Biography and History

Norman Armour, career diplomat and Assistant Secretary of State, was born October 14, 1887 in Brighton, England to American parents.He received his B.A. from Princeton in 1909 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1913.Armour returned to Princeton to obtain an M.A. in 1915, whereupon he joined the State Department and was immediately posted to the U.S. Embassy in Paris.This was the first in a long series of assignments, placing Armour in the heart of revolutionary Russia (1916-1919), fascist Spain (1924), post-revolutionary Chile (1938), and Haiti during the withdrawal of American troops (1933).Among his other posts were: Tokyo, Rome, Uruguay, Argentina and Canada.

Armour married Russian princess Myra Koudacheff in 1919, after he helped her to flee her homeland.(Armour himself crossed the border to Finland disguised as a Norwegian courier.) Through witnessing the upheavals and perpetual instability of Russia and other countries, Armour came to loathe rebellion and to esteem and promote the dependability of the American system. The Washington Post reported, “Unlike many emissaries, he represented his country, not the country to which he was posted and certainly not himself.”For his considered approach, polished manner and patriotism, Armour earned promotions quickly, rising from 3rd Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Petrograd, to Ambassador to Chile, to Assistant Secretary of State (1947-48).

He was reputed to be the “ideal” diplomat: straightforward, communicative, and aristocratically old-fashioned.As one paper explained upon Armour's retirement: “The need nowadays is for men who know this or that expertly....the wide-ranging knowledge which Mr. Armour acquired from his rich experience and which his natural gifts tempered into ripe judgements would not come amiss amid the seething and striving and self-centeredness of the specialists.”

Princeton awarded Armour the Woodrow Wilson Award in 1957.After retiring, he continued to advise the State Department and give lectures at Princeton and elsewhere.He died in 1982.

Source: From the finding aid for MC028

Occupations

  • Diplomats -- United States..
  • Norman Armour Papers. 1913-1983 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC028

    The Norman Armour Papers are comprised primarily of Armour's correspondence with State Department officials, American presidents, and foreign leaders.Reports, telegrams, transcripts of speeches and newspaper clippings documenting Armour's diplomatic career, and personal correspondence are also preserved in the collection.