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Robinson McIlvaine (1913-2001)
Fourth US Ambassador to Guinea


Robinson McIlvaine, a career diplomat who was at the center of a tense international incident while he was the American ambassador to Guinea, in West Africa, died on Sunday at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 87.
Subsequently, he served in Kenya and Benin

Born in Downington, Pa, McIlvaine graduated from Harvard.
During World War II, McIlvaine served in the U.S. Navy in Panama prior to Pearl Harbor and subsequently as commanding officer of a sub-chaser in the Guadalcanal area. Later he was captain of a destroyer escort on Atlantic convoy duty and attained the rank of Commander.
He and his first wife, Jane Stevenson, later ran a newspaper in Downington and wrote a book about their experience, which was made into the film It Happens Every Thursday, starring Loretta Young and John Forsythe.

Mr. McIlvaine arrived in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, in October 1966 and presented his credentials to President Sékou Touré, whose government pursued militantly leftist policies. On Oct. 30, a Guinean official accompanied by a soldier summoned Mr. McIlvaine to the Foreign Ministry. There, another official handed him a note telling him he was being put under house arrest because 19 Guineans had been detained in Ghana.
He was escorted back to the embassy residence and held under armed guard. With him were his wife, Alice, and two young children. The house was surrounded by soldiers.
The Guineans held in Ghana included Foreign Minister Louis Lansana Béavogui and three other Guinean diplomats, who were on their way to a meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Ethiopia. Ghana’s government said the Guineans would be freed only after Guinea released 100 Ghanaians, who Ghana contended were being held illegally. But the Conakry radio accused the United States of being “entirely responsible” for the arrest of the Guineans.

Eric Pace. The New York Times & The Los Angeles Times. June 27, 29, 2001

Retiring from the Foreign Service in 1973, McIlvaine headed the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation’s (now African Wildlife Foundation) Nairobi office for two years before returning to Washington to be President of the organization until 1982. He covered ten African countries on a regular basis in a small Cessna aircraft developing and keeping track of projects. One of the most successful was the consortium he formed to protect the threatened mountain gorilla population of Rwanda.

He leaves behind his wife, Alice Nicolson McIlvaine; a son, Ian McIlvaine, an architect in L.A.; a daughter, Katherine, Deputy Director of the CARE Mission in Kosovo; a son by his first wife, Stevenson McIlvaine, a Career Foreign Service officer currently stationed in Washington, and three grandchildren.

(African Wildlife Foundation

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