INTERNATIONALES –PERSONNALITES- GUELLAL CHERIF
Cherif Guellal dies at 76;
Algerian resistance fighter and diplomat
© By Los AngelES TIMES/ ADAM BERNSTEIN, APRIL 13, 2009
Cherif Guellal, an Algerian resistance fighter, businessman and
diplomat who cut a glamorous figure in Washington society and was the longtime
companion of a former Miss America, died of leukemia Tuesday at a hospital in
Algiers. He was 76.
Guellal was a veteran of
the bloody independence movement that in 1962 secured freedom for his North
African country from French rule. After serving as a top lieutenant to Ahmed
Ben Bella, the rebel leader turned president, Guellal
arrived in Washington, D.C., as post-colonial Algeria’s first ambassador to the
His good looks enhanced his popularity at soirees and made him a
compelling presence at academic gatherings. “We wish to be masters in our own
house and not junior partners of the great powers,” he said at a 1964 meeting
of U.S. political and social scientists, describing the Algerian drive toward
Guellal remained his
country’s chief envoy in Washington after military leader Houari
Boumedienne toppled Ben Bella’s government in a 1965
coup. Guellal told President Lyndon B. Johnson that
he hoped relations would improve between the two countries. It was a union born
of oil money, from Johnson’s native Texas and the oil-rich states of the Arab
world, wrote society host-turned-writer Barbara Howar
in her 1973 memoir “Laughing All the Way.”
The unmarried Guellal became a social success
as he settled into the ambassador’s residence, a French chateau-style home
called the Elms, that had belonged at times to Johnson
and grand hostess Perle Mesta.
In her book, Howar called Guellal
a “handsome and brilliant young freedom fighter” and a “roving intellectual”
who became much in demand among the Embassy Row elite and local society “Swing
His constant companion was raven-haired Yolande
Fox, the Alabama-born Miss America of 1951 and the widow of a movie and TV
Compared with others, Howar wrote, Guellal “entertained less often and less lavishly but in a
certain swashbuckling style that drew together the keener political minds,
celebrated academicians, international radicals and showbiz luminaries who were
the residuals of Mrs. Fox’s years of salon-keeping in New York and Los
Guellal became a fixture
of society columns. His social secretary was Sally Quinn, who became a
Washington Post reporter and chronicler of the city’s power elite.
The 1967 Arab-Israeli War severed diplomatic ties between the United
States and Algeria and ended Guellal’s term as
ambassador. He remained Algeria’s unofficial representative in Washington while
shuttling between homes in Georgetown, Algiers and Paris and consulting for
U.S. companies hoping to conduct business in the Arab world.
He became a representative of the state-owned energy company Sonatrach, which played a crucial role helping meet demands
during the world oil crisis of the 1970s.
Cherif Ali Guellal,
a doctor’s son, was born in Constantine, in eastern Algeria, on Aug. 19, 1932.
His mother, Fatima, became a leader in anti-French resistance groups.
She was imprisoned and tortured by the French, as were many other members of
Guellal graduated in 1956
from a university in Aix-en-Provence, France, before joining the Algerian
provisional government in exile. He mostly worked from India for the
independence movement, trying to build international support for the
resistance, before winning his appointment to Washington.
In the capital, he successfully fought the city to remove a racially
restrictive covenant on the new ambassadorial residence. The late Washington
journalist and society historian Hope Ridings Miller wrote in her book “Embassy
Row” that Guellal’s efforts led the District of
Columbia government to remove many more such discriminatory covenants citywide.
Guellal never married
Fox, but they considered each other spouses, and he helped raise her daughter.
Fox survives in Washington, along with her daughter, Dolly Fox of New York and
Washington. Other survivors include three brothers and a granddaughter.
Bernstein writes for the Washington Post. (firstname.lastname@example.org)