James William Spain (July 22, 1926 – January 2, 2008) was in the US Foreign Service with postings in Karachi, Islamabad, Istanbul, Ankara, Dar Es Salaam, and Colombo and four ambassadorships in Tanzania, Turkey, the United Nations (as deputy permanent representative), and Sri Lanka.
His son is Patrick Spain, founder of Hoover's and HighBeam Research.
Ambassador Spain was born in 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, where he attended St Brendan's Parochial School and Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary where his classmates included priest/author Andrew Greeley and "Vatican Banker" Paul Marcinkus. He received a master's degree from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Columbia University.
Ambassador Spain served in World War II, for a time serving on General Douglas MacArthur's staff as a photographer in occupied Japan. He entered the Foreign Service in 1951, and spent the entirety of his career in government service. His assignments took him to Pakistan, Turkey, Tanzania, the UN, and Sri Lanka.
His first post was as Vice Consul in Karachi in 1951. Following that he returned the U.S. where he lived, mostly in Washington, DC, until 1969. He was appointed as Chargé d'Affaires to Pakistan in 1969, Consul General in Istanbul from 1970–1972, Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara (1972–1974), Ambassador to Tanzania (1975–1979) and Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations under Andrew Young briefly in 1979, Ambassador to Turkey from 1980–1981, and finally as Ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1985 - 1988. He retired a Career Minister in the Foreign Service and remained in Sri Lanka until 2006, when he returned to the United States, settling in Wilmington, NC.
He was the author of numerous books, including In Those Days, American Diplomacy in Turkey, The Way of the Pathans, Pathans of the Latter Day, and a series of novels featuring Dodo Dillon. He contributed articles on foreign affairs to a variety of publications.
Ambassador Spain lived a distinguished life of service to his country and dedication to his friends and family. He was a remarkably able diplomat who drew on his own odyssey from an impoverished youth on the South Side of Chicago – the son of a streetcar conductor and a seamstress who were Irish immigrants – to attending receptions with Presidents and Prime Ministers to inspire those around him to seek the best for themselves and their country. He met adversity with strength, rudeness with grace, and challenges with enthusiasm. He played pivotal roles in maintaining and strengthening the United States alliance with Turkey, in bringing about a peaceful transition to majority rule in Zimbabwe, and strengthening the United States' relations with all the countries of the subcontinent. He was most proud not of the headlines that he had a part in, but of the headlines that never had to be written, thanks to his work defusing tensions between nations.
One of his earliest memories of Chicago was being taken by his father to watch Al Capone walk through City Hall. His glimpse of the legendary gangster impressed many, among them Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, who once held up a reception line just to hear about it.
James W. Spain, 81, died on January 2, 2008 of natural causes in Wilmington, NC.
He was preceded in death by his wife Edith and daughter Sikandra. He is survived by his sons, Patrick Spain, Stephen, William (since deceased) and his grandchildren, Jeanne, James, Aidan, Katherine, and Rachel.
He authored a number of books. In Those Days: A Diplomat Remembers is his autobiography, a memoir of his time as an American diplomat who spent most of his life in Asia and Africa, engaged in high-level diplomacy. He is also the author of The Pathan Borderland; People of the Khyber; Pathans of the Latter Day; American Diplomacy in Turkey and The way of the Pathans.
- In retirement, James W. Spain actively engaged in organizing a power and irrigation project in Sri Lanka.