Diplomat James “Jim” R. Bullington ‘62
“In order to reap the rewards, you have to put yourself in the line of action. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled.”
Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., Jim Bullington was a first-generation college student when he enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1957–at the age of 16. In 1962, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in science and literature and went on to earn a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University in 1969. During his senior year at Auburn, Bullington passed the highly competitive U.S. Foreign Service examination and began his diplomatic career immediately following graduation. His first assignment was in 1965 to wartime Vietnam where he served as vice consul in Hue, staff aide to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Saigon, and assistant province representative with the joint civil-military counter insurgency program in Quang Tri.
In 1968, Bullington and his Vietnamese fiancee, Tuy-Cam, were trapped for nine days behind enemy lines in Hue during the Tet Offensive, before being rescued by United States Marines. Over his 34-year career, Bullington served in eight countries, in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
For 27 of those years, he was a career foreign service officer with the United States Department of State and was Dean of the State Department’s highest-level training program. He was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Burundi by President Ronald Reagan and later served as the director of the Peace Corps in Niger. Bullington was recalled to diplomatic duty in 2012 to lead a State Department effort to help end a 30-year insurgency in Senegal.
While at Auburn, Bullington was the editor of The Auburn Plainsman and in 1961, challenged school segregation through editorials and news stories, often resulting in backlash from community members and the local Ku Klux Klan. His role to take pro-civil rights stances was a key factor in launching his a career in the foreign services. While a student at Auburn, he was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Sigma Pi Fraternity, Spades and served as editor of The Plainsman newspaper. He is currently a member of the Foy Society and a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association. Bullington and his wife have two daughters.