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How do I address a retired American Ambassador?  He was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service so he was a diplomat for a long time before he was an ambassador.
           — Carol Bentley

How do I address someone who served as an American Ambassador?  He was a close personal friend of The President and served for four years.
           — Keith Inge

Dear Ms. Bentley & Mr. Inge:
Any retired or former ambassador is addressed on the envelope, or in the address block of the letter, in the standard style used for addressing high US officials:
 The Honorable (Full name)
(Address)

And, in the salutation or conversation he/she would be addressed as:
   Dear Ambassador (Surname),
     The difference between ambassadors will arise when you introduce them, describe them, give their title, or identify them in writing.

How to identify a political appointee who served as a Ambassador?
Those appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador after a career in another field (typically they serve just one administration, more or less) are introduced as:
            Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country) from Year to Year
or
            Former Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country)

Who can be identified as a “Career Ambassador, Retired”?
There are certain individuals who can be identified as a Career Ambassador.   They have been accorded the “Personal Rank of Career Ambassador” by the President. If you do a web search for “career-ambassador U.S. Department of State” you find the list. There aren’t many. This small category of ambassadors is introduced or identified as:
          Career Ambassador of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, Retired

Who can be identified as a “Ambassador, Retired”?
Career U.S. Foreign Service Officers who have served as a U.S. Ambassador at one or more U.S. embassies are introduced or identified as:
          Ambassador of the United States of America, Retired

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WASHINGTON, July 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

When Bill Clinton first won the presidency, the form of address used for him and the first lady, Hillary, was as follows:
     The President and Mrs. Clinton

This form of address fits into the traditional formula in writing: The President and Mrs. (Surname) and in conversation: 
Mr./Madam President and Mr./Mrs. (Surname).

If Hillary Clinton wins the current presidential election, Bill Clinton will be a first: the first First Husband, Spouse, Partner, or Significant Other.

So, how will the White House staff address Bill Clinton? How will his name appear with the President’s on invitations?  How will his place card read at a state dinner? How should the media address him or refer to him?  Perhaps First Gentleman Bill Clinton, awkward as that might seem? According to Robert Hickey, author of The Protocol School of Washington’s Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles and Forms of Address, the formula for the husband of President of the United States (POTUS) has been around for a long time. It just hasn’t been used thus far:

In writing: The President and Mr. (Full Name)

As a former elected official, Bill Clinton does have a special title. He is “the Honorable.” Using this courtesy title fits right in without a hitch.

In writing: The President and the Honorable (Full Name)

However, which version of Bill Clinton’s full name would be correct?  That is a matter of how formal a reporter or social secretary chooses to be for any given occasion. Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton, or William Jefferson Clinton might be frequent choices.

Still, two questions linger:

1. How should he be addressed in direct conversation or as a salutation?
 a.  Mr. Clinton
b.  President Clinton

2. How should reporters refer to him in order to not mislead or confuse their audience on who is the current president and who is not?
 a.  Mr. Clinton
b.  President Clinton
c.  Former President Clinton

According to Hickey, the right option for both questions would be  a. Mr. Clinton.

“While it is common practice in the media and elsewhere to address and identify former presidents as ‘President (Name),’ this is a mistake,” said Hickey. “Serving as President of the United States does not grant one the personal rank of ‘President’ for life. The office of President is a one-person-at-a-time role that a specific individual holds and then hands off to the next person.”

“Courtesies, honors, and special forms of address are symbols of the power of the office. They belong to the office and to the citizens, not former office holders.”

Hickey goes on to say the media and the public should be wary of identifying or addressing previous holders of the presidency and other unique offices by referring to them as “former (title).” This qualifier diminishes the singular prestige of both the office and its current occupant and is potentially misleading/confusing to their audience.

“There is an accepted term of respect used for previous presidents and other elected U.S. officials to recognize their service. This title is one of high distinction that they keep for life: she or he is addressed as “the Honorable (Full Name).”

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How do you address in writing a former state senator?
          — RW in Florida

Dear RW,
A U.S. state senator is addressed as “the Honorable” — once one is “the Honorable” one is “the Honorable” for life.  Retired senators, since they are not one-officeholder-at-a-time officials continue to be addressed as “Senator (Name)”.
But, you say former state senator.
If you are addressing a letter relating to his/her public service, or it is social correspondence (a letter to a neighbor, a holiday note, or get-well card) — address the envelope and use in the letter’s envelope and address block  The Honorable (Full Name).  Use Senator (Surname) in the salutation.
If you are writing to someone who served as a state senator, but is now working in some commercial/professional role —  e.g., they are now your insurance agent, attorney, or stock broker — and you are writing to them in the context of this commercial/professional endeavor — address him/her as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name).  
In the U.S.A. we address people as pertinent to the situation. Each of us has many names and each is correct in a specific time and place. E.g., a woman named “Ann Robinson” might be addressed as “Mrs. Robinson”, “Ann”, “Mom” or “Sweetheart”.  Each name is how she is addressed in a certain situation. How she is addressed relates to (1) who is addressing her and (2) in which role she is being addressed.
Robert Hickey

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Dear Robert,
I have a question regarding a former judge who by his own choice returned to private practice. When he was a judge he was the Honorable. Is he still addressed “The Honorable (Full Name),” and as “Judge (Name)”, or would that be inappropriate now that he is a lawyer in private practice?
          — Mark

 
Hi Mark,
Two part answer:
    1) The general rule is “once The Honorable, always The Honorable.”  So addressing a social envelope to a retired judge would be as follows:
The Honorable (full name)
Address

