Ex-Arab diplomat with Metro Detroit ties dies at 89
As the Arab League’s former ambassador to the United States and the United Nations as well as a driving force behind the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Clovis Maksoud tackled many issues facing the Middle East and those with ties to the region.
In turn, his voice and work inspired activists and others across the globe.
“He was like an idol, a mentor, a true leader,” said Imad Hamad, executive director of the Dearborn-based American Human Rights Council, who knew him for more than 30 years. “He’s a living voice of hope.”
Mr. Maksoud died Sunday, May, 15, 2016, in Washington D.C. He was 89.
The high-profile diplomat long was active with the Arab League, which formed in the 1940s. He was the group’s ambassador to India and southeast Asia from 1961-66.
Mr. Maksoud also was a journalist at Middle Eastern publications, working as a senior editor of Al-Ahram, then chief editor for Al-Nahar from 1967-79, associates said.
In 1979, he was appointed as the Arab League’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations.
When students and activists demonstrated at the group’s offices after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, decrying the action, Mr. Maksoud supported their call, recalled Hamad, who was among them. “He said: ‘If I was student, probably I would do the same thing you are doing.’ ”
Mr. Maksoud served in his role until 1990, when he resigned in protest of the first Gulf War, ADC officials said.
“Clovis Maksoud was known to be a man of his word — a man who talked the talk and walked the walk,” Hamad said. “He refused to compromise his own ethics, his own views.”
Mr. Maksoud also left his mark at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
“Dr. Clovis Maksoud and his wife, the late Dr. Hala Salaam Maksoud, were instrumental in the founding, growth and success of ADC over the past three and a half decades,” group officials said in a statement.
ADC Chairman Dr. Safa Rifka described Mr. Maksoud as “a true leader, who throughout his personal and professional career exhibited the utmost dignity, and a constant commitment to justice and equality. He inspired all those around him, myself included.”
After his diplomatic career, Mr. Maksoud became an international relations professor and director of the Center for the Global South at American University in Washington, D.C.
He also authored books and articles on the Middle East as well as led conferences on the environment and development, human rights, population and disarmament, according to colleagues.
In later years, Mr. Maksoud loved visiting Michigan often “because he loves Detroit,” Hamad said. “He loves the community here.”
Mr. Maksoud last visited the Dearborn site in October 2014 and was congratulated on the publication of his Arabic-language memoir, museum officials said.
“Dr. Maksoud has been a pillar of our community and our lives on many levels and certainly a guiding light in the establishment and growth of the Arab American National Museum,” Manal B. Saab, the board’s chair, said in a statement. “Despite his major accomplishments on the world scene from New Delhi to New York to Washington, D.C., via Beirut and Cairo, he still retained the heart and soul of a simple villager from Lebanon.”
Born Dec. 17, 1926, in Oklahoma, Mr. Maksoud later relocated to Lebanon with his family. He graduated from the American University of Beirut, earned a law degree at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford.
Mr. Maksoud returned to Lebanon in the mid-1950s and “became actively involved in democratic and social reforms,” which eventually led him to the Arab League, American Human Rights Council officials said.
He was working on an English edition of his biography and planned to return to Metro Detroit, Hamad said. “He was full of energy.”
A funeral is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in Maryland.