In 1910, few would have guessed that a tall, skinny recent graduate from Denver’s East High School would someday be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—and turn it down, saying he didn’t deserve it. An American president would even say of him: “The most efficient human angel I know.”
Maurice Pate (1984-1965) found his public-service path in life while behind the lines in WWI German-occupied Belgium as a member of the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). The CRB ultimately helped create the largest food relief program the world had ever seen, feeding every day nearly 10 million Belgians and northern French trapped in the middle of a world war.
On Sunday, April 14, 2019, at 2 p.m. in the Denver Public Library’s Main Branch Gates Room, fifth floor, book author and historian Jeffrey B. Miller will share rare photos and stories about Maurice Pate and the CRB, which is one of America’s greatest humanitarian efforts that’s little known today. Pate was one of only 185 CRB “delegates who worked in German-occupied Belgium and northern France during World War I.
When Pate entered Belgium in 1916 at 21, he was one of the youngest CRB delegates and his French was weak. It was a surprise to some that he was allowed in, considering the shift in 1915 and early 1916 by CRB executives to reject young, untested men who weren’t fluent in French. His maturity must have impressed his interviewers.
From an early age, Pate had shown he was up to practically any task. He had spent much of his youth in Denver as the oldest of seven children. He attended East High School and was involved in numerous activities, including student “congress,” advertising manager for the yearbook, participant in the senior class play, and author of the commencement essay.
He entered Princeton University in 1911 while still only 17 years old. He was as active there as he had been at East High School—working on a Red Cross committee, becoming business affairs manager of a school publication, and operating the launch for the school’s rowing team.
The young man who jumped into practically everything he came across, found his true passion when he became one of the CRB’s humanitarian crusaders. As he helped relieve the hunger and suffering of the Belgians and northern French, he became interested in helping the children, who he felt suffered most from the privations of war.
His time with the CRB led to a life of public service—most notably with children. After WWI he worked for many years with the governmental American Relief Administration (ARA) in numerous capacities.
After World War II, in 1947, Pate became founder and first executive director of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF; later changed to the permanent United Nations Children’s Fund, but the acronym stuck). He served in that position until 1965.
Pate was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 for his work with UNICEF but turned down the nomination because he felt it would be more appropriate if the nomination was for the organization, not himself.
Maurice Pate died on January 19, 1965, at 70 years old. Nine months later, in October 1965, his beloved UNICEF won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Once, at a UNICEF dinner, former U.S. President Herbert Hoover described Pate as “the most effective human angel I know.”
Learn more about what Pate saw and experienced in German-occupied Belgium by attending Jeffrey B. Miller’s speech at Denver Public Library, Sunday, April 14, 2 p.m. in the Gates Room, fifth floor.
Miller’s speech is based on his recently released book, WWI Crusaders: A band of Yanks in German-occupied Belgium help save millions from starvation as Belgian civilians resist the harsh German rule. August 1914 to May 1917. (Milbrown Press, $24.95) The book is one of only 100 self published books included in the prestigious Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2018. The Starred Review states: “A tour-de-force history. . . gripping historical narrative. . . A magnum opus that celebrates the qualities of compassion, honor, and humanitarian spirit.” It is also a finalist in the Colorado Book Awards.
See photo and article at Denver Post’s YourHub