72. Memorandum From Richard T. Kennedy and Melvin H. Levine of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Assignment of Black Diplomatic Officer to Pretoria

On June 4 our Ambassador to South Africa, John Hurd, wrote to Peter Flanigan objecting to the assignment of a black foreign service officer to his Embassy (Tab B).2 Hurd was concerned that our bilateral relations with South Africa would suffer and also that our domestic conservative opinion might attack the move as a questionable political appeal to black voters in an election year. Flanigan asked Al Haig if we really needed to move this year.

The answer was that it was too late to consider doing anything else. (Memo at Tab C).3 In April the President had been informed of State’s decision (Tab D),4 and, in May, Foreign Minister Muller told his Parliament that South Africa would not object to a black diplomat (Tab E).5 A black FSO in Tokyo, James Baker, volunteered; State cut orders, unclassified as is normal, and the news spread. Congressman Diggs, a leader of the Black Caucus, learned of the assignment from Baker in Tokyo. Newsmen gradually picked up the story, which was broken in the South African press. Peter Flanigan agreed that we should not block the assignment, and State—with our and Flanigan’s concurrence— confirmed it on July 6.

Flanigan has asked us to reply to Ambassador Hurd for him. Our proposed letter (Tab A)6 is designed to assure Hurd that his views were [Page 179] taken into account, but to avoid putting on paper anything that could be used against us.


That you sign the letter at Tab A.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 744, Country Files, Africa, South Africa, Vol. II. Confidential. Sent for action. The tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. Tab B is a personal letter from Hurd to Flanigan, June 4.
  3. Tab C is a July 6 memorandum from Haig to Flanigan, in which Haig noted the President was told in April that, “The South Africans had already been informed of the move, that they were unhappy, but had not rejected the idea,” and suggested that White House intervention might embarrass the administration.
  4. Tab D is an April 19 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon informing the President of the Department’s decision to assign a black officer to Pretoria. A note on the first page reads, “The President has seen.”
  5. Tab E is telegram 431 from Cape Town, May 5.
  6. Tab A is an undated letter from Haig to Hurd explaining the decision to move forward with the appointment. Haig signed the letter.