en zh es ja ko pt

Volume 20, Number 5September/October 1969

In This Issue

Back to Table of Contents

Tom Barger

myth or man?

Sure he's easygoing, but if you knew him for five minutes you'd know that's about as informative as saying Raquel Welch is a girl!

Written by Paul F. Hoye
Illustrated by Don Thompson

No one has ever suggested that Tom Barger be canonized but if someone does it will be a hard movement to block. Barger, it seems, is not merely the head of a large oil company. Lord, no. He is also the most intelligent, resourceful, imaginative, judicious, energetic and honest executive east1 of Rockefeller Center, a scholar who wolfs page-size bites of philosophy or physics between orange juice and coffee, an athlete of Olympics caliber, an explorer who would have beaten Amundsen to the South Pole by two weeks, a marksman worthy of the U.S. Marine Corps, and a photographer to rank with Steichen. He is good. He is brave. He is wise.

That's the portrait, anyway, that emerged recently from several weeks of diligent rummaging by a team of Aramco writers into the career, character and personality of the man who on September 1 stepped down as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Arabian American Oil Company. And if you are about to point out that I would have to be exceptionally naive to expect any sort of critical assessment from close friends, loyal associates, or employes who expect to thrive in a company he runs, you won't get an argument here. But neither will you be particularly original. A crusty—and obviously cynical—reporter not long ago made the same point but put it a little more bluntly. "Look, friend, Eagle Scouts don't get to be presidents of oil companies."

It's an arguable point, of course, and as we shall see there is a network of friends and acquaintances literally worldwide in scope who do argue it. To such men, ranging from at least one presidential adviser to a handful of weathered Bedouin guides, Thomas Charles Barger is an extraordinary man whose achievements and character speak eloquently for themselves.

What is surprising, actually, in view of the unanimous respect that surrounds Barger's reputation, is that there was any criticism at all. But there was. Tucked away in odd corners of the company's Dhahran headquarters are a few dedicated skeptics who quite openly wonder whether the Tom Barger myth could possibly be true.

One man, for instance, took issue with such pet parts of what the skeptics acidly call "the Superman myth" as his great sense of humor, ("You step on one of his pet prides and watch out!"), and his unfailing kindness ("Try making a sloppy presentation. He can be scathing!") Another raked him over the coals for being a poor administrator.

"People were always pleased when Barger moved ahead," he said, "but once he got moving he never again had to cope with the tedious routine that the other slobs did because they always had him on special assignment. In fact, he never really ran anything until he ran the whole goddamn company."

Another man who knew him back then agreed. "He was so tied up with other affairs that to get to see him you literally had to ambush him on the way to the men's room."

Understandably, no one was shouting such opinions up and down the halls of the administration building and you wouldn't have to hire the Houston Astrodome to accommodate the dissenters. Still, they sounded a refreshing note. They also suggested that it was a man and not a plaster saint who chugged over to the Saudi Arabian mainland from Bahrain on a December day in 1937 and stepped ashore onto an unfinished pier to meet the company's invaluable Max Steineke.

Years later, in the comfortable president's office in Dhahran, Barger would say that the main reason he set foot on that pier was because the price of copper dropped in Butte, Montana. It was a story he related to at least one of the reporters who from time to time have come by to take the measure of Aramco's top gun. Overly impressed by Aramco's size, some of those writers weren't always as thorough or as kind to the company as the company would have liked, but they were pleasant to Tom. Even the Aramco executives who felt that the Wall Street Journal's "awesome oil giant" and Time's "obliging goliath" were somewhat misleading phrases agreed that you couldn't quarrel with Time's description of Tom as "easygoing." "Although," as one added sourly, "if you knew Tom for five minutes you'd know that's about as informative as saying Raquel Welch is a girl."

