Ethiopia’s First Peace Corps Staff, Part Two

Bascom Story’s father was a Methodist minister who moved from small town to small town in Texas. Born in Rotan (Fisher County), Bascom went to 22 schools before he enrolled in North Texas State College in Denton, where he obtained a degree in political science in 1934. Barely in his twenties, he became principal of the high school in Lytie, a small town near San Antonio.

He moved from there to Runge High School, also in south Texas, to superintendent of the Runge School District, finally to Deputy State Superintendent of Education, a job he held for three years while he worked on a master’s in educational administration.

He got the degree in 1942 from Southwest Texas State at San Marcos. From 1942 to 1946, Story served in the Navy as a communications officer with amphibious forces in the Pacific, and he participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He returned to the University of Texas, obtained his Ph.D. in education and psychology in 1949 with a dissertation on the history of junior colleges in the U.S.

At the same time, he went to work as an associate professor at the University of Tennessee. He was promoted to full professor in 1947. Four years later, he was named Dean of the Graduate School at Memphis State University, a job he held until 1958 when he was sent to Ethiopia as chief educational adviser under the Point Four program.

As such, he helped establish Haile Selassie I University, organize the Ethiopian secondary school system, and develop textbooks and audio-visual aids for the entire system.

An ardent camper, Story took to the hills in every corner of Ethiopia during vacation breaks from his job in Addis Ababa. At the wheel of a Land Rover, he roamed through east Africa and across the continent.

In January, 1962, he met Harris Wofford while the presidential adviser was visiting Ethiopia, and discussions between the two led to Story’s moving to the Peace Corps as Deputy Representative in Ethiopia.

[Harris would later tell us that when he arrived in Addis and was seeking a meeting with Bascom, he found Story had gone on a camping trip down to Lake Langano. Wofford got a Land Rover and driver and followed Story down into the Rift Valley to meet him. Bascom would jokingly tell me that when he heard a U.S. presidential adviser was coming to Ethiopia that “the best thing to do was get out of town.”]

On May 15, Wofford became the permanent Peace Corps Representative in Ethiopia as well as Representative to all of Africa. In the latter capacity, he would represent the Peace Corps at international conferences throughout the continents, especially when African nations were becoming independent.

Research Document: Who’s Who in the Peace Corps Overseas Administration (1963)




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