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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, October 13, 2018

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Pik Botha, South African foreign minister during apartheidWilliam Coors, former chairman of Adolph Coors Co.John Gagliardi, winningest college football coachBetty Grissom, widow of astronaut Gus GrissomCarol Hall, wrote music and lyrics for Broadway's 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'Arnold Kopelson, film producerMary Midgley, British philosopherMarie Runyon, stood up to landlord Columbia UniversityAlex Spanos, owner of San Diego ChargersThomas A. Steitz, Nobel Prize-winning scientistGeorge Taliaferro, first black player in NFLJim Taylor, helped Green Bay Packers to win first Super BowlJoseph D. Tydings, former US senator from MarylandTex Winter, innovative NBA coachDavid Wise, author of government exposés

Business and Science

William Coors (102) former chairman of Adolph Coors Co. and grandson of the brewing company's founder. Coors began his career with the company in 1939 and was chairman from ‘59–2000, helping it to grow from a regional brewer into one of the world’s largest. He was also an official beer taste tester for the company and continued to taste-test until his 100th birthday. After earning chemical-engineering degrees from Princeton University, Coors helped the company to develop and introduce the modern aluminum beverage can in 1959. The company said he also started one of the country’s first employee wellness centers. He died in Golden, Colorado on October 13, 2018.

Thomas A. Steitz (78) scientist who shared a Nobel Prize in chemistry for figuring out the structure of a huge molecule central to translating the genetic code into the proteins that make up living matter. Steitz was guided by the vision of a grand project to find the structures not just of that molecule but also of all the large molecules involved in translating genetic information into proteins, the so-called central dogma of molecular biology. His Nobel, awarded in 2009, was for his discovery of the exact size, shape, and position of every atom in the ribosome, the large molecule that is the site of such crucial protein synthesis. One immediate application of the discovery was in understanding how a major set of antibiotics—those that poison bacterial ribosomes—work, thus offering clues to finding antibiotics that can evade drug-resistant bacteria. Steitz died of pancreatic cancer in Branford, Connecticut on October 9, 2018.


Education

Mary Midgley (99) British moral philosopher who became a critic of the view that modern science should be the sole arbiter of reality. Midgley wrote more than a dozen books for a general audience, beginning when she was in her late 50s and continuing well into her 90s. She challenged scientists like entomologist Edward O. Wilson and biologist and noted atheist Richard Dawkins. In her view, they practiced “academic imperialism” when they tried to extend scientific findings to the social sciences and the humanities. Midgley died less than three weeks after her last book, What Is Philosophy For?, was published, in Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England on October 10, 2018.


News and Entertainment

Carol Hall (82) helped to turn an unlikely inspiration into one of the biggest Broadway hits of the ‘70s when she wrote the music and lyrics for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Hall had moderate success as a singer and songwriter when, developing an idea first hatched during a dinner party conversation, she, Peter Masterson, and Larry L. King created Best Little Whorehouse, a comedy based on an article King had written in 1974 for Playboy about the moralistic efforts to close down a real-life Texas brothel known as the Chicken Ranch (because some customers paid in chickens) that had operated for years. The original Broadway musical ran for almost four years and toured everywhere. It was made into a 1982 movie with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. Hall died in New York City of logopenic primary progressive aphasia, a rare form of dementia, on October 11, 2018.

Arnold Kopelson (83) film producer whose credits ranged from the teen smash Porky’s to the Holocaust drama Triumph of the Spirit to the Oscar-winning Platoon. Kopelson broke into show business as an entertainment and banking attorney and began producing films in the late ‘70s. A profitable project was Porky’s, the low-budget, lowbrow comedy made in Canada after Hollywood shunned it that made more than $100 million. Kopelson eventually aimed higher. Director-screenwriter Oliver Stone had tried for years to get financing for Platoon, the Vietnam War drama based on his own time in the military. A 1984 deal with producer Dino De Laurentiis fell through and led to legal action. Kopelson stepped in, and Stone was able to make Platoon in early 1986. The film starred Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger and has been cited as the first major feature film about Vietnam directed by a veteran of the war. It won four Oscars, including one for Kopelson for best picture. He died of age-related health issues in Beverly Hills, California on October 8, 2018.