Tom Barger was born in Minneapolis in 1909, the son of Mary Barger and Michael Thomas Barger, a man who started out with the Minneapolis grain exchange and retired as a chairman of a bank. He grew up in Linton, North Dakota, studied for two years at St. Mary's College in Winona, Minn., and went on to the University of North Dakota's College of Engineering in Grand Forks to earn one degree in mining and metallurgy and come within 12 credits of another in chemical engineering. After graduation he went from one job to another: three years as a surveyor and miner in Canada, a year as engineer, assayer and assistant manager of a silver and radium mine in the Northwest Territories and more than a year as an associate professor of mining at his old university. Then he got a job in research with the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Unfortunately, between the time he accepted the job and got to Butte the price of copper had collapsed and so had the job.

In those days, the late 1930's, the Great Depression was still coiled around the economy and jobs were scarce. That's why Barger, however reluctantly, accepted a job as a miner instead. It was also why he immediately began to explore the possibilities of moving on. One offer came from a state university interested in finding a dean of mining engineering. Barger turned it down when he learned he was expected to spend six years getting a Ph.D. Even the rugged heat of a copper mine seemed preferable to that.

Then came a letter from J. O. Nomland, chief geologist of the Standard Oil Company of California, inviting him to come to California for an interview. Barger was willing but to get time off meant asking a rough foreman for an unusual favor. Still, it had to be done.

"Boy, anything that'll get you out of these mines is a good thing," the foreman said, and sent him along.

In California Nomland came quickly to the point: Socal was exploring a concession area in Saudi Arabia and had need of a surveyor to work with a seismographic crew. Was Barger interested and could he get there in a hurry? Barger was and could. Five weeks later he stepped off the company launch in al-Khobar to meet Steineke and launch a career that would last 32 years.

On Aramco's roster of heroes Max Steineke rates pretty high and with reason: it was largely his intuition and diligence that solved the mysteries of eastern Arabia's stratigraphy, helped find the first oil in March, 1938, and eventually led Aramco to the great Abqaiq and Ghawar oil fields. But Steineke rated pretty high with his men too. A burly, big-jawed man with a passion for work, he had that rare faculty of knowing how to get out of a man all that the man had in him. For Tom Barger no better approach could have been devised.

There was one bad moment at the al-Khobar pier. Steineke, unaware that Barger had established a record of sorts in getting from North Dakota to Saudi Arabia in 12 days, shook hands and said: "I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with you, but I'm glad to have you." But then he did what he had done with everyone else: he gave him work to do and let him get on with it.

The first job was to get familiar with the known geology of Arabia and in the 48 hours allotted Barger gave it a game try. Then he went off to help survey some points along an uncertain frontier at the base of the Qatar Peninsula, spent four months in reconnaissance in an area measuring some 40,000 square miles, then did some mapping, and, summer having come, set off with his partner, Jerry Harriss, to the cool Kashmir in India to finish the geological reports.

The Kashmir trip was not spectacularly successful; that nice cool air kept distracting them. But it provided one good laugh. En route through what was still British India they noticed that everyone traveling . seemed to be "Brigadier" or "Major", so for laughs they signed in at a customs station as "Colonel" Barger and "Major" Harriss. One night at a somewhat less than sober party someone asked Harriss how Barger had gotten to be a colonel at such a young age. Harriss said Barger had won a battlefield commission fighting Indians outside Chicago—and was believed. The next day, as Barger, Harriss and some subalterns from the Northwestern Frontier lolled in the sun on a houseboat in the river, one said, "I bet the colonel here could tell us stories, if he had a mind to." Barger looked around to see who they were referring to, realized, as Harriss began to choke with laughter, that it was himself and hastily decided to go for a swim.

In the next two years Barger ranged through most of Saudi Arabia, but especially in those areas rarely traversed by westerners: the Dahna and Jafura sands, the barren Abu Bahr plains and the Empty Quarter.

