U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria: Who Is Stuart Symington?

Saturday, October 15, 2016
Stuart Symington

W. Stuart Symington IV was confirmed as ambassador to Nigeria on September 29, 2016. It’s the third such post for the career member of the Foreign Service.


Symington was born in Missouri on June 14, 1952. He comes from a distinguished political family. His grandfather, W. Stuart Symington Jr., was the first U.S. Secretary of the Air Force from 1947 to 1950, subsequently serving as the U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1953 to 1976. His uncle, James W. Symington, served in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 for Missouri’s Second Congressional District. Fife Symington, his cousin, became the Governor of Arizona in 1991 and ended his term in 1997. His father, Stuart Symington, Jr., is a civic leader and lawyer in St. Louis. His mother, Dr. Janey Belle Symington, is a scientist.


Stuart Symington IV attended the John Burroughs School, graduating in 1970, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University. He clerked for the chief judge of the Eastern District of Missouri, then litigated and practiced corporate law in New York, London, Paris, and St. Joseph, Missouri, before becoming a Foreign Service officer in 1986.


After beginning his diplomatic career tracking protests and politics in Honduras, he moved to Spain and worked on economic issues before serving as the ambassador’s aide during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In Mexico, Symington cultivated the political opposition, worked on anti-drug issues, helped congressional visitors looking at NAFTA, and reported from Chiapas during the Zapatista revolt.


At the State Department, Symington worked for the Under Secretary for Political Affairs on Latin American and African issues, and served as his aide for Bosnia. During a yearlong Pearson Fellowship, he served on the staff of Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), studying U.S. military joint operations and education.


He later traveled to Sudan and North Korea on teams negotiating the freeing of American captives before finishing the year as an aide to Ambassador Bill Richardson, who was at the time the U.S. permanent representative to the UN. As a political officer in Ecuador, Symington joined efforts to end the century-old Peru/Ecuador border conflict, and helped negotiate the agreement establishing an anti-drug forward operating location.


From 2001 to 2003, Symington served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Niger, dealing with military mutinies, terrorist threats, and civil unrest. He then returned to the State Department as the Deputy Director of West African Affairs in the Africa Bureau.


From October 2004 to February 2005, he worked for Ambassador Negroponte in Iraq on the election process and political issues, and has subsequently taught at National Defense University’s Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk.


From 2006 to 2008, Symington served as ambassador to Djibouti. He remained in Africa for his next posting, as ambassador to Rwanda. Symington returned to Washington in 2011 as foreign policy adviser to the commander of the North American Aerospace Command and U.S. Northern Command. In 2014, he was named special representative to the Central African Republic and worked on the humanitarian crisis caused by the fighting there. The following year, Symington was made Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and African Security Affairs, a job he held until assuming the post in Nigeria.


Symington and his wife, Susan, have two children, Jane and Stuart. He speaks Spanish and French.


Official Biography


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