Elizabeth (Davenport) McKune is a career diplomat who has held numerous positions in the State Department and in the Foreign Service, including serving as US Ambassador to the State of Qatar from 1998-2001. She was the first female ambassador from any country accredited to Qatar in this capacity, and the first African-American female accredited to serve as U.S. ambassador to any Middle Eastern country. Her husband, Kenneth McKune, is also a former career Senior Foreign Service officer. Ambassador McKune’s father, Colonel Clarence M. Davenport, Jr, USMA JAN 1943, was the 6th African American graduate of West Point following Henry O. Flipper USMA 1877, John H. Alexander USMA 1887, Charles D. Young USMA 1889, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. USMA 1936, and James D. Fowler, USMA 1941. He was joined by the 7th African American graduate of West Point, Robert B. Tresville, Jr., also USMA Jan. ‘43.
Ambassador McKune begins this interview talking about her father’s childhood and his three and a half years at the University of Detroit before being accepted to the United States Military Academy. She describes his West Point experiences including interactions with the Buffalo Soldiers who taught horsemanship. She shares stories of his service during World War II, his career after leaving the Army, and his life-long love for the Military Academy. Ambassador McKune then discusses her career in the U.S. Foreign Service, including multiple assignments in the Middle East, noting that each assignment was unique. As a woman and an African-American, she challenged many historic and cultural pre-conceptions, continuing in the pioneering tradition as her father had done decades earlier. Throughout the interview, she highlights her father’s legacy, and at the end of the interview, she reflects on what her service means to her.