Ambassador Robert Lee Pugh, age 81, a retired Ambassador and Foreign Service Officer, died on Monday, January 28, 2013, in Columbus, Mississippi, after courageously battling Parkinson’s Disease. His wife, Thelma Jackson Pugh was at his side. A memorial service with U.S. Marine Honors will be held Thursday January 31, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. at Memorial Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Sandra DePriest officiating. Visitation will be held one hour prior to service at the funeral home.
Robert Lee Pugh was born in Findley, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 1931. He grew up in California and Tacoma, Washington and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Russian and Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 1954. Upon graduation, Robert joined the United States Marine Corps and served until 1961. He rose to the rank of Captain and he served as an Infantry Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Company Commander. While in the Marine Corps he also served as a Division Order-of-Battle Officer and Division Combat Intelligence Officer. In 1961, Robert joined the Department of State and became a Foreign Service Officer. He was fluent in French, Turkish and Persian. Robert served as an International Economist with the Bureau of Economic Affairs in the Department of State from 1961 to 1963. He at¬tended the Turkish Language School from 1963 to 1964 and there¬after, he was the Political and Military Officer with the American Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. In 1967, Robert was assigned the Post of Principal Officer of the United States Consulate in Isfahan, Iran.
He returned to the United States in 1969 and served as the Turkish Desk Officer in the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs. In 1972, Mr. Pugh was appointed to serve as the Political and Military Counselor for the American Embassy in Athens, Greece. He served in Greece until 1976 when he served as a Legislative Management Officer with the Bureau of Congressional Affairs in the Department of State. From 1977 until 1979, Mr. Pugh served as the Political Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Naval Forces Europe. He served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs within the Department of State from 1979 until 1981. Robert served as the Chief of the Assignments Division of the State Department’s Bureau of Personnel from 1981 until 1982. In 1982, Robert was assigned to serve as Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon. He managed a large and diverse U.S. mission through the ongoing crisis of the Israeli occupation, renewed Lebanese Civil War, and seizure of U.S. citizens as hostages. He was serving as Dep¬uty Ambassador during the catastrophic vehicular bombings of the Embassy and Chancery Buildings and the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut. During this crisis, Robert directed the temporary relocation of the Embassy and the restoration of its operations and functions while they were under periodic attack within their fortified perimeter. He was awarded the Award for Valor by the Department of State in 1983 for his service in Beirut, Lebanon.
In 1985, Robert Pugh was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as United States Ambassador to Mauritania. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania until 1988 when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as the United States Ambassador to Chad. Ambassador Pugh served in that capacity until 1990. Ambassador Pugh completed his career with the Department of State serving from 1990 until 1992 as the Dean of the Senior Seminar in National and International Affairs. He received the Award for Val¬or for his service in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. He also received the Meritorious Honor Award in 1974 for his service in Athens, Greece and the Superior Honor Award in 1971 for his work in the Office of Turkish Affairs.
Robert married his first wife, Bonnie in 1955. They had two children, Malcolm and Anne. Bonnie was killed on September 19, 1989, by a terrorist bomb aboard UTA Flight 772 while flying from Chad to Paris. Malcolm died in 1992. Robert and Thelma Jackson Pugh married in Virginia in December of 1990. In 1993, they moved to Columbus, Mississippi and purchased “Bryn Bella”, an Antebellum Home located in the country. Robert and Thelma lived in Columbus until 2006 when they moved to Woodstock, Vermont. They returned to Columbus, Mississippi in 2009.
Ambassador Pugh served as the President of the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society for many years. He was a member of the Rotary Club in Columbus and in Woodstock.
He is survived by his wife, Thelma Jackson Pugh of Columbus, Mississippi; his daughter, Anne Carey Maquire (Kevin); two grand¬children, Douglas and Virginia Carey, all of Saratoga Springs, New York. He is also survived by his brother, Edwin Sheets (Melinda) of Gig Harbor, Washington; and a niece, Corrie (Brian) of Washington. He and Thelma adopted many cats and dogs during their marriage and provided a safe and loving home for them all and they will miss him.
Memorials may be made to Baptist Memorial Hospice, P.O. Box 1307, Columbus, MS 39703 or to St. Vincent de Paul Society, 823 College Street, Columbus, MS 39701.