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Edward J. Perkins papers

Identifier: WHC-M-2776

Scope and Contents

Diplomat. Papers (1928-2009) of Edward J. Perkins, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Liberia, South Africa, the United Nations, and Australia, and served as the Director General of the U.S. Foreign Service. The papers include ambassadorial correspondence (1978-1996), speeches (1980-1992), and subject files (1961-1999). The collection also contains audio and visual recordings (1998-2006), and memorabilia (1979-2006). The materials highlight Ambassador Perkins’ years in the Foreign Service, particularly his work to help bring a peaceful end to apartheid in South Africa.


  • Creation: 1928 - 2009


Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

Open for public research. This collection is located at the Library Service Center. Request via Sooner Xpress to view at the Western History Collections.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Joseph Perkins was born in Sterlington, Louisiana, in 1928, to Edward and Tiny Estelle (Noble) Perkins. His parents divorced when he was very young and he was raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm near Haynesville, Louisiana, until his mother remarried and he moved to Portland, Oregon. After graduating from high school, Perkins served for three years in the U.S. Army and an additional four years in the U.S. Marines. He returned to civilian life and worked for the Army and Air Force Exchange in Taipei, Taiwan; Okinawa, Japan; and Bangkok, Thailand, from 1958 to 1972. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University Southern California. In 1978, Perkins entered the U.S. Foreign Service and served in Ghana, twice in Liberia, South Africa, Australia and the United Nations. He also served a two-year term as the Director General of the Foreign Service between 1989 and 1992. One of his greatest achievements was to be one of the major change agents who brought about the peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa. After retiring from the Foreign Service in 1996, Ambassador Perkins came to the University of Oklahoma where he served as the William J. Crowe Chair Professor and Executive Director of the International Programs Center until he retired in 2006.

Perkins authored numerous articles and essays and contributed to several compiled works by other authors. He also wrote his own autobiography, Mr. Ambassador: Warrior for Peace, published in 2006.

Over the course of his career, Ambassador Perkins received numerous awards, including the Presidential Distinguished and Meritorious Service Awards; The Department of State’s Distinguished Honor and Superior Honor Awards; The Una Chapman Cox Foundation Award for Distinguished Foreign Service Work, and numerous organizational and academic honors. He served on the board of the Cranlana Programme in Melbourne, Australia, was a member of the Board of Trustees for Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, and the Board of Visitors for the National Defense University, Washington DC. He has also served on the Advisory Board for the Thursday Luncheon Group and the Board of Trustees for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Edward Perkins married Lucy Chen-mei Liu in 1962 and has two daughters. Lucy passed away in 2009.

Ambassador Perkins passed away November 7, 2020 in Washington, D.C., at the age of 92.


89.33 Cubic Feet (205 boxes)

Ownership and Custodial History

Gift of Edward J. Perkins.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Edward J. Perkins. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--2006.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Western History Collections Repository

630 Parrington Oval
Room 300
Norman Oklahoma 73019 United States