Jack Matlock graduated from Greensboro Senior High School in 1946, graduated summa cum laude from Duke University in 1950, and later earned an Master of Arts from Columbia University in 1952.
Jack joined the Foreign Service in 1956, and served in Vienna, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Moscow, Accra, Zanzibar, and Dar es Salaam. He was Director of Soviet Affairs in the State Department, Diplomat in Residence at Vanderbilt University, and Deputy Director of the Foreign Service Institute. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs on the National Security Council Staff.
Matlock was US President Ronald Reagan's choice for the position of ambassador to the Soviet Union, serving from 1987 to 1991. His previous tours in Moscow were as Vice Consul and Third Secretary, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Chief of Mission, and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
After he retired from the Foreign Service in 1991, Matlock reentered the academic world, becoming the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of the Practice of International Diplomacy at Columbia. After five years in that position he moved to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was George F. Kennan Professor from 1996 to 2001. Matlock has held visiting appointments at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, at Hamilton College, at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and at Mount Holyoke College.
Quotations: I don't see much difference between a communist regime and a fascist regime. In fact, I think one of the greatest intellectual confusions that many have had over these decades is the whole right and left thing - fascists are on the right, communists are on the left. Nonsense! They come together and overlap, and we're seeing this in Russia today where the allies are the nationalistic chauvinists and the communists. They are natural allies because they are authoritarians by nature. And more than authoritarians, they tend to be totalitarians, which means that they tend to destroy all of the elements of the civil society. To me that's much more important than whether you're philosophically right or left. You know, are you willing to create and live in a civil society, in an open society, or not? That to me is the basic issue.
On September 2, 1949, Jack married Rebecca Burrum, and they have five children: James, Hugh, Nell, David, and Joseph.