Donald Hawley was born on 22 May 1921, son of Mr and Mrs F. G. Hawley; he was educated at Radley College and studied law at New College, University of Oxford. In 1964 he married Ruth Morwenna Graham Howes, having one son and three daughters.
After serving in the Forces from 1941, Hawley joined first the Sudan Political Service (1944) and then the Sudan Judiciary (1947), becoming Chief Registrar of the Sudan Judiciary, and Registrar-General of Marriages, by 1951. He resigned from the Sudan Service in 1955 and joined Foreign Service, and his diplomatic career included: Foreign Office (1956); Political Agent, Trucial States, in Dubai (1958); Head of Chancery, Cairo [Egypt] (1962); Counsellor and Head of Chancery, British High Commission, Lagos [Nigeria] (1965); Visiting Fellow, Department of Geography, Durham University (1967); Counsellor (Commercial), Baghdad [Iraq] (1968); Consul-General, Muscat (1971); Ambassador to Oman (1971-75); Assistant Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1975-77); British High Commissioner in Malaysia (1977-81).
Sir Donald died in 2008.