Death of Amb. to Haiti Heyward Isham
- Ambassador Isham died on 6/18/2009 in Southampton,NY.
Heyward Isham, 82, Cold War figure from Sagaponack dies
BY JENNIFER MALONEY | jennifer.maloney@...
11:56 PM EDT, June 21, 2009
Longtime Sagaponack resident Heyward Isham was a Russian scholar who held key Foreign Service posts during the Cold War and the conflict in Vietnam, a man dedicated to serving his country and strengthening cultural understanding.
Isham died Thursday of cardiac arrest at Southampton Hospital. He had complications from an infection and pulmonary fibrosis. He was 82.
For the past 15 years, Isham and his wife, Sheila Eaton Isham, a noted artist, had made their primary home in Sagaponack, in the home they built 35 years ago.
"He was a very, very wise person, and very loving," Sheila Isham said. "He was compassionate, listening to people. He was dedicated to serving his country and to extending his understanding of the cultures we lived in."
During the Vietnam War, Isham served in the early 1970s as a leader of the U.S. delegation to the Paris peace talks and was directly involved in negotiations with the Vietnamese. The talks led to the accords that ended direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
Over his career, Isham spent years on Vietnam, was ambassador to Haiti and held vital posts in Moscow, Hong Kong and Washington, where he was assistant secretary of State and director of the office for combating terrorism.
In an incident friends and family said was illustrative of his character, Isham refused to submit to two robbers who accosted him as he left his auto in Washington in 1977.
He pulled a curtain rod from the parked car, struck one of the robbers and pursued both when they fled. The chase ended when he was shot in the leg.
"He . . . personally was ready to fight any terrorism that he encountered," said Seymour Topping, 87, a longtime friend who met Isham in Hong Kong, where he was a correspondent for The New York Times and Isham was an analyst at the U.S. consulate.
Isham was born in New York, attended Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and received a bachelor's degree in international relations from Yale in 1947.
After study at Columbia University's Russian Institute and at an Army school in Germany, he began his Foreign Service career in 1950 with a post at the U.S. mission in Berlin, then a Cold War crossroads.
As chief of the consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the middle 1950s, he worked out the release of people who had been detained by the Soviets despite their claims to U.S. citizenship.
In 1962, he was sent to Hong Kong, a monitoring post for observing developments in China, with which the United States had no diplomatic relations. As a political officer in the U.S. consulate, Isham was viewed as one of the first to recognize the emerging Sino-Soviet split.
"He was one of the most brilliant and penetrating analysts in the State Department on Asian and Soviet affairs," Topping said. "He had a profound knowledge of policy."
In addition to his wife and son Ralph, of Bridgehampton and New York, survivors include son Christopher Isham of Washington, D.C., and nine grandchildren. A daughter, Sandra Isham Vreeland, died in 1996.
- With The Washington Post