In a telephone interview on Friday, Ms. Plame, whose marriage to Mr. Wilson ended in divorce this year, said he had never regretted writing the article.
“He did it because he felt it was his responsibility as a citizen,” she said. “It was not done out of partisan motivation, despite how it was spun.”
“He had the heart of a lion,” she added. “He’s an American hero.”
Joseph Charles Wilson IV was born on Nov. 6, 1949, in Bridgeport, Conn., to Joseph Wilson III and Phyllis (Finnell) Wilson. Both parents were journalists, and young Joe had a colorful upbringing because of it.
“I had spent my high school years in Europe following my parents in their quixotic quest to be expatriate journalists and authors,” he wrote in his memoir. “We had first traveled to Europe in 1959, driving around in an old Citroën taxi that was low-slung like the gangster cars in old movies.”
That background was a foundation for his diplomatic career, but his first job on graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1971 was as a carpenter. Within a few years, though, he had taken the Foreign Service exam, and in 1976 he received his first posting, to Niamey, the capital of Niger.
He was there for two years. Then came assignments in Togo, South Africa, Burundi and elsewhere, including Iraq. There, from 1988 to 1991, a tense period that included Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he was deputy chief of mission, the No. 2 job in an embassy. He left in early 1991, just before the United States and its allies launched the military action known as Operation Desert Storm to force Iraq out of Kuwait.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush named Mr. Wilson ambassador to two African countries, Gabon and the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, a post he held for three years. He finished his government service as senior director for African affairs for President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council. He then started a consulting business.