To many Nigerians who have embarked on the pursuit of migrating from the shores of the country, Walter Carrington may mean a different thing to them.
By moving for greener pasture in America, it may also reflect the irony behind the ideals which the former U.S ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, stood for when he chose to naturalise as a Nigerian.
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Walter C. Carrington, born on July 24, 1930, in the United States, was an African American who shook off the constraints of Jim Crow laws to become renowned in their own right.
Carrington attended Harvard College and the Harvard Law School from where he earned the Juris Doctor designation in 1955. As a qualified lawyer, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was assigned with the Judge Advocate General Corps in Germany from 1955 to 1957.
Upon leaving the Army, he started a private law practice in Boston, Massachusetts while also serving as a Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. At 27, he was the youngest person to serve in that capacity to date. He was also the first student elected to the National Board of Directors of the NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – during his time in Harvard.
Carrington’s foray into Africa was set after this and he embraced it wholeheartedly when he became one of the earliest directors of the Peace Corps.
Carrington had the direct responsibility of evacuating the young Americans in 1967 when Biafran troops began to advance towards Benin at the start of the Nigeria-Biafran War.
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From 1961 to 1971, he held positions in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Tunisia serving as Country Director; then as Regional Director for Africa between 1969 and 1971. He also became Executive Vice President of the African-American Institute from 1971 to 1980.
Carrington was appointed as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal in 1980 and then later as U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria from 1993 to 1997 – during the junta of General Sani Abacha.
Toeing a path rarely taken by diplomats, Walter Carrington boldly supported the public dissent by trade unions, civil society groups and other pressure groups against Sani Abacha.
Walter Carrington was awarded an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) from Livingstone College, North Carolina in 1997. Not one to rest on his past laurels, Carrington was named the Warburg Professor of International Relations at Simmons College in Boston, on September 1, 2004.
In 2010, to chronicle a part of his time as a top U.S diplomat in Nigeria, Carrington published a compilation of speeches titled ‘A Duty to Speak: Refusing to Remain Silent in a Time of Tyranny’ which called for a return to democracy and better human rights in Nigeria during the Sani Abacha dictatorship.
Walter Carrington Crescent, the place where the U.S embassy is located in Lagos, was named after him in recognition of his contribution to a sovereign Nigeria and his love for his adopted country.
On Wednesday, August 12, reports had it that Walter Carrington had passed away barely a fortnight after his 90th birthday. Carrington had naturalised as a Nigerian and he is survived by his wife, Arese, whom he married in 1996 and children.
Featured Image Source: The Cable
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