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RIP: William Wilson, First Ambassador to the Vatican

Since my attention had turned to the Vatican for my last post, I should also mention the passing today of William A. Wilson, the first ambassador to the Vatican. 

Wilson was appointed to the post by his close friend Ronald Reagan in 1981. However, he first arrived in Rome as a personal representative, or presidential envoy, as an anti-papist law from 1867 prohibited the U.S. from establishing formal ties with the Vatican. This shameful reflection of lingering anti-Catholic sentiment was repealed only as recently as 1984, when Wilson assumed full status as an ambassador (under Pope John Paul II's watch). 

As a statesman, it was said of Wilson that he was "a delightful, gentlemanly like man of the old school and he was the perfect diplomat." Georgetown University maintains a collection of his papers. He was known as a rancher and horse lover, ham radio operator and successful oil man. One wonders whether his class of political men pass from the world stage with greater frequency than they are succeeded by men of equal measure.

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Discussions - 2 Comments

I got to meet Ambassador Wilson once, and he told me some interesting and useful things about Reagan, the Vatican and the Cold War, and many other things that were quite useful to my book. Your note about him hits all the right notes. It was Wilson, by the way, who showed Reagan the ranch above Santa Barbara that Reagan eventually bought.

I got to meet Ambassador Wilson once, and he told me some interesting and useful things about Reagan, the Vatican and the Cold War, and many other things that were quite useful to my book. Your note about him hits all the right notes. It was Wilson, by the way, who showed Reagan the ranch above Santa Barbara that Reagan eventually bought.

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