J. Christopher Stevens Biography

(10th United States Ambassador to Libya)

Birthday: April 18, 1960 (Aries)

Born In: Grass Valley, California, United States

J. Christopher Stevens was an American diplomat and lawyer, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Libya from June 2012 till his death in September that year. Stevens initially worked as an attorney and was a member of the California State Bar. After joining the United States Foreign Service in 1991, he served in various diplomatic posts in Israel, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. From 2007 to 2009, Stevens worked as the deputy chief of mission in Libya, and in 2011, he was sent to Libya again, as a special representative to the National Transitional Council. Stevens was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Libya in April 2012. He assumed office in June. However, a terrorist attack, orchestrated by members of an al-Qaeda affiliate named Ansar al-Sharia, on the night of September 11, 2012, took his life. The militants set the U.S. compound in Benghazi on fire. Stevens, IT specialist Sean Smith, and a security officer took refuge in the bathroom of a building within the compound. However, though the security officer managed to escape, rescuers found Sean dead when they arrived at the scene. Stevens could not be located due to the thick smoke. Later, it was found out that a group of Libyan civilians had carried Stevens to a local hospital, but in spite of the best efforts of the doctors to revive him, he died. He now remains buried in Grass Valley, California.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John Christopher Stevens

Died At Age: 52


father: Jan S. Stevens

mother: Mary J. Stevens

siblings: Anne Stevens, Tom Stevens

Born Country: United States

Lawyers Diplomats

Died on: September 11, 2012

place of death: Benghazi, Libya

Notable Alumni: National Defense University, National War College, University Of California, Hastings College Of The Law, University Of California, Hastings

Cause of Death: Smoke Inhalation

Ancestry: French American, Swedish American

U.S. State: California

More Facts

education: University Of California, Berkeley, National Defense University, National War College, University Of California, Hastings College Of The Law, University of California, Hastings

Childhood & Early Life

John Christopher “Chris” Stevens was born on April 18, 1960, in Grass Valley, California, United States of America.

He was the eldest of the three children born to Jan S. Stevens and his wife, Mary J. Stevens (née Floris). Stevens’s father had served as the California assistant attorney general.

Stevens belonged to a West Coast family that had French, Swedish, and Chinook roots. He grew up in Northern California, with his two younger siblings: his sister, Anne, and his brother, Thomas (or Tom).

His parents divorced in 1975 and got married to their other (respective) partners later. Stevens thus had a half-sister named Hilary, born in 1980 to his father and his stepmother.

His mother was a talented cellist and later joined the Marin Symphony Orchestra (1969—2004). In 1976, she married music critic Robert Commanday, who worked with the San Francisco Chronicle.

In 1977, Stevens went to Spain as an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student. A year later, he graduated from Piedmont High School.

In 1982, J. Christopher Stevens obtained a BA degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB). He was also a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the university.

From 1983 to 1985, as a Peace Corps volunteer, Stevens taught English in Morocco. He obtained a JD degree from the Hastings College of Law of the University of California in 1989. In 2010, Stevens obtained an MS degree from the National War College.

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Before joining the United States Foreign Service, J. Christopher Stevens worked as an attorney of international trade in Washington, D.C. He became a member of the California State Bar on January 26, 1990. However, since August 1, 1991, he remained an inactive member of the Bar.

In 1991, Stevens joined the United States Foreign Service. Some of his initial overseas assignments were as the deputy principal officer and the chief of political section in Jerusalem, Israel; as a political officer in Damascus, Syria; as a consular/political officer in Cairo, Egypt; and as a consular/economic officer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In Washington, D.C., Stevens was the director of office at the Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs, a Pearson Fellow (working with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Richard Lugar), a special assistant to the under-secretary for political affairs, a desk officer for Iran, and a staff assistant at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

From 2007 to 2009, J. Christopher Stevens worked in Libya as the deputy chief of mission. From March 2011 to November 2011, he worked as a special representative to the National Transitional Council (during the Libyan revolution).

He was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Libya (under the Obama administration) on April 2, 2012. He arrived in Tripoli in May 2012 and assumed office on June 7, 2012. He thus became the 10th U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The Attacks and Stevens’s Death

On September 10, 2012, J. Christopher Stevens went to the U.S. compound located in Benghazi to work on a special mission. His job included interacting with local contacts and reducing staffing gaps.

On the night of September 11, around 150 Islamic terrorists belonging to an al-Qaeda affiliate barged into the U.S. compound with machine guns and grenades, and set the main consulate building on fire. Stevens, IT specialist Sean Smith, and a security officer were holed up in a safe room in a compound building known as Villa C.

Apparently, Stevens had tried using his cell phone to alert others about the attack. However, in the brief phone call he made to the embassy officials at 9:50 p.m. that night, Stevens could only tell the U.S. deputy chief of mission that they had been attacked. The call dropped soon.

Stevens, Smith, and the security officer made their way to a bathroom. The security officer put towels under the door of the bathroom and opened the windows. However, that caused further trouble, as thick smoke from the fire entered the bathroom and suffocated them.

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The officer escaped through a narrow window and collapsed in an enclosed patio. He tried looking for Stevens and Sean Smith, but both were missing. The rescuers arrived much later, only to find that Smith had died due to asphyxiation. Even they could not find Stevens in the thick smoke.

There were two other attacks that day, both at a nearby CIA compound. The second attack took place at around midnight but did not cause any casualties. The third attack, which took place early morning the following day, involved a mortar fire which killed two security agents, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

At about 2 a.m., the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli got a call from the phone that the security officer had given it to Stevens earlier. The man who called told the officials in Arabic that Stevens had been shifted to a hospital in Benghazi. The embassy officials did not know which hospital he had been taken to.

It was initially suspected that the phone call had been made by militants, who wanted to trap the U.S. embassy officials. Thus, a Libyan official was sent to the Benghazi Medical Center. He told the embassy that Stevens had been found there.

The staff at the medical center said that six civilians had brought Stevens to the emergency room at about 1:15 a.m. that night. Stevens was apparently already dead due to a cardiac arrest by the time he had arrived at the hospital. However, the doctors there attempted to revive him for about 45 minutes.

Eventually, at about 2 a.m. local time the following day (September 12, 2012), J. Christopher Stevens was officially pronounced dead. He was 52 at the time of his death.

Stevens remains buried in the New Elm Ridge Cemetery (which was earlier known as the Forester's Cemetery) in Grass Valley, California.

The Aftermath

Investigations into the attacks proved that it had been planned in advance. The then-president of Libya, Muhammad Magariaf, blamed members of the Ansar al-Sharia for the attacks and linked them to the Al-Qaeda militants active in the Islamic Maghreb.

Libyan officials also said that it could have been a revenge attack of loyalists of the deceased Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who had lost in the Libyan Civil War a year back.

Personal Life

J. Christopher Stevens never married and did not have any children.

Stevens was a polyglot and spoke fluent English, French, and Arabic. He was also known for his friendly nature and loved shopping in the markets of the Old City in Jerusalem.

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