Joel Carrington Hudson (1899–1970)

Joel Carrington Hudson was a career diplomat at the U.S. Department of State who served in various posts around the world, including being stationed in Germany on the cusp of World War II.

Joel Hudson was born in Ravenden (Lawrence County) on September 4, 1899. Hudson’s father was William R. Hudson, who is referred to at times as “Reverend” and at other times as “Doctor.” His mother was Ida Tanner Hudson, who died before 1910. His parents lived in Lonoke (Lonoke County) with the seven-month-old Hudson at the time of the 1900 census. In 1910, Hudson and his father were each enumerated as “roomer” in Houston, Texas, where Hudson’s father was the founding minister of the Third Baptist Church. Little else is known of Hudson’s first eighteen years. (Interestingly, in both the 1910 and 1920 census, Hudson is listed as Joel Harrington Hudson, but those two census records are the only reference found to “Harrington.”)

In 1916–17, Hudson was a student at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois. In 1917, Hudson joined the U.S. Army and was sent overseas. Following the war, he attended the University of Grenoble in France. Upon returning, he joined the Missouri National Guard as first lieutenant. He was enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1920, where he was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. He lived just off campus as a boarder in one of the several upper-class residences of the area. It is not clear how Hudson left a “blue-collar” work college in 1917 to join the war effort and then resumed, following the war, at Washington University, one of the most prestigious schools in the Midwest.

Hudson, however, made the best of his good fortune, graduating from Washington University with a BS and joining the Diplomatic Corps in 1923. Hudson’s first post was in New Zealand, where he was listed as vice consul. He was also posted in other nearby places during his early years with the corps, including New South Wales, Australia, and Surabaya, Java. Hudson had a number of responsibilities, including writing a book in 1928, Boot and Shoe Industry of New Zealand (U.S. Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Trade Information Bulletin no. 554). On August 18, 1925, he married an English native of New Zealand, Elsie Margaret Tringham (born March 20, 1905). They had a son named Michael Carrington Hudson, who was born on May 13, 1935, in Java.

Perhaps the highlight of Hudson’s career was being posted to Berlin in 1937, during which time Germany was preparing for war. Many people in Germany, especially Jews, were desperate to obtain visas to America before war broke out. Hudson’s family was with him in Germany, as attested by an Associated Press story from April 18, 1940, disclosing that three of the wives of diplomats (and their children) had fled to Oslo, Norway, in September 1939. This included Elsie and Michael Hudson. But when Germany invaded Norway in April 1940, they found themselves in much greater danger than they had been in while in Germany. After hiding in the woods, they managed to take a train to safety in Stockholm, Sweden. Joel Hudson left Europe via ocean passage to New York, leaving Lisbon on October 27, 1940.

During his years in Foreign Service, Hudson traveled by ship to and from the United States on numerous occasions; he took many trips into and out of both the West Coast and East Coast. He was often accompanied by his wife and son, but many were solo trips. Over the years, Hudson was a ranking member in a number of embassies, including Romania, Italy, and some South American countries. Hudson’s final assignment was Consul General in Milan, Italy.

Hudson was one of a handful who received a promotion to Consul General 1947. Hudson and his wife had visited the San Francisco, California, area for many years on furlough. When it came time to retire in the mid-1950s, they chose the Oakland area. Hudson remained active by speaking at Stanford University and other places about the U.S. Consular Service. He and his wife moved to the retirement village of Sun City, Arizona, a few years before his death on December 15, 1970. Elsie Hudson lived most of the remainder of her life with her son until her death in 1988. Joel and Elsie are both buried in Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City.

For additional information:
“New Zealand Woman Here with U.S. Consul Husband.” Oakland Tribune, June 30, 1930, p. 4.

“Wives of U.S. Diplomats in Berlin Return from Nazi-Held Oslo.” Amarillo Daily News, April 19, 1940, p. 12.

Robert L. Hudson
Mountain Home, Arkansas


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