U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, after a diplomatic career spanning two decades, became the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. He died Tuesday in Benghazi -- the de facto headquarters of the Libyan revolution he reached out to in its early days -- during an attack on the U.S. Consulate.
Top officials in the Obama administration mourned his loss, describing him as a passionate statesman who devoted the sunset of his career to helping the Libyan people.
"As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation."
Stevens, 52, had worked in the U.S. Foreign Service for 21 years, a career that took him around the world.
He was assigned over the years to Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo and Riyadh before heading to Libya as the deputy chief of mission from 2007 to 2009. When the uprising against Muammar al-Qaddafi began, Stevens served as the special representative to the Libya Transitional National Council. After Qaddafi was overthrown, Stevens was appointed as ambassador to Tripoli in May 2012.
President Obama, in a written statement Wednesday morning, said he was "profoundly grateful" for Stevens' service.
"On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi," Obama said. "As ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice."
Before joining the State Department, Stevens was an international trade lawyer and, before that, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Morocco in the early 1980s.
The last U.S. ambassador to die in an attack was Adolph Dubs, who died in Afghanistan in 1979 during a kidnapping attempt.