Ambassador Pamela E. Bridgewater has led diplomatic efforts that helped to change the course of world events, including the distinction of being the longest-serving U.S. diplomat in South Africa during the historic transition from apartheid to a non-racial government. As the political officer assigned to cover Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) during the intense negotiations leading up to the end of apartheid, a former Ambassador to South Africa said “Bridgewater established a degree of trust and confidence with Mr. Mandela and the ANC leadership that the U.S. had not previously enjoyed.”
She was equally welcomed as an honest broker with the rival Inkatha Freedom Party during her tenure as Consul General in Durban, South Africa in the volatile KwaZulu-Natal province. At the height of the most recent civil war in Liberia, she was named Special Coordinator for Peace in Liberia and helped spearhead efforts that led to a comprehensive peace agreement, reconstruction and democratic elections.
Ambassador Bridgewater has championed strong mentoring and diversity during her Foreign Service career. She has continued development and outreach efforts in Africa and throughout the world. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Benin from 2000-2002 and received the National Order of Benin for her personal contributions to the U.S.-Benin bilateral relationship.
A native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, she is a graduate of Walker-Grant High School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Virginia State University. She received a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati and completed course work and advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree from the American University School of International Service.
In June 2005, the United States Senate confirmed her as Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, the first African-American woman to that post, after serving a year as Diplomat-in-Residence at Howard University. The government of Ghana awarded her the Order of the Volta (Companion) for outstanding contributions to development. Ambassador Bridgewater also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and was the first African-American woman Principal Officer(Consul General) in Durban, South Africa. Her former students have distinguished themselves as Foreign Minister, State’s Attorney General, Judges, academicians, legal experts and authors.
She received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Virginia State University and the University of Cincinnati; Morgan State University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Public Service. Other honors include the Girl Scouts of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award, the Dominion Power Strong Leaders Award, the 100 Black Women’s Candace Award and numerous commendations for her contributions to international affairs and public policy.
Ambassador Bridgewater is the recipient of the U.S. Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the Charles Cobb Award for Trade Promotion and three Department of State Superior Honor Awards. She is currently a Senior Inspector in the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General. Ambassador Bridgewater holds the rank of Career Minister. Her foreign language is French.
On July 12, 2010, President Obama nominated her to be the next United States Ambassador to Jamaica, and she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 29 for her confirmation hearing. Ambassador Bridgewater has served in Belgium, Jamaica and The Bahamas. Her Department of State assignments were in the Bureaus of European Affairs, Oceans and Environmental Affairs, and Intelligence and Research. She joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1980 after a teaching career at Morgan State University and Bowie State University in Maryland and Voorhees College in South Carolina.