NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Senate on Thursday paid formal tribute to former U.S. Ambassador Ronald Lewis Schlicher, who grew up in Chattanooga and spent much of his 29-year U.S. State Department career serving in the cauldron of Middle East conflict.
"His career was so distinguished in the Career Foreign Services," said Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston. "He served in areas that were very dangerous."
A graduate of Red Bank High School as well as the University of Tennessee and UT Law School, Schlicher retired in 2011 and resided in Brentwood before his death in September.
Schlicher entered the State Department's Foreign Service in 1982, serving in a number of capacities, according to his biography in the department's online archives. During the Iraq War, he became director of the Iraq Task Force in 2003 and later with the Coalition Provisional Authority, first as a regional coordinator and then as director of the Office of Provincial Outreach, according to the resolution.
From 2005 to 2008, Schlicher served as U.S. ambassador to Cyprus before returning to Washington to become the State Department's principal deputy assistant coordinator of terrorism, according to the resolution.
In 2004, Rich Galen, a former spokesman for U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, wrote a column in which he described seeing Schlicher and then-Ambassador Dick Jones during the 2004 battle of Fallujah in Iraq. Both men donned body armor and Kevlar helmets and spent "three days and two nights in the belly of the beast," Galen wrote.
"It was, perhaps, the bravest single act I have personally witnessed since I have been here," Galen wrote.
During various postings in the 1980s, Schlicher was vice counsel in Dhahran, U.S. counsel in Syria, deputy principal officer in Alexandria, Egypt, and later the U.S. Embassy in Cairo's first secretary, specializing in internal Egyptian politics and Islamic movements, according to the resolution.
Patrick Barbieri, who served with Schlicher, said last year in an email to the Times Free Press that he considered Schlicher his "dearest friend."
"Ron and I went through thick and thin, in Dhahran, Damascus, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Beirut, and whenever our paths crossed in the U.S.," he said. Barbieri also said Schlicher was "one of only two Americans I would admit could speak better Arabic than I, although Ron spoke it with a beautiful Volunteer State accent."
State senators originally passed Senate Joint Resolution 752 honoring Schlicher in late January, along with a batch of other resolutions. But Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, explained to colleagues on the floor that it had be amended to correct a spelling error.
"It's somewhat appropriate that this ended up on the floor" for stand-alone approval, Johnson said. "Because I think this resolution is worthy of a couple of comments. Ronald Lewis Schlicher served our nation as a career diplomat. And he served in parts all over the world, in some places perhaps one might not want to serve because of dangerous conditions."
Johnson noted Schlicher's sister is Senate Republican Caucus Press Secretary Darlene Schlicher.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.