Alvin P. Adams Jr., 73; ambassador to Haiti

NEW YORK — Alvin P. Adams Jr., an American envoy and champion of human rights who was instrumental in nudging Haiti toward democracy, died Oct. 10 at his home in Portland, Ore. He was 73.

The apparent cause was a heart attack, his cousin Timothy M. Phelps said.

A three-time ambassador, Mr. Adams persuaded Lieutenant General Prosper Avril, the Haitian military ruler and a protégé of ousted dictators Francois Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude, to abdicate in March 1990 and leave the country on a US Air Force jet.


Avril’s departure paved the way for a provisional civilian replacement and, later that year, for the ascension of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first freely elected president and a Roman Catholic priest at the time.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
A look at the news and events shaping the day ahead, delivered every weekday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

While Aristide campaigned on a leftist platform critical of the United States, Mr. Adams insisted before the election that “what interests us here is the integrity and credibility of the process, and we are prepared to work with whoever is chosen by the people of this country.”

Once Aristide was elected, he specifically thanked US officials for supporting the free election process.

Mr. Adams was also credited with saving Aristide’s life the next year, denouncing the military coup that overthrew him while negotiating his safe passage to Venezuela. Aristide returned to power in 1994.

Alvin Philip Adams Jr. was born in New York City on Aug. 29, 1942, and grew up in the city, in Oyster Bay, on Long Island, and in Jackson Hole, Wyo. His father, also named Alvin, was an airline executive. His mother was the former Elizabeth Miller, who ran a bookstore and was a daughter of Nathan L. Miller, a governor of New York in the early 1920s.


Mr. Adams graduated from Yale University in 1964 and from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1967.

He served in diplomatic posts in Vietnam and in Washington, including the office of the ambassador at large for counterterrorism.

Mr. Adams was the envoy to Djibouti from 1983-1985, to Haiti from 1989-1992, and to Peru from 1993-1996, appointed under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

After retiring from the Foreign Service in 1996, he was president of the UN Association of the United States of America and lived in Honolulu and Buenos Aires, Argentina, before moving to Portland, Ore.

His marriage to the former Mai-Anh Nguyen ended in divorce. He leaves his son, Lex; two grandchildren; a brother; and a sister. Another son, Tung Thanh Adams, was killed in 1989 in an explosion aboard the battleship USS Iowa.


While Mr. Adams worked under secretaries of state Alexander M. Haig Jr. during the Falklands war in 1982 and Henry A. Kissinger during his Middle East shuttle diplomacy in the late-1960s and 1970s, many of his tensest encounters came in Haiti, where his ability to speak Creole helped him.