Chapel Hill: Obituaries

William Norris Dale

William Norris Dale, 95, Diplomat, Lecturer, Father,

William Norris Dale, of Durham, NC, passed away peacefully at his home on Mon. Feb. 24th after a long and rich life. A man of quiet ambition, Mr. Dale rose through the ranks of the US State Department to become Ambassador.

Born in Washington, DC (1919), Mr. Dale grew up in Clinton, NY, where his father was professor of geology at Hamilton College. After Utica Country Day School, Mr. Dale attended Harvard where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Political Science (1940) and also earned his Master's Degree in Public Administration (Fellow, 1942). After serving in the Navy, achieving the rank of Lieutenant, senior grade, Mr. Dale embarked on this career serving the country in the diplomatic corps along with his wife, Jane Elizabeth nee Capen, whom he married on Oct. 25, 2042.

In a series of posts with increasing importance and responsibilities, Mr. Dale served in Copenhagen, Ottawa, Paris, London, Ankara, and Tel Aviv, as well as at the State Department in Washington, DC. Ultimately, he was appointed Ambassador to the Central African Republic by President Richard Nixon

Bill and Jane Dale raised three sons while living in these varied locations. While resident abroad, Mr. Dale developed a passion for collecting interesting artifacts and artwork. Mr. Dale stayed active by playing tennis into his eighties. He was a loyal correspondent who kept in touch with friends and colleagues around the world.

An avid reader, he was an original thinker, pursuing fresh and even conflicting ideas. He was known to ask his young sons about international affairs, noting that great nations often act like small children.

After retirement in 1975, the Dales wanted to live in an intellectually stimulating community and they chose Chapel Hill because of its academic environment.

Mr. Dale stayed engaged in foreign policy issues in retirement. He lectured at University of North Carolina and Duke University, focusing on the Middle East, while also managing commentary for WCHL and a local cable TV station. He was active in the Democratic Party in several positions. A recognized leader, he served as President of these organizations: The North Carolina chapter of the Archeological Institute of America, the West Triangle chapter of the United Nations Association, the Harvard Club of the Research Triangle, and the Torch Club. He was also a board member of American Diplomacy, an internet publication.

His wife Jane predeceased him in 1987. Subsequently, Mr. Dale married Mary Jane Penniall, who passed away Sept. 13th, 2010. In his later years, he lived in a cottage adjoining the home of his middle son, Barney, and his wife, Denny, in Durham.

Mr. Dale was the son of Nelson Clark Dale and Marion Ethel nee Norris. His brother, Nelson Clark Dale, Jr., predeceased him in 1946. He is survived by W. Norris Dale, Jr. (Elizabeth) of Portland, ME; Bernard Capen Dale (Denny) of Durham, NC; and Nelson Clark Dale (Jane) of Bedford, MA, his sons; and also Rebecca, Emily, and Michael, his grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren, Antonia and Bjorn Nagel.

A memorial service is planned for Friday, February 28th, 3:30 p.m., at the Durham Friends Meeting, 404 Alexander St, Durham. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to:, or to Keep Durham Beautiful (please designate the donation for the New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee). volved.html#donate