WASHINGTON • Mr Rex Tillerson spent a tumultuous year at the helm of the US State Department, frequently undercut by the President he disagreed with on key foreign policy issues and derided by many of his employees, who blamed him for marginalising their role and diplomacy itself.
But after months of denying he intended to resign, Mr Tillerson, 65, was ousted yesterday just as he seemed to be hitting his diplomatic stride.
In recent weeks, he grew even more outspoken in his criticism of Russia, more confident that his patient pressure on North Korea was bearing fruit and seemingly more comfortable that he would outlast his many critics in the West Wing.
In the end, no one was more surprised that Mr Tillerson was fired than Mr Tillerson himself.
As recently as Monday night, while he was flying back from a week-long trip to Africa, a top aide said Mr Tillerson was staying put.
What may have done him in was a fatal disconnect over what President Donald Trump saw as Mr Tillerson's conventional approach to policy matters.
Mr Trump had told associates he wanted a secretary of state who looked the part, and he liked Mr Tillerson's camera-ready image and acerbic Texas drawl. He also liked his Exxon resume.
The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security... The Secretary did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason.
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT UNDERSECRETARY STEVE GOLDSTEIN
The instability of this administration in just about every area weakens America.
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER, in a tweet.
Have they started blaming Russia yet for the Washington staff changes?
RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN MARIA ZAKHAROVA, in a mocking reaction to the surprise sacking.
The dismissal of Rex #Tillerson does not make anything better.
GERMAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER MICHAEL ROTH, in a tweet on how Mr Tillerson's firing will not lead to an improvement in strained ties with Germany.
But the two men, who did not know each other before the election, never clicked.
For Mr Tillerson, Mr Trump remained unpredictable and sometimes inscrutable. For Mr Trump, Mr Tillerson became an embodiment of "establishment" naysayers.
Mr Tillerson has no singular foreign policy cause or achievement to his claim, but he had worked to open the door to talks with North Korea.
Although Mr Trump dismissively said last year that Mr Tillerson was wasting his time trying to talk to "Little Rocket Man", the summit Mr Trump agreed to last week is partly born of Mr Tillerson's efforts.
Mr Tillerson also emerged as one of the strongest voices in the administration critical of Russia. For months, he has been saying Russia clearly interfered in the 2016 US election, even as Mr Trump shied away from any critical remarks.
On Monday, Mr Tillerson told reporters travelling with him that he was "very, very concerned" with Russia's growing aggression.
Mr Tillerson was not shy about distancing himself from Mr Trump when their values seemed to clash.
Perhaps now, the married father of four, who BBC reported is worth $427 million, can finally enjoy his retirement on his Texan horse farm.