Charles Price II dies at 80; Reagan’s ambassador to Belgium and Britain

Charles Price II, a banking executive who ran his family’s Midwestern candy company before serving as U.S. ambassador to Belgium and then Britain, has died. He was 80.

Price died Thursday at his home in Indian Wells, Calif., family spokesman Michael Landes told the Associated Press. A cause was not released.

In 1981, President Reagan named Price ambassador to Belgium. Two years later, Price moved from Brussels to London to become ambassador to Britain, a post he held until the end of Reagan’s second term in 1989.

Price was “the most energetic, engaging and popular American ambassador in many years” to Britain, the Times of London said just before his departure.


He was universally known as “Charlie,” so when then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called him “Charles” in a speech in early 1989, “some diplomats thought they had a row,” the newspaper said.

After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Price accompanied Thatcher to the site of the crash, which killed the 259 people aboard, and to the many memorials.

“His concern for Scottish families did not pass unnoticed,” the Times of London said in 1989.

Price was credited with contributing to the friendly relationship between Reagan and Thatcher, both of whom he counted as friends.


In the 1970s, he met Reagan at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by publishing magnate Walter Annenberg and his wife, Lee.

“What clicked the most between my husband and Ronald Reagan was their sense of humor,” Price’s wife, Carol, told the Kansas City Star in 2004.

When Reagan offered to make his fellow Republican an ambassador, Price later recalled, he thought, “If I’m going to undertake an adventure, this was probably a good time.”

In a statement released Friday, former First Lady Nancy Reagan called the Prices close friends who were “extraordinary” hosts when the Reagans traveled to England on state visits. She said she would “miss Charlie’s good humor, his generosity and great stories.”


Charles Harry Price II was born April 1, 1931, in Kansas City, Mo., and spent much of his life there. His father ran Price Candy Co., which he founded in 1913 in Kansas City.

The junior Price spent two years at the University of Missouri and served in the Air Force in the 1950s.

In 1969, he married Carol Ann Swanson, an heiress to a frozen food fortune, and they raised three children. They survive him, as do two children from a previous marriage and several grandchildren, according to the Star.

From 1973 to 1981, Price was chairman and chief executive of American Bank and Trust Co. of Kansas City. He also operated Price Candy until it was sold in 1982.


After his years as a diplomat, Price resumed his banking career, which included a chairmanship at Mercantile Bank of Kansas City.

He was “built like a small tank and when he laughs, he rumbles,” the Times of London said in 1989 and postulated that Reagan had seen in him “another born communicator.”