WASHINGTON — J.
A lanky 52-year-old Californian, with a burst of brown hair, Stevens also looked the part.
"He was always smiling, unruffled, projecting what I think of as a cool California demeanor, in the best sense," said Robert Danin, a former
From 2007 to 2009, he served as the No. 2 U.S. diplomat in Tripoli after the U.S. resumed diplomatic relations with Col.
"We had a bombing at the Tibesti [Hotel] the other day — a reminder that
On Tuesday, in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the lawyer-turned-diplomat became the first American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1988. Three other Americans were also killed in the assault by heavily armed attackers in violence that followed a street protest outside the American facility in eastern Libya.
Stevens' friends and superiors, including Secretary of State
"He risked his life to stop a tyrant, and gave his life trying to build a better Libya,"
Stevens grew up in the East Bay community of Piedmont, graduated from UC Berkeley in 1982 and UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in 1989. His first service overseas was as a
He was the son of a lawyer, Jan Stevens, and a now-retired Marin Symphony cellist, Mary Commanday.
His stepfather, Robert Commanday, a former
After law school, Stevens worked for two years as an international trade attorney in Washington. But it didn't satisfy him, and at the relatively late age of 31, he joined the foreign service.
Stevens revealed a bit of himself, and a bit of the diplomat's art, in a video he prepared for the Libyans and displayed on the embassy's Facebook page before he arrived in the country to take on the ambassador's post.
The video, which shows Libyans exulting at their new liberty, has shots of Stevens as a young man, tramping through California mountains wearing a backward baseball cap, and celebrating with his family at his law school graduation.
He was also pictured in a more contemporary scene strolling through official Washington, posing in front of Congress and gazing at the statue in the Lincoln Memorial. "I look forward to watching Libya develop equally strong institutions of government," he said.
When he was confirmed as ambassador in May, he said he considered it "an extraordinary honor."
Fluent in French and Arabic, Stevens previously worked in a variety of Middle Eastern posts, including ones in Jerusalem; Cairo; Riyadh,
Colleagues described him as friendly, casual and rarely rattled. He also was candid, a trait that won him fans among Arabs and a following among journalists who covered Middle East hot spots.
Stevens had a yearning to mingle with Arabs to get a street level view of events, and he sometimes chafed about the post-Sept. 11 security measures that sometimes prevented diplomats from reaching far into the hinterland. As political officer in Jerusalem, given the oft-touchy assignment of working with the Palestinian leadership, he tried to get out into the West Bank even when violence flared between Palestinians and Israelis.
Stevens relished contacts, even with some of the region's unsavory personalities. In one of the U.S. diplomatic cables released by the
The impression he made among Libyans was apparent on Wednesday.
"Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans," read a poster carried by an admirer in Benghazi, a Twitter image showed. "Sorry, people of America, this is not the behavior of our Islam and prophet," read another.