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In Memory of Landrum Bolling (1913-2018)



Landrum Bolling, whose work for Middle East peace was well recognized throughout the world, died peacefully in his sleep at home in Arlington, Virginia on January 17. He was 104.

Bolling, born in Tennessee, lived an extraordinary life as a journalist, professor, non-profit executive, and passionate advocate of peace in the Middle East.   A Quaker, he was well- known, as President of Earlham College, the prestigious Quaker school, and during the forty years of citizen-diplomacy for peace between Israel and Palestine.

As a friend and advisor to the late Merle Thorpe, Jr., founder of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Bolling served on the FMEP Board for many decades, and helped shape its mission of peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Bolling’s vibrant personality, wisdom, and enthusiasm, and his message of hope and reconciliation touched many, and he had wide contacts with world leaders.  President Jimmy Carter chose Bolling as a trusted citizen envoy for early back-channel contacts with Yasser Arafat, and he was close to both Arab and Israeli leaders, and statesmen throughout the world.

Bolling recognized before most Americans, that the Palestinians’ attachment to the Holy Land as their homeland, was as passionate and profound as Israel’s, and he was an early champion of a two-state solution.  In his later years, he warned that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, unless reversed, would corrupt Israel and destroy hopes for peace and justice for both peoples.  He spoke out for stronger and more effective American diplomacy.

In his diverse other roles, Bolling was a war correspondent in Yugoslavia in World War II.  He taught at Beloit and Brown before his presidency of Earlham.   He was CEO of the Eli Lilly Foundation, and during the Balkans war, he directed reconciliation efforts in Sarajevo for Mercy Corps and later became its Director at Large.  He also served as Director of theTantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem and as Senior Research Fellow at the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Bolling published many books and papers, and won 24 honorary degrees. He produced and appeared in an acclaimed DVD, Searching  for Peace in the Middle East, and another with Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Jim Baker, and former NSC Advisors Scowcroft and Brzezinski.