor in Doha, Qatar.  Between 1977 and 1979 he served in the same position in Bridgetown, Barbados.

After these tours Young returned to Washington, D.C. to work at the Bureau of Personnel, and at the Office of the Inspector General as Career Development Officer from 1979 to 1981. He was Executive Director of the office from 1981 to 1983.  Young was assigned as an Administrative Counselor in Amman, Jordan from 1983 to 1985, and held a similar post in The Hague, Netherlands from 1985 to 1988. After a brief stint in 1988 with the Foreign Service Institute’s Senior Seminar, a program designed to prepare senior State Department leaders for ambassador posts and to familiarize them with major policy objectives of the United States government, Young received his first ambassadorial assignment in Sierra Leone in 1989.   

Ambassador Young was the central figure in the State Department’s attempts to work closely with leaders in Sierra Leone to promote democracy and economic development.  During that nation’s civil war, Young played an important role in Operation “Sharp Edge,” the United States’ support and evacuation operation in neighboring Liberia during that nation’s civil war. He was also central to the successful escape of U.S. citizens during the coup in Freetown that overthrew Sierra Leone’s government in April 1992, which earned Young the Superior Group Award from the United States Department of State.

Young’s postings in Togo, Bahrain, and Slovenia were without similar incidents. Nonetheless he promoted the interests of the United States in developing democratic institutions in all three nations.  While in Slovenia from 2001 to 2004, Young helped persuade Slovenian leaders to join The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

In 2004 Ambassador Young retired from the Foreign Service with the rank of Career Ambassador.  He now lives with his wife Angie and family in Maryland and is presently the Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Migration and Refugee Services.

U.S. State Department, “Biographies: Johnny Young” (2001-2009) (URL:; U.S. Department of State, “Ambassador Johnny Young” (URL:; wes eichenwald, “Ljubljana Life Interview: U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia, Mr. Johnny Young” (2002) (URL:


Syracuse University

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