Jefferson Caffery (December 1, 1886 – April 13, 1974) was the former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador (1926-1928), Colombia (1928-1933), Cuba (1934-1937), Brazil (1937-1944), France (1944-1949), and Egypt (1949-1955).
Caffery launched his career of international diplomacy in 1911 when he entered the Foreign Service as second secretary of the legation in Caracas in 1911 during the William Howard Taft administration.
He traveled to Persia (now Iran) in 1916, to Paris after World War I with President Wilson’s peacemakers, then to Washington, D.C., to arrange details for visits by the King of Belgium and the Prince of Wales. In 1920, he was named second-in-command at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. In 1933, Caffery briefly served as assistant secretary of state under Cordell Hull. Throughout his career he also had worked in lower-ranking diplomatic posts in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Japan, Persia, Sweden, and Venezuela.
He was awarded the Foreign Service Cup in 1971 by his fellow Foreign Service officers. He held several honorary degrees and decorations, including the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, in 1954. He received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor from the president of France in 1949 and the Order of the Cordon of the Republic from the president of Egypt in 1955.
Caffery was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, to Charles Duval Caffery and the former Mary Catherine Parkerson. He was privately educated in primary and secondary school. He was a member of the first graduating class of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then called the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute). He also graduated with a bachelor's degree from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1906. He was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1909.
According to one account, Caffery was bisexual. The source reports that in the 1930s William Wieland, a U.S. State Department official known in Cuba as Arturo Montenegro, was intimate with Caffery and his predecessor Sumner Welles .
Caffery married the former Gertrude McCarthy of Evansville, Indiana, in 1937, while in Rio de Janeiro. They had no children. He retired with his wife in 1955 to reside in Rome, Italy, where he was the honorary private chamberlain to Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI. He returned to Lafayette in 1973, shortly before Mrs. Caffery's death.
The Cafferys are buried behind St. John’s Cathedral in Lafayette. Ambassador Caffery Parkway in Lafayette is named in his memory.
- "Jefferson Caffery", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 1 (1988), p. 141
- Philip F. Dur, "Jefferson Caffery of Louisiana: Highlights of His Career," Part I: 1911-1933 and Part II: 1933-1944, Louisiana History, XV (1974)
- Robert Foster Corrigan, "An Appreciation of a Diplomat," Foreign Service Journal, November 1967
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