First Black U.S. Ambassador to Philippines Takes Post

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MANILA -- The first African American envoy to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas, arrived here April 10. The U.S. Embassy said Thomas spent his time learning Tagalog while waiting for his confirmation to be approved. On March 19, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm his appointment.

Thomas first joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and previously served in the White House as director for South Asia at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2002. His last ambassadorial assignment was in Bangladesh from 2003 to 2005.A career diplomat, he served most recently as director general of the Foreign Service and director of Human Resources. His other postings included India, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Peru.

Thomas is from New York and speaks Spanish, Hindi, and Bangla.He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and pursued further studies at Columbia University. He is married to a jazz singer Ericka Ovette. Thomas revealed his father was in the Philippines after World War II and that he had a great time with Filipinos.

He will replace Kristie Kenney -- the first female ambassador to the Philippines -- who is departing after four years.