His last field trip was a deep thrust to Layla and as-Sulayil near the base of the Tuwaiq Escarpment, an area no one from Aramco had ever seen and which only one westerner had penetrated—the famous H. St. John B. Philby—and that had been back in 1917.

They were memorable years and out of them would come the stories that would shape the colorful Barger mythology: the lean young hunter bringing down a running gazelle with a .22 from the back
seat of a car racing across the plains, or lassoing another from the running board; the bold young linguist inviting the King of Saudi Arabia to coffee in stumbling Arabic; the resourceful young geologist using whiskers to adjust a sextant; the earnest scholar studying Arabic and petroleum geology by lamplight in his tent; the desert botanist collecting and naming plants; the shirt-sleeve democrat making friends with every Arab in sight.

The stories, it should be said, are true. Barger himself provided the outlines in letters to his wife and his father, both of whom kept them. Friends have added their versions. Guides have filled in details. If they have passed into the mythology, they are still essentially accurate. In any case in the spring of 1940 the most vivid chapters came to a close. Barger went on leave. When he came back, nearly a year later, he would be assigned to government relations. He had been doubtful about the change but during leave he had decided to make it. When he did he took his first step toward Aramco's distant executive suite.

In Beirut recently a gallant lady who knew Barger in the 40's—and is one of his most articulate admirers—was asked when she first suspected that he might be going on to greater things. The lady looked surprised: "Why, we always thought that," she said. "He was so able."

This was not quite as apparent to Barger. Assigned in the early 1940's to a crew in Arabia charged with keeping at least a small production program going, Barger spent much of this period helping raise chickens and vegetables to fill out lean wartime diets, and the rest either tracking Rommel's advance on Cairo with colored pins on a huge wall map, or helping plan an evacuation route to Aden.

But then the war ended and Aramco, caught up in the urgent post-war demand for oil to fuel the reconstruction of shattered economies, plunged into the turbulent expansion cycle that had begun in 1943 and was now to transform this small outpost of the petroleum industry into one of the major producing companies of the world.

For some men, some of the older breed, this intrusion of a large, modern, highly technological organization into their hard but simple frontier routine was an unsettling experience; it demanded of them adjustments they could not make. For men like Barger it was simply another challenge to which they responded with enthusiasm and vision.

Even that early, for example, Barger saw that the company's very existence in Arabia might depend on the quality of its relations with the Arabs. In an original, unassigned report dictated during half-hour breaks in his regular job, he set out to warn Aramco how important this was. The report, a confidential 83-page, 20,000-word document, was a searching examination of the unique problems that Aramco faced and would face in the years to come. It was also an almost prophetic outline of the broad, often radical programs of social, educational and economic participation in the life of Saudi Arabia that Aramco would introduce and nourish during the next 20 years.

Aramco management, as it happened, was not unaware of the problems either. But impressed with the young man's energy and foresight they invited him to attend a meeting of key brass in the Pocono's, Pennsylvania, convened to define the problems and discuss solutions. Barger not only attended but, as a record of the meeting suggests, wound up shouldering a good share of the assignments: Mr. Barger will compile accurate medical statistics to see what effect western medicine is having on Saudi employes. Mr. Barger will try to find a more descriptive title than "Effendi" for higher class Saudi employes. Mr. Barger will organize an economic study of the Middle East. Mr. Barger will institute dual-language letterheads for stationery. Mr. Barger ...

Characteristically, even those assignments didn't seem to satisfy his alarming appetite for special projects. About the same time he was reading intensely on the subject of desalination and wondering about the possibility of making sugar from dates. Two years earlier, according to Dr. George Rentz, one of America's top Arabists, he had instructed Rentz, then an employe, to concentrate on building up a library on Arabian affairs. Later he pressed for Aramco's purchase of the papers and books of Philby. The library is the finest collection of material on the Arabian Peninsula in the world now, Rentz said recently, "but in 1946 Aramco's entire Arabian library was in a three-by-five-foot bookcase in somebody's office—probably Barger's."

