Walter Nathan Tobriner bigraphy, stories - American diplomat

Walter Nathan Tobriner : biography

July 2, 1902 - 1979

Walter Nathan Tobriner (July 2, 1902 – July 14, 1979) was a local Washington, D.C. government appointee, one of the last appointed commissioners of the city, and a U.S. ambassador.


Born in Washington, D.C., Tobriner attended the Sidwell Friends School. He went on to study at Princeton University, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1923, and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1926.

In 1927, Tobriner was admitted to the bar and began to practice law in the Washington, D.C. area. From 1927 to 1950, he was a professor of law at the National University School for Law.

On July 20, 1933, he married Marienne Smith. His only lapse in teaching was from 1943–1946, when he served as a Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Force.

Tobriner served as the president of the board of the Garfield Memorial Hospital, from 1952 to 1955. In 1954, he was president of the board of the Lisner Home for Women. Tobriner acquired the position as director of the Blue Cross Plan in 1953 and maintained this position until 1961. He headed the board of the Washington Hospital Center from 1959 to 1961.

Tobriner served on the Washington Board of Education from 1952 to 1961. He served as president of the board from 1957 to 1961, during which time was responsible for carrying out the Supreme Court decision of 1954 which required the desegregation of public schools. He served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in the years 1956, 1960, and 1964. Then in 1961 President Kennedy appointed him to the Board of Commissioners for Washington D.C. where he served from 1961 to 1967. He served as the last president of the Board of Commissioners in 1967 when the federal government underwent reorganization. During this same time, as chairman of the National Housing Authority, Tobriner brought about fair housing and employment ordinances, aimed at ending racial discrimination. He was a trustee of the National Cultural Center from 1964–1967. From 1966 to 1967, he was the chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, when the first contracts for the new subway system contracts were awarded.

In the period from 1967 to 1969, Tobriner was appointed as the United States ambassador to Jamaica. The U.S. Department of State hired him as a consultant in 1969. Tobriner had been a member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City from 1974 up until his death in 1979.

His papers are held at George Washington University.

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