WASHINGTON (AP) - Kenneth Bacon, a Pentagon spokesman in the
Clinton administration who became a voice for millions of refugees uprooted by violence and conflict, died Saturday of skin cancer that had spread to his brain. He was 64.
His death at his vacation home in Block Island, R.I., was announced by Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group that Bacon had led since 2001.
"Most Americans remember Ken as the unflappable civilian voice of the Department of Defense," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement. "But for millions of the world's most vulnerable people - refugees and other victims of conflict - Ken was an invaluable source of hope, inspiration and support."
After a long career as a Wall Street Journal reporter and editor, Bacon joined the Clinton administration in 1994 as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. He became familiar to the public as the bow-tie wearing Pentagon spokesman.
It was in that job, during U.S. and NATO operations in Kosovo, when Bacon grew convinced that more people were needed to stop human rights abuses and assist people displaced by manmade and natural disasters.
He became president of Refugees International in 2001. During his tenure, the group doubled in size and advocated for increased protection and assistance for displaced people in places such as Sudan's Darfur region and Iraq, where he focused much of his own
work, as well as in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Thailand and Myanmar, also known as Burma.
"Ken would walk the corridors of power one day and then meet with refugees in the most remote areas of Darfur the next," said Joel Charny, acting president of the group.
A few months before his death, in describing his work for Refugees International, Bacon wrote: "When I came to Refugees International in 2001, I planned to stay for several years and then retire or move on to teaching or writing, but the challenge of the work and the commitment of the staff are too exciting to leave."
Bacon was born on Nov. 21, 1944 in Bronxville, N.Y. He graduated
from Amherst College in 1966 and two years later earned master's
degrees in business administration and journalism from Columbia
Survivors include his wife, Darcy Wheeler Bacon; two daughters,
Katharine Bacon of Brookline, Mass., and Sarah Bacon of Brooklyn,
N.Y.; his father, Theodore S. Bacon of Peterborough, N.H.; a brother; and two grandchildren.