Ambassador Barry L. Wells has had an extensive career in international affairs with the United States Foreign Service after an earlier period as a university professor and administrator. Wells was born in 1942 in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from East High School in that city in 1959. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Youngstown State University in 1966 and also earned a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) in 1970.
Wells served as Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at Howard University Graduate School of Social Work in Washington, D.C. from 1972 to 1978. While at Howard University, his interest and involvement in the international arena began to flourish. Wells was instrumental in establishing summer field placements for Howard University graduate students with the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
Wells’s first significant overseas experience came when he was hired by the U.S. Peace Corps to serve as Country Director for the nations of Belize and Jamaica. Wells worked with the Peace Corps for ten years from 1978 to 1988.
Ambassador Wells joined the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute in 1988. The Institute is considered the most important institution for the training of career diplomats. Wells served in a number of capacities including Associate Dean of the School of Professional Studies, Associate Dean of the Senior Seminar, and Deputy Director of the Institute from 2001 to 2005.
On February 22, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed Wells Director of The Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. State Department. Secretary Rice later named him as the Department of State’s first Chief Diversity Officer on January 22, 2007.
On October 29, 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Wells as Ambassador to Gambia. After U.S. Senate confirmation he arrived in Banjul, the capital and presented his credentials on February 13, 2008. Wells served as U.S. Ambassador until August 2010.
After returning to the United States in 2010, Wells was appointed by President Barack Obama as the Director of Office of Civil Rights and Diversity for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Wells held this position until 2012.
Wells is the recipient of three Superior and two Meritorious Honor Awards from the U.S. State Department. He is the father of two daughters and currently resides in Florida with his wife, Winsome. He is an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.