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Name: Carson, Johnnie
Current Position: Former Assistant Secretary

A retired U.S. ambassador, Johnnie Carson spent 37 years working for the Foreign Service, mostly on assignments throughout sub-Saharan Africa. On May 6, 2009, he was confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

Born on April 7, 1943, in Chicago, IL, Carson attended Drake University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science in 1965. He then attended graduate school at the University of London, receiving a Master of Arts in international relations in 1975 from the School of Oriental and Africa Studies.
In 1965 Carson entered the Peace Corps and served in Tanzania until 1968.
In 1969 he joined the Foreign Service. His first overseas assignment was in Nigeria, where he worked as a consular and political officer until 1971. Carson then served as the Angola, Mozambique, and Namibia desk officer in the Africa section at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (1971-1974).
In 1975 he was stationed in Mozambique as the Deputy Chief of Mission, until returning to the US in 1978 to serve as staff officer for Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. He was “loaned” to the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1982 to work as staff director for the Africa Subcommittee.
He then returned to overseas duty, working as deputy political counselor at the US embassy in Portugal (1982-1986) and Deputy Chief of Mission in Botswana (1986-1990).
Carson’s first posting as US ambassador was in Uganda (1991-1994), followed by Zimbabwe (1995-1997). From 1997 to 1999, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, serving under Susan Rice, who would later become President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations.
From 1999-2003, Carson served as US ambassador to Kenya. During that time, in March 2001, three Kenyan employees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Nairobi were arrested for threatening Carson’s life. The three had sent him a letter, signed “Osama bin Laden,” telling him he had 30 days to leave Kenya, or else. Actually they were not connected with bin Laden, but were trying to cover up an extortion racket.
After retiring from the Foreign Service, Carson joined the National Defense University in Washington D.C., as senior vice president (2003-2006). In September 2006 he moved to the National Intelligence Council to become their National Intelligence Officer for Africa.
Carson is married and has two daughters and a son.
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