William R. Polk, a longtime historian, diplomat and noted Middle East scholar who served negotiate resolutions to conflicts, such as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, died on Monday at his residence in Vence, in southeast France, close to the Mediterranean Sea. He was 91.
His daughter Milbry Polk mentioned the lead to was leukemia.
Around 6 many years, Mr. Polk delved into many professions, operating in and out of govt, crafting, co-writing or modifying extra than two -dozen textbooks and traveling the globe, generally to scorching places.
His academic history was in Center East research. In the late 1950s, he started off creating content in The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs and other publications detailing what he saw as the failures of American plan in the region. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy put him in demand of arranging coverage for most of the Islamic globe.
He also served on Kennedy’s three-male “crisis administration committee” for the duration of the Cuban Missile Disaster.
President Lyndon B. Johnson known as him back to the White House throughout the Arab-Israeli Six-Working day War to generate a draft of a peace treaty. He also helped convey about a resolution to the Algerian War and in 1970 negotiated a cease-hearth in the Suez Canal.
One of his ideal-identified books was just one of his last, “Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-12 months War Among the Muslim Entire world and the Global North” (2018).
“This is historical past as Herodotus imagined it,” Chas Freeman, the previous American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wrote in a blurb. “A excellent and quite readable retelling of the past to demonstrate the existing.”
Another remarkably praised perform was “Out of Iraq: A Realistic Strategy for Withdrawal Now” (2006), which he wrote with previous Senator George McGovern.
Mr. Polk’s curiosity in geopolitics was fueled in aspect by his more mature brother, George, a CBS radio correspondent dependent in Greece. George, who was 17 a long time more mature than William, was murdered in 1948 although masking the Greek civil war. The future calendar year, Long Island University set up the George Polk Awards for investigative reporting the prizes stay between the most coveted in journalism.
William Polk devoted considerably of his everyday living to figuring out what had happened to George, which include inspecting the historical context of his death. The dying has been a secret for many years, with the Greek governing administration accusing the Communists of killing him, and the Communists accusing the government. Milbry Polk stated that her father experienced recently done a reserve about him (not nonetheless revealed) titled “The Initial Casualty.”
“For my closing reserve,” Mr. Polk wrote in an unpublished selection of letters to relatives and pals, “I have turned back again to a process I have been putting off for nearly fifty percent a century — a form of biography of my brother George, the unmasking of his killers and the transformation of the planet on which George was reporting.”
However he was a historian, William Polk was no armchair tutorial. In 1971 he put in a thirty day period crossing, by camel, the shifting pink sands of the terrific Nefud Desert in the Arabian Peninsula to seize the vanishing way of life of the Bedouin and to better understand an ancient poem, the “Golden Ode,” by Labid Ibn Rabiah, a pre-Islamic Arab poet. His compact caravan traveled from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Amman, Jordan, an arduous 1,200-mile tour that had not been performed by camel in more than 50 years.
Mr. Polk wrote about the journey in his e book “Passing Brave” (1971), and he released his translation of the poem, with his commentary, in “The Golden Ode” (1974). Both books highlighted photos by William J. Mares, who had accompanied him.
“He was a classical Arabist,” his daughter claimed. “He wished to working experience the poet’s words and phrases himself instead than sit in a university and translate them.”
William Roe Polk was born on March 7, 1929, in Fort Value, exactly where he grew up. His father, George Washington Polk, was a attorney and rancher. His mother, Adelaide Elizabeth (Roe) Polk, was a librarian.
One particular of five young children, Mr. Polk was descended from James K. Polk, the Tennessee Democrat who became the 11th president of the United States, from 1845 to 1849. A long time afterwards, Mr. Polk wrote “Polk’s Folly: An American Family members History” (2000), in which he traced his forebears’ saga given that their arrival in Maryland in 1680 and confirmed how it experienced paralleled the advancement of the nation.
His ancestors served in each individual one of the country’s wars, which includes on each sides of the Civil War — a pedigree that influenced him to go to large college at the New Mexico Armed service Institute, where by he properly trained in the cavalry.
He graduated in 1945, but before likely on to university he researched Spanish in Mexico and Chile. He joined his brother George, then in Cairo, for a time, and worked briefly as a reporter for The Rome Day by day American.
He then immersed himself in a 10 years of teachers, commencing at Harvard, exactly where he gained a bachelor’s degree in historical past in 1951. From there he went to Oxford, where he gained yet another bachelor’s diploma, this one in Arabic and Aged Turkish. He went again to Harvard for his Ph.D. in background, which he gained in 1958, then again to Oxford for his master’s in Arabic and Old Turkish in 1959.
From 1955 to 1961, he was an assistant professor of Center Jap reports at Harvard, just before joining the Point out Division less than Kennedy.
He started instructing heritage in 1965 at the University of Chicago, in which he recognized the Heart for Center Jap Scientific tests. Two many years later he turned the founding director of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of Global Affairs, an unbiased centre for political reports that was afterwards absorbed by the College of Chicago.
He established a consulting corporation that encouraged important corporate customers on initiatives in the Center East. He also lectured at universities, wrote for several publications and appeared often on television talking about developments in the Middle East.
Mr. Polk’s 1st relationship, to Joan Cooledge, in 1950 ended in divorce in 1960. His second marriage, in 1962, to Ann Cross, ended in divorce in 1975. He married Baroness Elisabeth von Oppenheimer in 1981.
She survives him. In addition to his daughter Milbry, he is survived by his daughters Alison E. Polk and Eliza F. Polk a son, George W. Polk and eight grandchildren.
Mr. Polk invested his last months steeped in study and composing, leaving driving quite a few manuscripts that he had hoped to total.
“There was always far more to discover, extra truth of the matter to be ferreted out from between the points,” his son, George, claimed in an e-mail. “As he wrote, ‘I stop with curiosity nonetheless racing merrily forward as my occasional solutions limp little by little powering.’”
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