Dr. Ralph Bunche
Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche August 7, 1904 – December 9, 1971
A picture of Dr. Ralph Bunche should accompany the word “armistice” in the dictionary. He was the textbook example of pursuing peace above all else. Bunche facilitated several armistice treaties during his tenure with the United Nations, four during the Arab-Israeli conflict alone. Even after retiring from the UN with his health in decline near the end of his life, Bunche’s expertise and negotiating skill was utilized by the UN Secretary General, U Thant, to finalize one last agreement between Great Britain, Iran, and Bahrain.
In 1950, Dr. Bunche became the first person of color in the world, to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace. He won this award largely due to his work quelling tensions from the first Arab-Israeli war. Bunche was tapped to serve as mediator in this conflict after his predecessor (supervisor) perished in a terrorist attack. He was affective immediately, as he successfully negotiated a cease-fire between the warring nations.
Bunche was a standout student early. He graduated as the valedictorian of his Jefferson High School (Los Angeles) class earning him a scholarship to attend the University of California at Los Angeles. History repeated itself, as Bunche graduated at the top of his UCLA class, earning distinction as Phi Beta Kappa. Bunche took his academic affinity east, enrolling at Harvard University. There he earned his Master’s and Ph.D. in Governmental/International Relations. This made Bunche the first African-American to earn a political science doctorate.
Bunche remained active in the Civil Rights movement, despite his many professional obligations. He even participated in the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Bunche chaired the political science department at Howard University, which he helped develop. He later taught at his alma mater, Harvard University. President Harry Truman asked Bunche to serve in his cabinet as assistant secretary of state. But Dr. Bunche refused, explaining DC’s segregation as a hindrance he was unwilling to subject his children. President John F. Kennedy honored Dr. Bunche with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.