Veteran Spotlight: Ambassador (Ret.) Bismarck Myrick

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VOTM1_march_13By JAYNE THURBER-SMITH

Who says you can’t go home again? Born in Portsmouth VA, Ambassador Myrick serves as Old Dominion University’s Ambassador in Residence after being the U.S. Ambassador to several foreign countries throughout his lifetime. He now lives in the Woodard’s Mill neighborhood of Chesapeake with his wife Marie Pierre Myrick.

Ambassador Myrick has represented the U.S. throughout the world in various capacities. He was a field grade officer in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Germany. He earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars for heroism in combat, two Bronze Stars for meritorious service in a combat zone, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Parachutist Badge and Combat Infantry Badge.

He graduated from the University of Tampa with honors and earned an M.A. degree from Syracuse University. Spelman College awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Ambassador Myrick had studied Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language, and then served in Ethiopia from 1975 to 1979 as an Army foreign area officer. In 1980 he joined the Foreign Service and was assigned as Desk Officer for Somalia in the Office of East African Affairs.

“That was very challenging,” he comments. “At that time Somalia had the largest refugee population and was at war with its neighbor Ethiopia.”

From there, he served as Political Officer in Liberia during the government of Samuel Doe. In the late eighties he was involved in various departments in Washington D.C., and then served as Deputy Director for Policy for South America and the Caribbean before his next assignment took him to South Africa at a pivotal point in world history.

In 1990 after 27 years of imprisonment, the world saw Nelson Mandela released and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Ambassador Bismarck Myrick had a front row seat, serving at the time as Consul General in Durban, South Africa. He helped manage U.S. policies during that nation’s transformation from apartheid to non-racial multi-party democracy and represented the U.S. when the new parliament was sworn in, led by Mandela.

VOTM2_march_13“This was perhaps the most profound international development of any place in the world, with the possible exception of the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he remembers. “I was the first African-American to head the U.S. diplomatic mission in Durban. This was a country that had gone through a half century of racial separation where people were prohibited from social interactions between race groups so it was a challenging and sensitive time. There were a few unpleasant racial incidents that occurred, but I’m a skilled diplomat and did what I was there to do.”

From 1995 to 1998 he served as U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho, then the president elected him to be Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia, yet another tough assignment.

“I was the first United States Ambassador to Liberia following that country’s seven-year civil war,” he says. “While I was there, an insurgency was taking place to start off yet another seven-year-war.”

He returned home to teach at ODU in 2003.

“I am ODU’s lecturer of political science and history,” he says. “In addition I do consultancies with what used to be the Joint Forces Command with senior officers. I am the senior mentor where I assist in advancing the understanding of our generals and admirals regarding the U.S. government’s interagency process.”

His travelling days are by no means over. For the past six years, every other year he has completed study projects in southern and western Africa.

“I still travel to Africa for the work that I do, for my own research,” he says. “Last July I was in South Africa and Senegal. I also have good friends in those places and I catch up on various developments and keep in touch. Interestingly, I have a dear friend who is a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, and he is one of those who will be involved in the conclave to elect the new pope.”

Ambassador Myrick has been inducted into the U.S. Army Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was the ODU 2011 Veterans Day Honoree and Featured Speaker. Active in community service, he received the 2012 L.D. Britt, MD Community Service Award. He and his wife throw an annual Thanksgiving celebration in Portsmouth for anywhere between 200 and 300 families. He also serves on the board of the World Affairs Council of Greater Hampton Roads. He shows no sign of slowing down.

“I don’t think about retirement,” he says. “Even though I’m a fulltime faculty member and all that entails – grading papers, writing student recommendations – I still find down time to read and watch basketball. I tell my students we have 24 hours each day. If we sleep for 8 hours we still have 16 hours left.”

Ambassador Myrick, The Citizen of Chesapeake salutes you and thanks you for your service to our nation.

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One Response to Veteran Spotlight: Ambassador (Ret.) Bismarck Myrick

  1. Edward and Dorothy Anderson Reply

    March 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Dear Bismarck,

    We congratulate you on all your achievements and are happy to count you and Marie Pierre among our very best friends.

    Ed and Dorothy

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