Some of the projects that interested Barger most—better medical facilities, aid to local industry, a home ownership program for Saudi workers—were only on the periphery of his main job in those days, but then, as one of the skeptics pointed out, Barger could never confine himself to the job at hand. "He was always identified with the future. He was always the planner, the idea man ... always planning new areas of endeavor."

Predictably, though, such activities neither went unnoticed nor hurt Barger's career. In 1946 he had been named a company representative; in 1947 relations superintendent in charge of research, analysis and planning, and, in the same year, assistant manager of government relations. In 1949 he became manager. Now in 1952, as the expansion period was peaking, he moved up to general manager of concession affairs, then director of local government relations.

In the meantime, expansion had effected startling changes in Arabia. Production had shot up from a wartime low of 11,809 barrels a day to 824,757 in 1952. Safaniya, the world's largest offshore oil field, had been discovered. A great pipeline was carrying oil to the Mediterranean. The work force had gone up to nearly 25,000 employes and executive management, had moved physically to Saudi Arabia.

Not the least of the changes had occurred in early 1945 when the first chin-up contingent of wives arrived.

There were seven, each with stories of her three-month odyssey through Portugal, Spain and Egypt via freighter, train, yacht and plane. Among them was a young lady with luminous eyes, a warm smile and a seven-year-old marriage certificate that read: Kathleen Elizabeth Ray Barger.

Like her husband, Kathleen Barger came from North Dakota, bringing with her a heritage of ranches and badlands: a greatgrandfather with a background in railroading who helped draft the state constitution, a father who was a rancher, and a tradition of self-reliance. (At six, she related once, she fell off a horse, broke her arm and had to walk two miles to the ranch.)

That tradition was only one of several she would later bring out to Saudi Arabia. Another was a love of horses that had begun almost as soon as she could walk, grew during cattle roundups and would be passed on to her children in Dhahran—to the discomfort of an allergic husband who, one hears, keeps one sneeze away at all times from all horses.

Kathleen quite probably did not know that when she first met Barger, and once she had it wasn't important. Barger, then a mining professor, was also moderator of the campus Newman Club which Kathleen, like most young, fervent Catholic girls of the 1930's, had wasted no time joining. They were both more or less engaged to other people at the time, but it wasn't long after that they quietly broke off the other alliances and began to see each other regularly. That continued until Mr. Nomland made his proposal to Tom after which Tom apparently made his to Kathleen. Kathleen agreed, married him on November 18, 1937, and said goodby three weeks later. Neither suspected that because of housing shortages in Arabia and the advent of World War II they would be separated for seven years with only two leaves of a few months' duration each to ease the loneliness. Now here she was, with her own share of the odyssey to relate plus the beginning of one of those episodes that kept enlivening the lives of the Bargers—and also suggests what kind of girl Tom Barger was bringing to Arabia.

"On the ship to Portugal," a friend said, "Kathleen caught the eye of a charming 60-year-old aristocrat from Spain who immediately named her 'the Empress' and pledged eternal affection. She fended him off, of course, but she did it so sweetly that the Marquis, owner of a famous vineyard, later sent her a case of sherry with each bottle labeled: 'La Emperatriz Catalina.' He also began to write to her, insisting she come visit him in Spain. Finally, Kathleen did—with Tom and five of their children. The Marquis, still enchanted with Kathleen, arranged a fiesta in her honor and they stayed up all night, every night, and remained close friends until the Marquis died."

The arrival of the women—and not long after, the children—was a landmark in the development of Dhahran. Shaken by what they found, once the excitement of reunion had waned, they began to press for immediate improvement in what wasn't really much more than a dismal mining camp: cramped houses, yards and roofs still paved with a film of crude oil (Dhahran's blackout measure against bombers); treeless streets through which sand swept like snow during a blizzard; and flies, in the days before DDT had been either discovered or condemned, by the millions. It wasn't the end of the . world but there was a marked resemblance.

