About Jefferson Caffery
Jefferson Caffery (December 1, 1886 – April 13, 1974) was a distinguished American diplomat. He served as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador (1926–1928), Colombia (1928–1933), Cuba (1934–1937), Brazil (1937–1944), France (1944–1949), and Egypt (1949–1955).
Caffery launched his career of international diplomacy in 1911 when he entered the Foreign Service as second secretary of the legation in Caracas in 1911 during the William Howard Taft administration.
He traveled to Iran (then named Persia) in 1916, to Paris after World War I with President Wilson’s peacemakers, then to Washington, D.C., to arrange details for visits by the King of Belgium and the Prince of Wales. In 1920, he was named second-in-command at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. In 1933, Caffery briefly served as assistant secretary of state under Cordell Hull. Throughout his career he also had worked in lower-ranking diplomatic posts in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Japan, Persia, Sweden, and Venezuela.
In 1934, while ambassador to Cuba, four assailants attempted to assassinate Caffery in front of his home in Havana. The assailants waited outside of his residence for his daily departure to his yacht club. One assailant was killed by a bodyguard, the others escaped. Caffery was not hurt. The event was reported on the front page of the New Orleans Times Picayune, dated May 28, 1934.
In total, he worked 43 years in foreign service under eight U.S. presidents: Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, F. D. Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.
He was awarded the Foreign Service Cup in 1971 by his fellow Foreign Service officers. He held several honorary degrees and decorations, including the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, in 1954. He received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor from the president of France in 1949 and the Order of the Cordon of the Republic from the president of Egypt in 1955.
Caffery was born in Lafayette, Louisiana to Charles Duval Caffery and Mary Catherine (Parkerson) Caffery. He was privately educated in primary and secondary school. He was a member of the first graduating class of Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute, which later became the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He also graduated with a bachelor's degree from Tulane University in 1906. He was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1909.
Caffery married Gertrude McCarthy of Evansville, Indiana in 1937 while in Rio de Janeiro. They had no children. He retired with his wife in 1955 to reside in Rome, where he was the honorary private chamberlain to Popes Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, and Paul VI. He returned to Lafayette in 1973, shortly before Mrs. Caffery's death.
The Cafferys are buried behind St. John’s Cathedral in Lafayette.
Caffery was the cousin of U.S. Senator Donelson Caffery and U.S. Representative Patrick Caffery
A portion of Louisiana Highway 3073 in Lafayette is named the "Ambassador Caffery Parkway" in his memory. In 2000, Caffery was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.