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Former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa James A. Joseph celebrates a birthday this week. He is notable for being the first diplomat to present their credentials to the late Nelson Mandela, sparking a strong bond between the nations that persists today.

Joseph was born in 1935 with some sources citing March 12 as the official day. He was raised by parents who were farmers in Opelousas, La., though some reports say Plaisance is his hometown. The standout high school athlete and student earned his political and social studies undergraduate degrees from Southern University before obtaining a master’s in divinity from Yale University.

After Yale, the Alpha man worked in civil rights organizing and then in academia before taking a job with the Cummings Engine Foundation at the executive level. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Joseph as the Under-Secretary of the Department of The Interior.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton appointed him to the South Africa ambassadorship, and he served in the role until 2000.  In 1999, South African President Thabo Mbeki awarded Joseph the nation’s top honor, the Order of Good Hope.

Today, Joseph is the President Emeritus of The Council on Foundations, and Professor Emeritus at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

PHOTO: Global Summit On Community Philathrophy

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