Taylor, Kenneth Douglas

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Taylor, Kenneth Douglas

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  • Taylor, Ken

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1934-2015

History

Kenneth Douglas Taylor was a Canadian diplomat and businessman. Born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1934 to Richard and Nancy Taylor, he was educated at Crescent Heights High School. He received his B.A. at Victoria College in 1957, and his M.B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1959. He married Patricia Taylor, née Lee, whom he met while studying for his Masters at Berkeley. They have one son, Douglas Taylor.

Upon graduation in 1959, Taylor joined the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, and was appointed General Director in 1974. During his time with the foreign service he was posted to Guatemala from 1960-63; Detroit, Michigan from 1963-66; Karachi, Pakistan from 1966-67; London, England from 1967-71; and finally to Tehran, Iran from 1977-80. In 1980, he became the Canadian consul-general in New York. In 1984, he retired from the diplomatic service and settled with his family in Manhattan to pursue a career in business.

Taylor was Senior Vice-President of corporate government relations at Nabisco Brands and RJR Nabisco, Inc., until a takeover changed the composition of the management team in 1989. He continued as a director of several firms and served on the boards of various agencies including the Business Council for International Understanding, the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, Vancouver-based company First City, Alberta Northeast Gas, and the Matthews Group in Toronto. He was Chancellor of Victoria University from 1998-2004.

Taylor is best known for his role in the Iran hostage takeover of 1979, when he was the Canadian ambassador to Iran. In November of 1979, following a year of civil unrest, Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 hostages. Four US consulate employees and two of their wives escaped capture and found sanctuary at the Canadian Embassy. With assistance from the CIA, Taylor and another Canadian diplomatic official, John Sheardown, hid the six Americans in their residences and obtained special permission to create Canadian passports and documents under false names to help them escape. The operation was known as the “Canadian Caper” and several books and films were made highlighting Taylor’s work, including the television film Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981), and the book Our Man in Tehran (2010) by Robert Wright. It also provided the inspiration for the Academy Award-winning film Argo (2012), directed by and starring Ben Affleck, in which Taylor is portrayed by Canadian actor Victor Garber.

For his involvement in the Iran hostage crisis, Taylor received numerous awards and honours, including the United States Congressional Gold Medal, the Military Order of the Mike Award, the Americas Society Gold Medal, the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award and the Gold Medal of the Canadian Club. He also received honourary degrees from various universities and keys to several cities throughout the United States and Canada. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980.

Ken Taylor died in New York City in 2015.

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Created by: BC March 15, 2019

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