OCRACOKE– Leonard Carpenter Meeker, after long period of declininghealth, died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 29, in his home on OcracokeIsland, attended by his wife Beverly and son James. Hewas 98. There will be no funeral. A celebration of hislife will be held next spring on what would have been his99th birthday.
Leonard had a long, distinguished career inpublic service, diplomacy and social justice law. He served as theLegal Adviser to the U.S. State Department under President Lyndon B.Johnson from 1965 to 1969 and as Ambassador to Romania 1969 to 1973.
Afterleaving government service, for many years he was both a lawyer and thedirector of the International Project at the Center for Law and SocialPolicy in Washington, D.C. In his work there, he traveled to countriesin Africa and Latin America to assist local lawyers in promoting andprotecting human rights. He also served as a board member of the Unionof Concerned Scientists.
His love of Ocracoke began in 1952,when he and his childhood friend, Charles Runyon, who also worked atthe State Department, first visited. Their passion for the island wasdue in large part to its outstanding opportunities for swimming andsailing and its unspoiled natural beauty. Both of them ended upbuying property and on the island.
In 2002, Leonard movedfull-time to living here on Windmill Point, in the last house that isseen as one leaves Silver Lake harbor by ferry. He was active inthe community, including having chaired the Ocracoke Planning AdvisoryBoard for many years.
Born in 1916, he grew up in Montclair,N.J. Leonard was a graduate of Deerfield Academy (1933), AmherstCollege (1937) and Harvard School of Law (1940). He began hislegal career in the General Counsel’s Office of the U.S. Department ofthe Treasury and in the Office of the Solicitor General, which handlesthe federal government’s litigation at the Supreme Court. In 1942, heentered the U.S. Army as a private, and was discharged as a firstlieutenant in 1946. During his period in the Army, Leonardwas selected for service in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS),the wartime intelligence agency. One of his assignments wastraveling throughout China to assess the impact should the Communistsassume power. After the Army, he joined the State Department’s Officeof the Legal Adviser. He was named assistant legal adviser for UnitedNations Affairs in 1951, deputy legal adviser in 1961, and legaladviser of the State Department in 1965.
In 2007, Leonardpublished a reflective, in-depth, three-volume set of his views onlife, “Philosophy and Politics,” “Experiences” and “Stories.”
Aman of great personal skills, Leonard loved to receive visitors and wasboth an entertaining conversationalist and skillful listener. Heenjoyed answering the many questions posed by the curious. Eschewingthe formalities of title, he was simply called “Leonard” or “Len” byhis many friends on Ocracoke Island.
In 1947, he marriedChristine Halliday, who died in 1958. In 1969, he married Beverly JoanMeeker. In addition to Beverly, he is survived by his six children.From his first wife, Christine, they are Richard Halliday Meeker, ofPortland, Ore.; Charles Carpenter Meeker, of Raleigh, N. C., and SarahLouise Meeker Jensen, of Los Angeles, Calif.. His three children withBeverly are Eliza Ann Hunt Meeker, of Paris, France; Dr. James EdwardWeeks Meeker, of Portland, Ore., and Benjamin Chester Gilman Meeker, ofBloomfield Hills, Mich.
Leonard’s final years on Ocracoke weremade more enjoyable by the loving care and attention provided him byhis wife, Beverly. During this time, he continued to enjoy cocktailhour, entertaining his many friends on an upstairs screened in porch,where there were splendid views of Silver Lake harbor, the OcracokeLight, Pamlico Sound and the daily show of an Ocracoke sunset.
The family suggests donations in Leonard Meeker’s memory be made to the Ocracoke Preservation Society. (You can read more about the life of Leonard Meeker on the Ocracoke Observer website, www.ocracokeobserver.com.)