Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Oakley, Robert B., 1931-2014
Robert B. Oakley Papers
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
3 linear feet, (3 containers), and 2.25 GB
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Boxes 1, S-000102 to S-000103


Robert B. Oakley (1931-2014) was a Foreign Service Officer who served as U.S. Ambassador to Zaire, Somalia, and Pakistan. The collection consists of a comprehensive oral history with Oakley, along with his various speeches, articles, and papers on the topics of U.S. diplomacy and foreign relations.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection is mainly composed of various sections of an oral history conducted with Robert Oakley by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST). The topical headings of these sections include, but are not limited to, "Early Life and Career," "Sudan," "Ivory Coast," "Viet Nam," "Paris," "Lebanon," "Coordinator for Counterterrorism," "National Security Council Staff," "National Security Council II," "Zaire," "Pakistan," "Somalia," and "Somalia II." The collection also contains two other oral histories, one conducted by the ADST with Robert Oakley's wife, Phyllis, and the other a joint oral history with Robert and Phyllis Oakley conducted by the journalist Don Oberdorfer.

Also of note are Oakley's speeches, articles, and papers (including drafts) on the topics of U.S. diplomacy and foreign relations, especially as these issues pertain to political instability in Pakistan and the Middle East, U.S. policies on terrorism, humanitarian disasters, and U.S. intervention in Somalia. Phyllis Oakley is the coauthor of two articles present in the collection. A transcript of the Senate hearing for Robert Oakley's nomination as ambassador to Pakistan is also included, as are two DVDs of a PBS Frontline special on the Battle of Mogadishu (also known as Black Hawk Down) that features Robert Oakley, and VHS cassettes of Oakley's television appearances.


Materials remain in their original order as received from the donor.

Collection Creator Biography:

Oakley, Robert B., 1931-2014

Robert B. Oakley (1931-2014) was a Foreign Service Officer who also held several other prominent positions in the federal government over the span of his nearly forty-year career. Born in Dallas, Texas, Oakley attended Princeton University, graduating in 1952. Oakley began his diplomatic career in 1957. Some of his early assignments included U.S. embassies in Khartoum, Sudan; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Saigon, Vietnam; Paris, France; and Beirut, Lebanon.

Oakley served as Assistant to the President for the Middle East and South Asia on the staff of the National Security Council, first under the Nixon and Ford administrations (1974-1977) and later under President Reagan (1986-1988). He became U.S. Ambassador to Zaire in November 1979 and U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in August 1982. From 1984-1986, he was the director of the State Department's counter-terrorism office. Oakley was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan in August 1988 following the death of the former ambassador, Arnold Lewis Raphel, in a plane crash.

After his retirement from the Foreign Service in September 1991, Oakley was named Special Representative to Somalia for President George H. W. Bush in 1992, where he served with Operation Restore Hope until March 1993. He was again named Special Representative to Somalia by President Bill Clinton in 1993, serving in the position until March 1994. Oakley joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in 1995.

Oakley served on the board of the International Rescue Committee and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He and his wife, fellow diplomat Phyllis E. Oakley, had two children.

Collection History


The collection was donated by Phyllis E. Oakley in September 2015 . The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2015.032.

An additional donation of VHS cassettes was incorporated to the collection in 2022. The accession number associated with this donation is ML.2020.04.


No materials were separated from this collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rachel Van Unen in 2015 at the time of accessioning. All materials were described in a collection-level finding aid, but no physical processing or rearrangement was done at this time.

Additional description was added by Will Clements in 2022.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to Princeton University and researchers are free to move forward with use of materials without anything further from Mudd Library. For materials not created by the donor, where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. In these instances, researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Robert B. Oakley Papers; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Boxes 1, S-000102 to S-000103