In a sunny garden many years after, Kathleen, talking over the sound of a fountain splashing in the corner of the yard, would admit that she hated the desert then. "I hated it and I fought it," she said.

She fought everything else as well: high prices, shortages, sickness and monotony. To save money she served a relentless diet of hamburger. Even when pregnant she did without milk and fresh fruit for months. To cope with sickness, she brought out all the old remedies, plus new drugs just coming into general use: penicillin and the sulfa drugs. Against monotony and boredom she took part in camp shows or gave formal dinner parties. Some grumbled about the Bargers "putting on the dog," but most people came and were glad of the chance to show the flag.

And, of course, she raised her family: Ann, a tall pixie of a girl who would follow her father to the University of North Dakota, graduate in 1963, then, to everyone's surprise, return to Saudi Arabia after getting married, and start raising three children within driving distance; Michael, a lean, likeable copy of his father, a National Merit Scholarship finalist and a recent prize winning graduate (for his Arabic) of Georgetown University; Timothy, high-spirited, confident and carefree, a diver good enough to work on underwater pipelines one summer, and a June graduate of Santa Clara University in California; and the three younger girls, Mary, now a freshman in Stanford University, Norah and Teresa, pupils in the Santa Catalina School in California.

Even for Dhahran, where children sprouted a lot faster than the grass did, this was a large family, and for years, friends said, it seemed larger because no matter what you were doing, or where, the Bargers seemed to be doing it too. Tennis. Camping. Swimming. Snorkling. Collecting old pottery fragments. Horseback-riding. Water skiing. They tried everything.

It was not all fun and games. School, reading, even dinner table conversations were matters of importance. No question was ever dismissed as trivial—if they didn't have the answer they looked it up—and serious research was as natural as brushing their teeth. Kathleen once found 11-year old Mike reading the encyclopedia late at night and asked if he were doing homework. "No," he replied casually, "I'm learning the Armenian alphabet."

Another thing the Bargers took seriously was their Roman Catholic faith which, nicely leavened with an irreverent wit, Tom, later to be a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory, and Kathleen, named a Lady of the Holy Spulchre in 1968, wove into their entire outlook on life. It would be intrusive to get into the details of that philosophy but it does go far beyond such obvious manifestations as Kathleen's tireless work on behalf of Arab refugees or such other causes as helping the flood victims in Florence a few years back. Barger, for example, has been an outspoken opponent of the treatment accorded Arab refugees, yet last year when someone in the States, completely misreading his beliefs, began sending him a "hate sheet" he took a red crayon and wrote across the front page' in bold letters: "THIS IS THE MOST SCURRILOUS PUBLICATION I HAVE EVER SEEN. REMOVE MY NAME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST IMMEDIATELY."

In the Barger household the study is the intellectual and social center. Like the bedrooms, it is strewn with books (prudently catalogued) and magazines, on subjects as far apart as archeology, the liturgy, guns, and politics. When the kids came home they used to go right to the study, kick off their shoes and start to read. It got so bad that Kathleen once tried to levy fines on anyone who left his or her shoes in the study. She had to quit, however. It got too expensive.

The Barger house, a low, spacious structure with carpets everywhere, a broad lawn and a small garden, is a sharp contrast to the cramped houses that Kathleen Barger lived in immediately after the war years and steadily filled up with children. And the story of how they got to it still produces a nostalgic smile. One day, Mrs. Amy Davies, wife of Fred A. Davies, then chairman of the board of Aramco, jokingly compared Kathleen's cramped house with the spacious executive mansion. "Kathleen," she said, "if you have a seventh child you're just going to have to move into our house. It's the only one big enough."

The Bargers did not have a seventh child. Nor did they move into the chairman's house. But four years later they did move into a more modest house across town when Barger, after some executive grooming as representative to the Saudi Government and assistant to the president, was named president himself. Some said he chose the other house out of humility. Skeptics said he just preferred the view. Barger said it was because there was more room for the kids.

