Biography and History

James H. Keeley, Jr. (1895-1990) was born in Curwensville, Pennsylvania. He attended the Military School of Aeronautics, Princeton University, in 1917, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the American University of Beirut in 1931. After serving as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War I, Keeley worked in the restaurant business until 1920 when he joined the Foreign Service.

Keeley's early career in the Foreign Service featured a series of postings in the Middle East: vice consul at Istanbul, Turkey, 1920-1923; consul at Damascus, Syria, 1923-28; and consul at Beirut, Lebanon, 1928-1931. From there Keeley moved to Montreal, where he served for four years, and then to Salonika, Greece, where he was consul from 1936-1939. After the outbreak of war in Europe, Keeley returned to Washington, where he held a variety of State Department posts, including chief of the Special War Problems Division from March 1943-September 1944.

In the fall of 1944 Keeley returned to Europe, serving in Antwerp and then Athens until 1947. In 1948 Keeley was named American minister to Syria, which made him the chief American diplomatic representative in Syria at that time. Keeley held this position until 1950.

In 1950 Keeley returned to the United States, spending two years as a fellow in international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and the 1952-53 academic year as chairman of the Near East Seminar at the State Department Foreign Service Institute. In June 1953 he became consul-general in Palermo, Italy, and served there until his retirement in the early 1960s.

Keeley married Mathilde Vossler in December 1922. They had three sons: Hugh Morgan (“Budge”), Edmund LeRoy (“Mike”), and Robert.

Source: From the finding aid for MC191


  • Diplomats -- United States -- 20th century..