After serving as president of a foreign and domestic investments management firm that he founded, Mr. Duke became a Foreign Service officer in 1949 and served briefly in Washington, Argentina and Spain. In 1952, at age 36, he became the youngest ambassador in the history of the United States when President Harry S. Truman named him ambassador to El Salvador.
Upon the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower as president, Mr. Duke left government service, but he returned in 1961 as chief of protocol for President John F. Kennedy with the rank of ambassador. In this job, Mr. Duke's duties ranged from serving as a de facto control officer for visiting heads of state and foreign dignitaries to making sure seating arrangements at state dinners were diplomatically correct.
A critical component of Mr. Duke's position in the early 1960s was protecting diplomats from African nations from racial insult or discrimination at a time when the civil rights movement was making race relations a tense issue in the United States. To make it easier for African diplomats to find places to live, Mr. Duke actively supported fair-housing legislation in the District and other anti-discrimination measures.
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