In his book, Discovery, author Wallace Stegner wrote that the best history of any action is the experience of the men who lived it. If so the best story of Aramco is the story of Tom Barger. For as the company grew so did he.

In 1938, when Barger joined the company, oil had not even been discovered in commercial quantities. Today, as he retires as the head of that company, it has already produced 10 billion barrels of oil and in 1968 became the first operating company in history to produce more than a billion barrels in less than a year. By whatever , standards you name, it is a very large company requiring a very large man to run it.

Not long after he became president, Barger made a remark to a friend. "The day a man becomes president of a company," he said, "is the last day he knows what's going on in that company." It was a casual comment yet it was also characteristic of Barger's style of management, a style one associate described as "an abiding interest not merely in managing, but in the process of management."

This took many forms. He sent executives for language training to the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies. He backed advanced management courses at Harvard, Columbia and Cornell. Years before Peter Drucker became fashionable, Barger had read his books, talked to him and promoted his management theories throughout the company.

Theory, of course, is one thing, practice another, as some yeasty young talent scornfully pointed out when' the subject of Tom Barger came up over Dhahran dinner tables—as it inevitably did the past few months when just about everyone was discussing his imminent departure.

According to these young men, Aramco's management recently has been "outdated" and "unsophisticated." One of them even said so at a high-level meeting called to discuss a management improvements program. Many who took the course, the man said pointedly, were saying that Aramco's management is the "let's-not-rock-the-boat variety."

That sort of criticism never disturbs Barger, friends say, (typically, his response to the above was to simply frown and say, "If that's true, we had better do something about it.") but, they add, remarks on his lack of sophistication are certainly true.

From an ingrained habit of doing things for himself, Barger's approach to everything is individualistic. He is wary, for example, of sending out reports or letters that he hasn't either written himself or edited extensively. And if he wants to discuss some memorandum with someone he often just marches into the person's office with it rather than save time by telephoning. "He does not," as one friend put it, "always use the tools available to him."

Whether this approach is ineffective is, of course, open to dispute and—as is true of any effort to assess Barger—all the evidence lies with men who are unanimously enthusiastic about him and who will immediately tell you a story to show you why.

Some of the stories admittedly sound as if they have been collected for the Reader's Digest: Barger heaving a slab of chocolate cake at a cantankerous welder who was bullying a Saudi waiter; lending his coat to a shivering dancer in an icy, wartime nightclub in Paris; lovingly adjusting a cranky engine in his boat rather than replace it; or asking friends, "Have you read ...?" and quoting an obscure fact on an obscure subject.

Others, more recent, tend to show him as the successful corporation executive: Barger racing through a long, highly technical report at incredible speed, correcting errors and almost simultaneously signing it; Barger posing incisive, knowledgeable questions to experts in abstruse fields that the yeasty young men were sure he knew nothing about; Barger impatiently breaking into presentations with an obviously superior grasp of the subject at hand.

Like the desert mythology these stories, give or take a detail or two, are true. What is odd about them, in fact, is not that they strain anyone's credulity but that they somehow still fail to capture the qualities that, when all is said and done, are at the heart of any truthful assessment of Thomas Charles Barger, qualities that, like it or not, believe it or not, add up to this fact: the Barger myth is no myth, it's all true.

In a cynical age, and in this publication, such a statement isn't likely to go unchallenged. In fact, as one New York reporter can testify, it already has been.

This reporter, addressed himself during one visit to puncturing what he was certain was an inflated image. Like many people he didn't quite believe that somewhere between geologist and chairman of the board Barger hadn't bruised one tender ego, elbowed someone out of a promotion, or given Kathleen Elizabeth a good belt in the chops. A week later, however, he gave up and flew back to New York. "Couldn't find a wart," they chuckled.

