Chris Stevens
A file photo of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in Benghazi in 2012. Reuters

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed on Sept. 11, 2012, at an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. That attack, and the controversy that still surrounds it, was the subject of a heated and contentious House committee hearing Thursday in which Republicans accused Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of not acting to ensure the compound was secure. During her testimony, Clinton, who was Stevens' boss as secretary of state, pointed out that she knew him personally.

Stevens "understood there was no substitute for going beyond the embassy walls and doing the hard work of building relationships," Clinton said, defending his presence in Libya when he was killed. She had hand-picked him for the job.

Stevens was the first serving U.S. ambassador to be killed since 1979. He was committed to Libya and its history, according to a memorial site set up in his honor. That commitment brought him to the State Department, and he risked his life to get into the civil war-torn country by boarding a cargo ship that took him there discreetly.

The ambassador was a native of California, and a dedicated diplomat who had worked in several postings, including in Jerusalem, Cairo and Damascus, according to a State Department biography. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982, and earned a degree from the University of California's Hastings College of Law in 1989. He received a master's degree from the National War College in 2010, and spoke both Arabic and French.

The events around his death have turned into a highly polarized issue on Capitol Hill. The hearing Thursday got the most heated just before the committee took a break for lunch, with Democrats and Republicans sparring over the transcript from the closed-door hearing with Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton family friend and adviser who sent her emails while she was secretary of state. Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and the ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, disagreed over whether the panel should make those interviews public, and both exchanged shouted words while Clinton watched quietly. Cummings demanded a vote to release those transcripts, but Gowdy refused to do so.