CORRECTION: An earlier version should have stated that the battle of Fallujah, a city which had been seized by Iraqi insurgents, occurred in 2004. Updated at 5:19 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019.
NASHVILLE — Former U.S. Ambassador Ronald Schlicher, who grew up in Chattanooga and during a 29-year State Department career served as director of the Iraq Task Force during the 2003 Iraq War and later as American ambassador to Cyprus, died Thursday.
Schlicher, who resided in Brentwood, Tennessee, was 63.
A Red Bank High School graduate, Schlicher later graduated from the University of Tennessee and UT Law School before going to work in 1982 for the State Department. Before retiring in 2011, Schlicher spent much of his professional career in one of the world's most volatile spots, the Middle East, during a pivotal time in history.
Fluent in several dialects of Arabic, Schlicher served as U.S. consul in Damascus, Syria in the mid-1980s and later as first secretary from 1989-1991, according to the U.S. State Department's website.
Returning to the U.S., he served from 1992 to 1994 as a deputy director for regional affairs in the Office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, later working as deputy chief of mission in Beirut, Lebanon.
After serving as chief of mission and consul-general in Jerusalem, Schlicher became Iraq Task Force director during the Iraq War and served for six months in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority, first as regional coordinator for the north and then as director of the Office of Provincial Outreach.
He later became a deputy assistant secretary of state, serving as coordinator for Iraq in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and was in charge of the several offices in the Near East Bureau dealing with Iraqi issues.
In a column he wrote during his own tour of duty in Iraq, Rich Galen, one-time spokesman for U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, described seeing Schlicher, a minister-counselor, at the the 2004 battle of Fallujah, a city that Sunni insurgents had seized from the Iraqi government.
Calling it "probably the most dangerous place on Earth right now," Galen wrote that while it was a "cliche" in Washington and Baghdad to "make fun of State Department people," Schlicher and Ambassador Dick Jones donned body armor and Kevlar helmets and spent "three days and two nights in the belly of the beast. They didn't solve it, but they bought everyone some much-needed time to cool down."
"It was, perhaps, the bravest single act I have personally witnessed since I have been here," Galen wrote.
In 2005, Schlicher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to Cyprus. In 2008 he became principal deputy assistant coordinator of counterterrorism.
Survivors include his brother, Mike Schlicher, and sister, Debbie Schlicher Rankin. Funeral arrangements are being finalized.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Red Bank United Methodist Church, 3800 Dayton Blvd., in Chattanooga, with Reverend Ken Sauer officiating. The family will receive friends Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lane Funeral Home at 601 Ashland Terrace, Chattanooga. He will be laid to rest at the family cemetery in Dayton, Cranmore Cove, in Dayton, on Cranmore Cove Road (State Route 303).