He was more well known internationally as the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa from 1996 to 2000, under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
He was also an ordained clergyman and preacher.
He spent most of his career as an academic & public servant, notably serving as US Under-Secretary, Dept of Interior, 1977-1981 & an advisor to 4 presidents.
While he was undersecretary in the Carter admin, Joseph survived a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean while on a work trip.
A non swimmer, yet he came out of that crash with only minor injuries. It was a real miracle that left him in no doubt he “had been saved for a purpose.”
Earlier as young faculty in Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1963, he organised the local civil rights movement.
This was in his position as leader of the Tuscaloosa Citizens Action Committee. He organised a march that was broken up by the KKK.
Tuscaloosa was the National HQ of the KKK.
He was ambushed and set upon badly with baseball bats and became a KKK target from then on.
He taught at Yale Divinity School and was professor of public policy at Duke University after his ambassadorship.
He was honoured with 19 honorary degrees from various universities.
He received the South African award of the Order of Good Hope, the highest honor for foreigners.
Born in the racially segregated South to poor farmer parents, he made the best of racially segregated education and graduated with a degree in political science & social studies.
He did a Master’s in Divinity at Yale University where he started his civil rights activism.
He wrote 4 books:
•The Charitable Impulse
•Leadership as a Way of Being
•Saved for a Purpose: A Journey from Private Virtues to Public Values.
He is survived by wife, Mary Joseph and a son & daughter from his first wife who died in 1992 & grandchildren
“Ambassador Joseph fought for equal rights here and abroad. He was among the best of his generation and an inspiration for all of us.”—Baton Rouge Mayor/President, Sharon Weston Broome
“Ambassador James Joseph embodied the values for which we stand as a school. He led a life of service that affected not only many individuals but also structures in our society. We are grateful to call him an alumnus of this school.”—Yale Divinity School Dean, Greg Sterling