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James Sayle Moose Jr. was an American Foreign Service officer and diplomat. A specialist in the Middle East, he represented the United States in a number of positions in that region, playing an important role in both World War II and early Cold War diplomacy. Over the course of a career spanning more than three decades, he served in posts across the Middle East, joining a select group of diplomatic figures who represented the United States to five or more foreign governments or international organizations.
James S. Moose Jr. was born on October 3, 1903, in Morrilton (Conway County) to James S. Moose and Ellen Howard Moose. He received his early education in the local schools before attending Kentucky Military Institute in Lyndon, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1922 and spent the next five years working in Morrilton.
In 1928, Moose passed the Foreign Service exam, opening the way to his diplomatic career. He was appointed a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department, and his first post was as vice consul in Saloniki, Greece. This was followed by a stint at the National School of Living Oriental Languages in Paris, France. There, he studied French, Turkish, Arabic, and Amharic. He left Paris in 1933, and his facility with languages led to a position in Baghdad, Iraq. Developing an expertise in the Middle East, he was next sent to Tehran, Iran, in 1937. That posting lasted for five years.
During this time, Moose and his wife, Eleanor Duncan Wood Moose, had a son; they would later have a second child.
In 1942, Moose was assigned to the first American legation in Saudi Arabia, where he would remain until August 1944. In May 1943, with a growing recognition in Washington DC of the importance of solid U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, coupled with ongoing concerns about having an adequate supply of oil at a critical juncture in the war effort, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the urging of the State Department, decided to elevate Moose from the rank of consul and chargé d’affaires to the position of minister resident in Jidda. In the postwar period, Moose returned to Iraq before being reassigned to Damascus, Syria, where he served as chargé d’affaires.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he spent a few years traveling around Africa, South Asia, and Europe while serving as a Foreign Service inspector of overseas American embassies. However, amid increasing Cold War tensions, in 1952 the United States upgraded its presence in Syria to embassy status, and Moose was appointed ambassador to Syria. His Syrian posting proved to be the most controversial of his career when the U.S. government, concerned about Syria’s developing relations with the Soviet Union, sought to influence the politics of the region. Specifically, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hatched a plan whose goal was the overthrow of the existing government and its replacement by one that would be, if not more loyal to American interests, at least less susceptible to Soviet influence. Moose was reported to have approved the effort, but when the coup failed and the surviving government, more entrenched than before, learned of the American involvement, it demanded Moose’s recall as ambassador. Syria also recalled its own ambassador, Farid Zain Al-Din, from Washington DC.
As a diplomat, Moose was known for his quiet, scholarly approach (coupled with a sly sense of humor) and his negotiating skills—talents that were most often and most effectively on display behind the scenes. Colleagues praised him as a stickler for protocol and as someone who knew far more than he let on, no doubt a trait that helped his negotiating efforts.
Leaving Damascus in 1957, Moose was reassigned as ambassador to the Sudan, his final posting. In 1962, after almost thirty-five years of service, Moose retired from the State Department.
Drawing upon his extensive experience around the world, he taught international relations at the University of Massachusetts. However, after a year in academia, he decided to return home to Arkansas, settling in Morrilton, where he farmed and worked as a merchant. Moose died on January 19, 1989, and is buried at Washington Baptist Cemetery in Washington, Kentucky.
For additional information:James S. Moose Jr. Papers. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“James S. Moose Jr., Retired Diplomat, Dies At Age 85.” Petit Jean Country Headlight, January 25, 1989, pp. 1, 14.
“James Sayle Moose Jr. (1903–1989).” U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/moose-james-sayle (accessed May 19, 2015).
William H. Pruden III Ravenscroft School
Last Updated 6/1/2015
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