J. Christopher Stevens

Last updated

J. Christopher Stevens
Ambassador christopher stevens.jpg
10th United States Ambassador to Libya
In office
June 7, 2012 September 11, 2012
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Gene Cretz
Succeeded by Laurence Pope (Chargé d'affaires) [1]
Personal details
John Christopher Stevens

(1960-04-18)April 18, 1960 [2]
Grass Valley, California, U.S.
DiedSeptember 11, 2012(2012-09-11) (aged 52)
Benghazi, Libya
Cause of death Killed in attack by Ansar al-Sharia
Resting placeGrass Valley, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater
Profession Diplomat, Lawyer

John Christopher Stevens (April 18, 1960 – September 11, 2012) was an American career diplomat and lawyer who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya from May 22, 2012 to September 11, 2012. [3] [4] Stevens was killed when the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by members of Ansar al-Sharia on September 11–12, 2012. [3] [5]


Stevens was the eighth U.S. Ambassador to be killed while in office. [6]

Early life and education

Stevens was born on April 18, 1960, in Grass Valley, California, the eldest of three siblings born to Jan S. Stevens, a California Assistant Attorney General, [7] and his wife Mary J. Stevens (née Floris), [8] from a West Coast family of French, Swedish and Chinook ancestry. [9] Stevens was raised in Northern California and had two younger siblings, Anne (b. 1962) and Thomas (b. 1965). [10]

Stevens' parents divorced in 1975, and both remarried. He had a half-sister, Hilary (b. 1980), from his father's second marriage. [7] His mother, a cellist, joined the Marin Symphony Orchestra (1969—2004), [11] and in 1976 married Robert Commanday, a music critic with the San Francisco Chronicle . [12] [13]

Stevens was an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student in Spain during summer of 1977, and graduated from Piedmont High School [14] in 1978. He earned BA degree in history in 1982 at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. From 1983 to 1985, he taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. He graduated with JD degree from University of California, Hastings College of Law in 1989, and received MS degree from the National War College in 2010.



Prior to joining United States Foreign Service, Stevens was an international trade attorney based in Washington, D.C. [4] He was admitted as an active member of State Bar of California on January 26, 1990; he went on inactive status on August 1, 1991, and remained an inactive member for remainder of his career. [15]

U.S. Foreign Service

Stevens joined United States Foreign Service in 1991. His early overseas assignments included: deputy principal officer and political section chief in Jerusalem, political officer in Damascus, consular/political officer in Cairo, and consular/economic officer in Riyadh. In Washington, Stevens served as Director of Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs, Pearson Fellow with Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Richard Lugar, special assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Iran desk officer, and staff assistant in Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

He had served in Libya twice previously: as Deputy Chief of Mission (from 2007 to 2009) and as Special Representative to National Transitional Council (from March 2011 to November 2011) during Libyan revolution. He arrived in Tripoli in May 2012 as US Ambassador to Libya. [4]

Stevens spoke English, French, and some Arabic. [16]


During the 2012 Benghazi attack, a fire was set against the main consulate building with three Americans inside—Stevens, Sean Smith, and a security officer. [17] According to U.S. officials, the security officer escaped and the staff found Smith dead. However, the staff were unable to locate Stevens before being driven from the building under small-arms fire. [17] Local civilians found Stevens and brought him to the Benghazi Medical Centre in a state of cardiac arrest. Medical personnel tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at about 2 a.m. local time on September 12, 2012. [17] Later reports suggested that the attack was coordinated and planned in advance, with any protests either coincidental or possibly diversionary. [18] Libyan president Muhammad Magariaf blamed elements of Ansar al-Sharia for the killing, linking them to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Libyan officials suggested that it might have been a revenge attack mounted by loyalists (of deceased Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi) who were defeated in the Libyan Civil War the previous year. [19]

Grave of John Christopher Stevens in Grass Valley, California John Christoper Stevens Grave Stone 2013.jpg
Grave of John Christopher Stevens in Grass Valley, California

The surviving Americans were taken to a safe house. A rescue squad consisting of eight U.S. military or former military was sent from Tripoli, the capital. They were ambushed and the safe house came under attack. Two more Americans died, including one sent from Tripoli; several were wounded. [17] [20] [21] Later reports identified the victims as Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, both former Navy SEALs working as security and intelligence contractors. [22] [23]

Stevens is buried in New Elm Ridge Cemetery (formerly known as Forester's Cemetery) in Grass Valley, California.

See also

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  6. "US ambassadors killed in the line of duty". Boston. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
  7. 1 2 "Stevens Remembered as a Man Who Cared Deeply for Libya". Salt Lake City Tribune. September 11, 2012.
  8. Jenny Monnet (September 28, 2012). "Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens' Mother Spells Out Family Legacy". Indian Country Today. Retrieved August 18, 2013. Stevens was a 1/16th enrolled citizen of the Chinook Indian Nation
  9. "Slain ambassador was member of local Chinook Tribe" Archived September 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Chinook Observer. September 13, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  10. Matt Bewig (March 18, 2012). "Ambassador to Libya: Who Is Chris Stevens?". allgov. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
  11. The death of Chris Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, hits close to home. Archived September 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  12. California Marriage Index, 1960–1985, accessed on ancestry.com on September 17, 2012
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  14. Anita Creamer; The Sacramento Bee. "Slain U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had Northern California roots". McClatchydc. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
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  19. Hammond, Andrew (September 12, 2012). "Libya official says Gaddafi loyalists killed U.S. diplomats". Reuters. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  20. Libya: Assault on U.S. consulate in Benghazi leaves 4 dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens CBS News September 11, 2012
  21. US confirms ambassador killed in Benghazi Libya BBC News September 11, 2012
  22. "Statement on the Deaths of Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty in Benghazi, Libya". U.S. Department of State. September 13, 2012. Archived from the original on September 20, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  23. "Two SEAL vets from SD killed in Libya". U-T San Diego. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Gene A. Cretz
United States Ambassador to Libya
Succeeded by
Laurence Pope