BETHESDA, Md. — Edward Alexander of Bethesda, MD, passed away on October 5 at the age of 103. He was a career diplomat in the US Foreign Service during the Cold War, where he served as a Public Affairs Officer in West Berlin; Budapest, Hungary; Athens, Greece; and East Berlin, GDR. He played a key role in the visits of President John F. Kennedy to Berlin in 1963 and Richard Nixon to Bucharest in 1969. During his tour as Deputy Director for the Soviet Union and East Europe, Alexander traveled throughout the Soviet bloc supervising American press and cultural affairs, at which time he was the most senior Armenian-American official in the US government.
After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in musicology followed by a master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism, he entered the US Army in World War II, serving in Europe on the staffs of Generals Eisenhower and Bradley in the Psychological Warfare Division. After the war, he worked as Public Relations Director to Sir Laurence Olivier on the two Shakespeare films, “Henry V” and “Hamlet.” In 1950, he joined the Voice of America, organizing broadcasts to Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tatarstan and was appointed Chief of the Armenian Service, where he remained for ten years.
Following his Foreign Service postings, he served on the Board for International Broadcasting, overseeing Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcasts, at the State Department in the Freedom of Information Division, and was Spokesman to three international conferences on Human Rights. He was official Escort and Interpreter for the White House visit of Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I with President Bush in the Oval Office and also for the visit of former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian. Shortly after Armenia’s independence, Alexander was invited to Armenia to serve as advisor to its foreign ministry.
He lectured about Armenia at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Diplomacy, the Library of Congress, the Armenian Embassy in Washington and several universities. Alexander wrote three books, The Serpent and the Bees, – about the fifteen-year attempt by the Soviet KGB to recruit him; A Crime of Vengeance, – about the Berlin trial of the murder of Talaat Pasha, and Opus – a novel about the search by two Armenian diplomats for a stolen Beethoven manuscript.
After the 1988 earthquake, he served as Chairman of St. Mary’s Church Earthquake Committee, collecting nearly $400,000 in donations and clothing. He also served as Chairman of the William E. Docter Fund Scholarship Committee dispensing educational grants to young Armenians throughout the country. Ed was an avid tennis player well into his nineties, a golfer, a jazz authority and devotee of gin martinis.
He was born in New York City in 1920 to John der Alexanian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, and Nevart Faljian Alexanian. Edward Alexander is survived by his wife Roseann, son Mark of Franklin, TN, and Wellington, FL, and his wife JoAnn Palazzo; son Scott, of Boca Raton, FL, and his wife Cathy Davis; and son Christian of Washington, D.C., and Thousand Oaks, CA, and his wife Arlene Saryan, and five grandchildren, Derek, Maya, Miranda, Garen and Sean Alexander.