February 2024
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Shirley Temple Black Passes Away at 85

by Ken Yeager (ACS)

We just received an email news item advising that Shirley Temple Black passed away at 85 years of age. This saddens my wife and I greatly.

To many of you Shirley Temple was a well known child star but we are pleased to say we knew her personally as Ambassador Shirley Temple Black. We first met her in 1989 while attending the Foreign Service Institute while trying to learn Czech. She too was there for language training but only for the short course of six weeks. I (Ken) won’t go into how difficult Czech is as a language to learn, but believe me, it is horrible.

During Ken’s duties as a GSO at Embassy Prague, he was in touch with Ambassador Black often on a daily basis regarding her residence, office and assigned automobile. He was too often at the Residence assisting with the work that needs to be done for receptions, dinners, VIP visits and the like as well as the routine maintenance of a small palace which IS the Ambassador’s residence in Prague. He was control officer at the residence for visits of then President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush and got to meet the President during a reception. Ambassador Black often sat with us at lunch in our small Embassy cafeteria.

Ambassador Black was a political appointee but one of the better ones. She was not a mental giant but she was very intelligent in many ways and the Czechs loved her. She was visiting Prague years ago when the Russians marched in during the Dubcheck years. As an Ambassador she was friendly and very accessible and not overly impressed with herself, as often is the case.

Before she left Prague in 1992 she invited all of the American Embassy staff and spouses who where in Prague at the time of the Velvet Revolution to the residence for a farewell dinner. during dinner she gave each of us a pewter mug with the dates of our having served in Czechoslovakia, a gift that we proudly display in our living room. Additionally, Ken has an autographed autobiography of Shirley Temple as well as a signed copy of a reproduction 1930’s paper-doll cut-out book.

Although we haven’t been in contact with her since she departed Prague in 1992, as note above, she will be sorely missed.

Rest in Peace, dear Shirley Temple Black.

5 comments to Shirley Temple Black Passes Away at 85

  • Carol Klinger

    We are looking for people who worked with Amb. Shirley Temple Black in the foreign service to interview for NPR’s “All Things Considered” tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 11th. Our deadline is 3pm Eastern. If you can help, please email me at caklinger@npr.org or call me at +1-202-513-2107.



    • Carol – Your request to Ken and your contact information have been forwarded to Ken. He lives in Germany, so I’m not sure if he’ll receive your request before your 3:00 pm deadline today.


  • The All Things Considered broadcast on NPR this evening included a short interview with George Gati, who helped prepare Shirley Temple Black for her assignment as American ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.

    [NPR broadcast added at bottom of Ken’s Post above — Admin.]

  • Ken,

    Thanks for reminding us about a wonderful American, whose fame far surpassed mere Hollywood glamour; and for sharing with us your personal memories of the significant public service of Shirley Temple Black.

    The mention of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 during the Prague Spring under Alexander Dubcek brought back vivid memories of my one visit to Prague after my time in the U.S. military. At the time of the invasion, I had been an Army officer assigned to working with a German Air Force unit, and my German colleagues were pretty miffed at America for not coming to the aid of their Czech neighbors.

    So in 1971, out of the Army and a graduate student at Auburn, I attended a month-long German-language course in Vienna for visiting American students. One weekend, we took a bus up to Prague. None of us had ever been behind the Iron Curtain, so our apprehensions were not eased when we crossed the border between Austria and Czechoslovakia and had to stop for the Czech border police to inspect our papers and our possessions — since the memorable name of the Czech border town was spelled Hate.

    Two hundred more kilometers and we arrived in Prague. It was a city whose beauty hid under a layer of grimy socialist neglect overlaid by the three years of Czech depression that followed the Soviet invasion. But for me the high point of our visit occurred as we arrived to visit the massive old cathedral on the Hradcany, and I looked southward. There we could see the property of the American Embassy, with its magnificent large Stars and Stripes fluttering in the breeze. A warm feeling of security came over me.

    My hat is off to you and all our Foreign Service professionals who maintain a little bit of the message of hope from the USA in those far-flung places of the world.


  • Kenneth R. Yeager


    I quite agree with you regarding Prague. I consider it one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Our assignment in Prague started out slow but after the Velvet Revolution, things got almost out of hand in work…visiting members of congress (crystal buying tours), presidential and various cabinet secretaries, etc. Plus the Embassy almost doubled in size at the same time as other embassies grew and new one came in plus foreign businesses that were not bound by the same currency regulations (or they ignored them) as those that we had to live by. Our tour was for three years and believe me, after working my buns off for two and half of those years, it was time to move on but regretfully in many ways. Great local colleagues.

    Needless to say, I have lots of great stories about our tour in Prague but one real accomplishment for me was the reconstruction of the building were the flag was flown. It is located in the 3rd garden of the embassy grounds and originally (or so I was informed) was the site of a wine press. The building was in sad repair and one of my first tasks was to get the money to renovate it, which I did thanks to lots of help from some DoS folks in Washington. Amb. Black wanted it set up so as to fly the large holiday flag and it took lots of convincing by our locally hired engineer and I to tell her that such a large flag would literally tear the building apart due to vibrations and the required length of the flag pole. We won and the building was completed and dedicated about a year before I left.

    I would encourage anyone to go to Prague and visit and see some really wonderful old architecture and learn about the various symbols that hang over doorways…very interesting. I was luckily enough to have a very bright local employee working for me who knew a lot about Prague, its history and some of its hidden secrets.

    Gisela and I visited Prague again during our time in Frankfurt and of course, the city has changed in many ways…more expensive, lots more tourists, lots of bad restaurants. But it is still a wonderful city and well worth visiting for anyone traveling to Europe.

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