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Jamil M. Baroody (BA ’26) lived an extraordinary life. “It was a different world back then,” remembers his son, Robert. It was a world in which a Lebanese Christian could be a representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations for more than 30 years. During that time, Baroody became known as the “dean” of UN delegates, a passionate and articulate spokesman for the Arab world, and a champion of the Palestinian people. Baroody was also, according to his sons, Robert and Lloyd, a great father and terrific cook.
Baroody was born in Souk El Gharb in 1905. His father, alumnus Murad Baroody (BA 1874, MS 1879), founded the largest pharmacy in Beirut. After graduating from AUB, Jamil Baroody moved to London where he authored articles in political journals. He also earned money from dealing in essential oils, leveraging his undergraduate degree in chemistry and his pharmaceutical background. While he was in London, he met Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who was then Saudi foreign minister. It was the beginning of a long and close personal relationship that would last until King Faisal’s death in 1975.
In the late 1930s, Baroody moved to New York, where he managed the Lebanese pavilion at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair which had been created by his brother-in-law and noted Lebanese author, Charles Corm. In the early 1940s, Baroody spent a year at Princeton University where he taught Arabic. He was appointed a member of the Saudi Arabia delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco that established the United Nations in 1945. Baroody was one of 20* AUB alumni (graduates and former students) who attended the San Francisco Conference. Although he was the most prominent member of the Saudi delegation and was given the rank of ambassador and deputy permanent representative, the “chief delegate” from Saudi Arabia was always a member of the royal family.
One of Baroody’s many responsibilities was to keep an eye on then-Crown Prince Faisal’s children. “When Faisal sent seven of his sons to the US to attend school,” says Lloyd, “he appointed my father as their guardian giving Dad complete legal authority to make decisions about his sons.” Lloyd tells a wonderful story about the time that one of Faisal’s sons – “it could have been the future foreign minister, Saud al Faisal,”– came to his father’s office in New York because he needed a new pair of shoes. “There were holes in his shoes,” says Lloyd. “My father took one look at his shoes and decided that the holes weren’t that big and so the shoes didn’t need to be replaced. He arranged for the shoes to be resoled instead! Dad did not want the young princes to think that their royal birth made them better than anyone else.”
Baroody’s personal ties to King Faisal gave him enormous latitude at the United Nations. “The king trusted him,” remembers Robert. “On one occasion I remember that our father had been told to vote one way, but then voted a different way on a particular issue. When King Faisal asked our father about this, Dad explained that he thought it was the right thing to do – and the king accepted that,” says Lloyd.
During his long tenure at the United Nations, Baroody spoke out strongly on a number of issues. In 1948, for example, during the debate on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Baroody objected to the clause that endorsed the right of individuals to change their religion because of his concern about the “proselytizing activities of missionaries who were often the precursors of foreign intervention.”1 This position, which was consistent with the policy of the country he represented and informed by his pre-war experiences with European colonial powers, put him at odds with another AUB alumnus, Charles Malik (BA ’27), who was secretary of the Human Rights Commission, and advocated for the right to change religion.
Although Baroody spoke out especially strongly and passionately for Arab causes, most notably after the 1967 Six-Day War, he is also remembered for his eloquent and passionate speeches on other issues as well. In 1971, for example, he objected forcefully to the decision by the UN to admit the People's Republic of China and expel the Republic of China (Taiwan).
When Baroody died in 1979, he was lauded as “a wise and enthusiastic guardian of the ideals and objectives of the United Nations.”2 “Dad always described himself as ‘a UN man,’” remembers Robert. “He believed in the UN. He knew very well how the game was played, and could be eminently pragmatic, but deep down he was a humanitarian and an idealist.”
* Below is the list of the 20 AUB alumni/former students who attended the 1945 San Francisco Conference:
Ghassem Ghani (MD 1919)
Abdul Majid Abbas (former student 1934)
Mohammad Ibrahim Adham (former student 1939)
Darwish Al-Haidari (former student 1927)
Abdul Jabbar Chalabi (former student 1926)
Salih Mahdi Haidar (former student 1933)
Fadhel Jamali (BA 1927)
Hashim Jawad (BA 1932)
Majid Khaddouri (BA 1932)
Angela Jurdak Khoury (BA 1937, MA 1938)
Zobhi Mahmassani (former student 1924)
Charles Habib Malik (BA 1927)
Ahmad Abdul Jabbar (BA 1943)
Jamil M. Baroody (BA 1926)
Naim Al-Antaki (former student 1924)
Fares Al-Khouri (BA 1897)
Nazem Al-Koudsi (former student 1920)
Raja F. Hawrani ((former student 1925)
Toufik Huneidi (former student 1940)
Farid Zeineddine (BA 1925)
2 UNSC Official Records, 2120th Meeting, March 5, 1979