Retired judges are socially addressed in conversation as Judge (surname).  In a social salutation you would address a retired judge as Dear Judge (surname).  
    2) However if a retired or former official who has assumed another form of employment (for pay) is not necessarily accorded the courtesies of a current or fully-retired official when acting in a subsequent professional context.  A judge who has assumed another position — e.g., returned to private practice  — is addressed as “Mr./Ms. (surname)”.
He or she might be addressed as Judge (Name) in a purely social context and might identify himself as Judge when he issues a wedding invitation for his daughter: Judge and Mrs. (Full Name) request the pleasure … but he would not be addressed as Judge (surname) when acting as legal counsel in another judge’s courtroom.
— Robert Hickey

Dear Mr. Hickey
t could be argued that the title of “Judge” has supplanted the title of “Mister” and that it would be a discourtesy (both to the retired judge and to the court that he or she served) to strip the retired judge of the title he or she earned.  In court the judge is referred to as “Your Honor,” or “The Court,” so the parties involved in the proceeding will not be confused.
I should add it is the practice in our legal community to continue to refer to a retired judge who has returned to private practice as “Judge (surname),” at least outside of the courtroom.
          — JAL & GW

 
Hi JAL & GW,
         The pattern in forms of address is when one leaves an office which has a special form of address — use of the courtesies of the forms of address related to the office extend to social use only.
        E.g., when USAF General who retires but subsequently works for a defense contractor and is selling a product or service to the U.S. government — he is addressed as Mr. (Name) while working as a commercial representative.
        Through interviews with attorney’s and jurists I have observed the same pattern. The former judge might still be addressed socially as Judge (Name) and could send out wedding invitations for his daughter’s wedding as Judge (Name).  [There is no possibility in either case that one would think his actions have the force of the government behind them.]
        Thus addressing a retired judge as Judge (Name) socially makes sense. But addressing a practicing attorney as Judge (Name) is misleading to his role in the current circumstance.
        When you observe formers being addressed as currents … it has more to do with the person addressing the former office holder wanting to flatter the former office holder, or the former office holder wishing to continue to receive a courtesy accorded a current office holder than with a correct form of address.
— Robert Hickey

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How should I address/write my former Pastor’s name on an envelope?  Is he the Reverend (Full Name), Emeritus Pastor? Or is it Pastor Emeritus?
         — C.F.

Dear C.F.,
The form would be Pastor Emeritus.
  1) Emeritus implies a continuing relationship with an organization. So, you would not be the one granting the title of pastor emeritus. If he is the Pastor Emeritus a congregation, the congregation would create that title for him.
   2) Are you writing him as your “pastor” or as “pastor emeritus of a congregation”? You don’t need to designate him as pastor emeritus if you are writing to him as your pastor: he can be your pastor forever. So (perhaps) the emeritus is not pertinent in personal communication?
    — Robert Hickey     http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html

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I have recently retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service and the company I am currently employed with would like me to include my retired rank and status in my signature block… something like:
 RICHARD L STANTON, USAF, MSgt, Ret. 
After looking though you blog, I am in full agreement with the statement from your Pentagon source that says if retirees are in a new job, then they should use a signature block that supports that job and should not their former military rank & retired. 
However there are other retirees working in the company who do use their retired status on business cards and email signature block.
My question is … Is there any firmer or more direct verbiage addressing the use of retire rank other than the above using the ambiguous “should,” I do not really want to rock the boat at my new job, but I also don’t want to be pressured into essentially “Pimping” out my retirement status for the corporation.
             — Rich Stanton

Dear Rich,
There is only the DoD guideline and at issue is how it’s interpreted: … use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.
I observe armed services protocol officers interpreting the use of one’s former rank in a post-retirement job as giving the appearance of seeking to gain some advantage over others based on one’s pre-retirement rank or another’s lack of military service.  If the new employer is solely interested in the vets experience, then the vet has the knowledge no matter how they are addressed. Right?
A private-sector corporation has no long-term investment in maintaining the respect and prestige of active-duty ranks but perhaps there is a short-term benefit to their bottom line.
This contrasts with the DoD which has a long-term investment in maintaining the value the respect and prestige of those in uniform.
To me it’s economics: can I leverage my former position to my future personal benefit?
    — Robert Hickey

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How would I address a former governor of Tennessee?
             — Sharon in Hillsboro

Dear Sharon,
Former governors continue to be The Honorable (Full Name).
 Once an honorable, always an honorable, more or less.
But in spite of what you hear in the media, only a current governor is formally addressed in conversation or in a salutation as Governor (Name). In a salutation,former governors go back to whatever form of address they used they were before they were the governor.
     Here’s the rule: Offices of which many people hold the same office at a time …senators, judges, Navy captains … continue to be addressed using the honorific used while they were in office.  But offices which are held by a single person at a time … the president, the governor, the mayor … (any office you can put a “the” in front of) most formally go back to whatever they were before.
I cover this in my book, of course, but here’s a link to number of posts on former governors.
    — Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former Judge /
How a Former Judge Should Refer to Himself?

I am a Magisterial District Judge who is retiring- having lost an election for purely political reasons. (In other words, no dishonor as referenced in one of the answers). I am returning to full time private practice. Here in PA, MDJs who are lawyers frequently have law practices in addition to their judicial post, which is what I did.
I understand that many people will still call me “Judge” out or courtesy, respect, and friendliness. My question regards how I refer to myself. I do not intend to use that honorific in attorney correspondence. I am preparing announcements to send to friends, other lawyers, existing clients, and other people advising them that I will be expanding my practice to include certain matters that I could not, by rule, handle while an MDJ.
Would it be proper, in those announcements, to say, for example, Judge Knight will draw on his 25 years of experience as a prosecutor and District Judge, in the defense of criminal and traffic cases.
Thank you for your insight.
             — Kevin Knight

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