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Gov. Williams

February 10, 1988

It was distressing to read that your report of the death and career of G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams (Part I, Feb. 3) had omitted even a mention of the fact that Gov. Williams had served President John F. Kennedy as assistant secretary of state for Africa during the early 1960s.

That was an era when the United States had to find competent diplomats, sufficient resources, and a coherent policy--all at once--to deal with a host of newly independent states on that continent. Gov. Williams accepted his responsibilities and his lack of background in the area with energy and grace. He was fun to be with and particularly kind to young foreign service officers, such as the undersigned, who he listened to patiently on such esoteric subjects as how best to manage U.S. installations in Ethiopia.

I hope it is not just nostalgia that makes me think that the second-ranking officials in the State Department of that period--men such as W. Averell Harriman, Chester Bowles, and George Ball in addition to Soapy Williams--were a leadership cut above the current corps of assistant secretaries of state who have been so embarrassingly involved in such matters as raising secret funds from foreign governments and lying to Congress.

GODFREY HARRIS

Los Angeles

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