NEW YORK (PIX11) – Edward Dudley Jr. has been waiting for decades to tell his father’s story. Now, Edward Richard Dudley will be featured in a new documentary premiering this week on PBS, “The American Diplomat.”
Dudley says his father was “one of these amazing guys that got things done.”
“A lot of times the things that he did were behind the scenes,” he said.
Dudley became a Manhattan borough president and the first African American U. S. ambassador.
Born in Virginia in 1911, Dudley was raised in Virginia and moved to New York City as a young man where he attended law school.
“He started with the state attorney general for a year and Thurgood had heard about him,” Dudley Jr. explained.
Thurgood Marshall recruited Dudley to work alongside him at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. They worked on voting rights cases and filed lawsuits in an effort to get Black teachers equal pay across the Jim Crow South.
“My father’s job was to go down and try some of those cases. And there were a lot of local attorneys that risked their lives, starting the case and getting everything ready for them,” Dudley Jr. said.
In 1949, President Harry Truman appointed Dudley as the U. S. ambassador to Liberia.
While working for the State Department, Dudley challenged the agency to diversify. Leola Calzolai-Stewart is the director of The American Diplomat.
“He created this basically this, this research memo that really laid out the facts and what the reality was for Back diplomats at that time,” Calzolai-Stewart said.
In 1953, Dudley returned home to Harlem. He later served as Manhattan borough president and even ran for attorney general of New York State. Eventually, Dudley became a judge in New York Supreme Court, a role he held for 20 years.
Dudley Jr. says his father “wasn’t worried about accolades, he was more concerned with results and changing the system.”