Robert Ellsworth, 84, was diplomat in Nixon Administration

Robert Ellsworth was a U.S. diplomat and served in the Nixon Administration.
Robert Ellsworth was a U.S. diplomat and served in the Nixon Administration.

By Judge Margaret McKeown

Robert Fred Ellsworth (1926-2011)

Ambassador Ellsworth died peacefully in the hospital on May 9, 2011 in San Diego.

A resident of Washington, D.C. for many years, he  married The Rev. Eleanor Ellsworth, who is Senior Associate Rector at St. James-by-the-Sea in La Jolla, in 2002.

Born June 11, 1926 in Lawrence, Kansas, he received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Kansas in 1945 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 1949.  He was admitted to the bar in Kansas, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court.  The University of Ottawa (Kansas) and Boston University awarded him honorary doctorate degrees.  He was named Knight of Honour, Johanniter Orden, Berlin in 1996.

After a brief stint as a lawyer and a lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Business, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas in 1960.  He served three terms in Congress (1961-1967), where he was a member of the Joint House-Senate Economic Committee.

He was instrumental in the creation of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights, a foundation of modern international economic policy.  He often remarked that he served in Congress at a time when collegiality and bi-partisanship were the hallmarks of the legislative body.

In 1968, Ambassador Ellsworth served as national political director of Richard M. Nixon’s successful presidential campaign and was a founding member of the President’s White House staff.

President Nixon appointed him as U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the NATO Council  (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in the late 1960s (1969-1971).  He shuttled among various European capitals during a very sensitive period of the Cold War.

Upon his return from Europe, he was appointed by President Ford as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and then Deputy Secretary of Defense (1974-77).

President Ford awarded him the Presidential National Security Medal.  Later he was a Consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

He was no stranger to the military, having served as a line officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean Conflict.

Ambassador Ellsworth remained active in foreign affairs after his government service, with a reputation as an advocate of strong defense and the promotion of international cooperation.

He was Chairman of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) from 1990-96 and continued as its Vice President for many years.  He was Director of the Atlantic Council of the United States and the American Council on Germany.

From 2003 to 2007, he was appointed by Congress as a Commissioner of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. More recently he has been a member of the Executive Committee of the International Advisory Board of the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego (IR/PS).  He is also a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, Los Angeles.

Ambassador Ellsworth’s career spanned both public policy and business.  He was a General Partner of Lazard Freres & Co and an Associate Member of the New York Stock Exchange.  His extensive board service ranged from military contractors to technology companies — Chairman of Fairchild Space and Defense Corporation and Howmet Corporation and a board member for Price Communications Corporation, Voice Compression Technologies, Inc, Warner Communications, General Dynamics Corporation, Allied Chemical, The Aerospace Corporation and DBA Systems, Inc.   Most recently, he served as Chairman and Founding Director for Hamilton BioVentures in San Diego, a venture capital firm specializing in the life sciences.

Ambassador Ellsworth was active with a number of non-governmental organizations, serving as a director of the Nixon Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C. and a director of the Nixon Foundation in Yorba Linda, Calif., and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Council on Foreign Relations.

He was a frequent contributor to The National Interest, a public policy journal.  He also has been published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, The National Interest (Washington), Survival (London), and the Internationale Politik (Berlin).

He was a periodic radio and television commentator and a frequent speaker on international security policy.  Just last year, he keynoted a discussion at IR/PS on what the Atlantic experience in the 20th Century can teach us about US-China relations.

Ambassador Ellsworth spoke with authority, yet humility, about world affairs and strategic military policy.  His passion was the importance of history in understanding foreign policy.

He was a member of the Brook Club (New York) and the Cosmos Club and the Congressional Country Club in Washington, DC.

Ellsworth is also survived by: his daughter Ann Ellsworth Dowell, Seattle, Wash.; his son William Ellsworth, Washington, D.C.; his brother Stephen Ellsworth, Rock Hill, S.C.; stepsons John S. Dempster III, Bethesda, Maryland; Will Biscoe, Miami, Florida; stepdaughter Sara Duke Biscoe, Washington, D.C.; and four grandchildren.



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