George B. Roberts, 91, of Philadelphia, U.S. ambassador to Guyana from 1979 to 1981 and a career foreign service officer who worked in Laos, Thailand, Tanzania, Jamaica and elsewhere, died on Sunday October 3 from Alzheimer’s disease at Cathedral Village Retirement Community.
Appointed by President Jimmy Carter as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on October 12, 1979, Mr. Roberts was assigned to represent the country less than a year after the tragic Jonestown massacre in Guyana. removed on November 11, July 18, 1978.
This title gave him the highest rank for a diplomat and full authority to represent the US government. During a 30-year career that began in 1957, Mr. Roberts also served overseas in other countries as Chief of Mission, Deputy Chief of Mission and Political Officer.
He later told his family stories of surviving attacks at the United States Embassy in Laos in the 1960s and of traveling on dangerous, muddy roads from Laos to Thailand.
In a short 2002 autobiography for a Yale University class reunion publication, Mr. Roberts wrote that the Foreign Service “was a good team. And we won the Cold War – so there you go!
Between overseas assignments, he served as Special Assistant to the US Under Secretary of State and Director of Thai-Burma Affairs at the State Department. He spoke Thai and Swahili and trained at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
He met Zara Bentley at a ball in Philadelphia. They married in 1952 and had sons George Brooke III and Michael and daughter Jocelyn. His wife died in 2020.
“If you ask our kids, they’ll say they’re from Washington,” he wrote in 2002. “But they really are from all over the world.”
Born May 25, 1930, in Philadelphia, Mr. Roberts graduated from St. George’s School in Rhode Island, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. from Yale University and served in the Navy from 1953 to 1957.
His roots in Philadelphia date back to 1683, and his great-grandfather was George Brooke Roberts, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1880 to 1896. His parents were Philadelphia architect and author George Brooke Roberts and author Mary Hoppin Howland Roberts.
His friends and family called him humble, content, sophisticated, sweet and intelligent. “He was gentle and peaceful,” his daughter said. “He was a gentleman at heart.”
After their travels, Mr. Roberts and his wife retired to Mount Airy in 1986, and he taught political science at St. Joseph’s University for seven years. “It served to keep me off the streets,” he wrote.
He was director of the senior rector of the Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church and active in Democratic precinct politics. He enjoyed dancing with his wife, eating bananas for dessert, restoring and maintaining classic English cars and making his family feel special.
“With his calm and courteous demeanor, he showed me what respect for self and others looks like,” his granddaughter Catherine wrote on Facebook.
Mr. Roberts was such a big baseball fan that he left church early and arrived late to big events so he could watch the Phillies play. After work, he liked to play ball in the garden.
“It was wonderful,” said his son Michael. “He was that kind of father.”
Mr. Roberts ended his 2002 autobiography with this: “Zara and I still love each other, our children still have paid jobs and we have three granddaughters. To ask for more would be nasty.
Wrote a friend in a tribute, “So grateful our paths crossed.”
In addition to his children, Mr. Roberts is survived by five grandchildren, a sister and other relatives.
A service must take place later.
Donations in his name may be made to Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19148.