David Long ’59

Of the many adjectives used to describe him, David Edwin Long was perhaps most proud of being labeled irascible and irreverent. Independent and with a strong moral sense, he spent his life ignoring social convention and doing what he considered to be right.

After 83 years, that life ended as he passed away peacefully at his home in Lake Ridge, Virginia on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, surrounded by his family.

David was born on November 21, 1937 in Washington, Georgia, and grew up as the younger son of a Presbyterian minister. At one point he described himself as a Professional Student, earning a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College in North Carolina, a master’s from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, another master’s from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, and a PhD from the George Washington University in Washington DC.

He married Barbara Ellen Baggett on December 28, 1962, and immediately whisked her away to the Middle East to begin a long career as a Foreign Service Officer and then civil servant at the State Department.

Moving to Washington DC around 1970, he became one of the country’s leading experts on Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. His honest and direct assessments did not always endear him to management, but he was widely respected.

He authored and co-authored over a dozen books, including one of the most widely used textbooks on the Middle East. He became a recognized expert on international terrorism, serving as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism during the late 1980s.

He loved teaching, and taught at several universities including Johns Hopkins, American University, the University of Pennsylvania, the US Coast Guard Academy (where for a while he was acting chair of the Humanities Department), and Georgetown (where he was the first Executive Director of the newly formed Center for Contemporary Arab Studies).

And he never lost his love of travel: from trekking through the deserts of Sudan, to diving off the coast of Saudi Arabia, to traveling though all 50 states in the US, he loved experiencing new places and connecting with people from all walks of life.

He is survived by his wife Barbara; his three sons Gordon (Elizabeth Metzler), Geoffrey (Sarah Kahn), and Andrew; and four grandchildren: Rachel, David, Stephanie, and Caroline, who knew him as a loving and attentive grandfather, always quick with a story no matter how often his listeners may have heard it before.

His belief in choosing one’s own path and striving for self-fulfillment provides deep inspiration for his children and grandchildren, and they will always remember him.

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