Admittedly, this proves nothing. Ever so faintly, however, it suggests that the often embarrassingly lavish praise sources have been spooning onto researchers' plates recently, might be somewhat more than misguided nostalgia. In fact, since the sources include not only the royal, corporate, and diplomatic brass you'd expect, but also 50 or more geologists, photographers, writers, cartographers, priests, bankers, teachers, archeologists, secretaries and mechanics, it whispers that maybe—just maybe mind you—Barger is as extraordinary as the mythology says he is.

This does not imply even a small degree of perfection. He sweats. He swears. He makes blunders, gets discouraged and, one hears, is perfectly capable of unleashing on overconfident boys all the scornful anger an informed and disciplined mind can feel toward minds which are neither. Nevertheless in any balanced judgment, Tom Barger scores light years above average in every department, be it brains, drive, personality or character.

A good question at this point is why? What sets Barger apart? Does he have one of those extra Johnsonian glands we used to hear about? Is he a Rosicrucian without knowing it?

Men close to Barger snort openly at the idea that there's any secret to Tom Barger's success. "What people forget," one said, "is that Barger was never ordinary. He wasn't just a romantic figure out there in the desert chattering Arabic and chasing game. He was also damned good at his job and continually got better. And if you go back even further you might notice that he was at the top of his graduating class, that he almost qualified for two degrees, that he was president not just of his class but of his fraternity and the Newman Club, and was a professor at 26 years old. He didn't have to come to Arabia to be a success."

Another friend was even more indignant. "You can carp all you want about 'Eagle Scouts' and 'Superman,' but the facts are incontestable. He does speak Arabic, he is a scholar, a photographer and an archeologist, his family life is great, he can tear a motor down and fix it, he is loyal to his friends, he has run Aramco very successfully for ten tough years and he is indeed a perceptive and compassionate man."

"People seem to think there's a mystery to it," he went on. "There isn't. He is quite simply a man of immense intellectual vitality.

This does fit. Although personal warmth and kindness probably account for his popularity, it is intellect that is at the heart of this extra dimension that people seem to look for: an unflagging ability to improve and change. He knows more now than he did 30 years ago; he knows more this week than he did last week and probably will know more tomorrow than he does today. By such means, and almost exclusively by such means, did he carve out a career and a character that is rare in industry and is unlikely to be seen in the Middle East again.

What is probably the most definitive description of Tom Barger, however, came from a man who worked closely with him for years. This man listened a while, then got out a letter and gave it to a writer. "If you want real insight into Tom Barger," he said, "read this letter. I think it sums up better than anyone else can what he stood for, what he accomplished and what he held in esteem."

The letter read as follows:

"Now that he has been officially replaced... I feel free to write to you... to express our regret on his departure.

"I suppose (he) will be best remembered for his humaneness and his humanism. Quite obviously he was greatly liked and respected by everyone who knew him, regardless of nationality. His command of Arabic, in public speeches as well as in private conversation simply extended and strengthened an affection and trust the Saudis had already given him. Nevertheless, that an American could have a social evening with half a dozen Arabs at which Arabic was the only language used, is remarkable. I add that his popularity was in no small measure due to his personal humility, his eagerness to listen and a complete absence of personal arrogance.

"As an American citizen in Saudi Arabia I valued even more highly his grasp of the affairs of the Kingdom, his quick intelligence, his imaginative counsel and mature judgment, and his readiness to perform unpleasant duties. At no time in our long acquaintance have I known, or heard, of any instance in which he has ever let personal feelings influence his actions. And his judgments... were based upon understanding and knowledge, not on prejudice or suspicion..."

The letter, which referred to the departure from Saudi Arabia of one of Barger's close friends, United States Ambassador Parker T. Hart, was dated 13, June 1965, addressed to the Assistant Secretary of State and signed by its author: Thomas C. Barger.

This article appeared on pages 4-13 of the September/October 1969 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for September/October 1969 images.