MAKRAM EBEID (1889-1961), Egyptian politician born in Qina.
His family originated from Asyut where his grandfather married a daughter of the famous Mu‘allim JIRJIS AL-JAWHARI. Makram’s father undertook construction work on the railway line from Nag Hammadi to Luxor, on the completion of which he was granted the title bey by the khedive. He was able to buy extensive property from the Royal Domains before his death in December 1925.
Of the eleven children in the family, William (this was indeed Makram’s given name until he rejected it during the struggle with the British) was the brightest, and his education took place in Qina, Cairo, and then Asyut, at the American College. Later, at the suggestion of Akhnukh Fanus, William was sent to Oxford in 1905. The dean of New College, who admired him, once said that Makram was the youngest of all students ever admitted in his college, except William Pitt. After graduating with a degree in law in 1908, Makram moved to France, where he spent two years studying Egyptology; he also fell under the influence of French socialism.
On his return to Egypt, Makram displayed his nationalistic tendencies, first by adhering to the Orthodox Coptic Church, refusing to duplicate his father’s conversion to Protestantism, and then by following the Wafd party in its struggle for the total independence of Egypt under the leadership of Sa‘d Zaghlul. Attracted by his intelligence, eloquence, and loyalty, Sa‘d adopted him as his political son and supporter. Gradually Makram became a strong participant in the history of Zaghlul’s nationalistic movement, where he was associated with all the events of the era and was probably the power behind the throne.
It was not until Sa‘d’s death in 1927 and the succession of MUSTAFA AL-NAHHAS that a change in the political climate became imminent. Alarmed by the spread of corruption and favoritism under the new regime and probably encouraged by the palace, Makram wrote his Black Book, in which he unveiled the moral decline and pitfalls of the years under Nahhas. He ended up by breaking away from the Wafd in its new form to establish in 1952 a separate Wafdist block (Hizb al-Kutlah al-Wafdiyyah).
The rising disunity in the ranks of the majority party heralded the weakening of Nahhas’s leadership and the decline of Makram’s position on the political scene. He died on 5 June 1961 and was eloquently eulogized at his funeral in the Cathedral of Saint Mark in Cairo by Anwar al-Sadat, then Speaker of the National Assembly, who recounted Makram’s formidable role and his immortal heroism in the 1919 struggle for independence.
[See also: Political Parties: Wafd and New Wafd.]