Politics and Military

Pik Botha (86) South Africa’s longtime foreign minister whose defense of apartheid was tempered by flashes of recognition of the system’s injustice. Botha later served in Nelson Mandela’s unity government. He was a busy figure on the world diplomatic scene as foreign minister from the late ‘70s through the ’80s, a time of deepening unrest in South Africa, when the government crackdown on protests to white rule was growing increasingly violent. It was also a time of rising international pressure against the racist regime. Botha fought the imposition of Western sanctions on his country but at times showed a moderate streak rarely found among his hardline party fellows. In 1970, during his first address to Parliament as a member, he urged the government to subscribe to the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a move that had been strongly resisted. He died on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa on October 12, 2018.

Betty Grissom (91) widow of Gus Grissom, one of the seven original Mercury astronauts. Betty Grissom successfully sued a NASA contractor after her husband and two other astronauts, Roger Chaffee and Ed White, were killed in the 1967 Apollo launch pad fire. Left widowed with two sons, she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Apollo program’s prime contractor, North American Rockwell. She won a $350,000 settlement in 1972 that would be worth nearly $3 million today if adjusted for inflation. She had been in good health before her unexpected death in Houston, Texas on October 7, 2018.

Joseph D. Tydings (90) progressive Democrat US senator from Maryland who pressed for gun control, opposed the war in Vietnam, and helped to scuttle two of President Richard M. Nixon’s nominees for the Supreme Court. An acolyte of President John F. Kennedy, Tydings left a greater imprint in the capital than most freshmen senators but was toppled in 1970 after only one term. He had enraged the National Rifle Association by supporting the registration and licensing of firearms in the aftermath of the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Tydings also antagonized fellow liberals by embracing preventive detention and other tough responses to crime and urban riots that had reached within blocks of the White House. He died of cancer in Washington, DC on October 8, 2018.

David Wise (88) one of the first journalists to expose the clandestine operations of the Central Intelligence Agency and a standard-setter for investigative reporting into government espionage. Wise was an author, with Thomas B. Ross, of The Invisible Government, an explosive 1964 exposé of the CIA and its covert operations. To keep its contents from the public, the CIA considered buying up all copies of the book but backed off when the publisher, Random House, made clear that it would simply print more. All told, Wise wrote 15 books, including The Politics of Lying: Government Deception, Secrecy & Power (1973). It was an unvarnished analysis of government duplicity and won a George Polk Award. Wise died of pancreatic cancer in Washington, DC on October 8, 2018.


Society and Religion

Marie Runyon (103) New York liberal firebrand who waged war on behalf of fellow tenants facing eviction by Columbia University. In 1961 Runyon, her neighbors at 130 Morningside Drive, and residents of five nearby buildings received notices to vacate their apartments. The university was hoping to demolish six apartment buildings it owned as part of its master plan to accommodate more students and replace antiquated facilities. The five other buildings were demolished, but a new administration finally backed down. Radicalized by her challenge to Columbia’s expansion plans in Harlem and Morningside Heights, Runyon later campaigned against American involvement in Vietnam, supported the Black Panthers and nuclear disarmament, and continued to get arrested for civil disobedience into her 90s as a leader of the Granny Peace Brigade, which protested the war in Iraq. Legally blind, she had been largely housebound and unable to walk since she fell and broke her hip in July. She died in the off-campus Upper Manhattan apartment where she had lived since 1954, on October 7, 2018.


Sports

John Gagliardi (91) football coach who was ahead of his time, believing he did not need to make his players suffer for them to succeed. Using unconventional methods at a small private university in Minnesota, Gagliardi won more football games than anybody who has ever coached in college. He retired in 2012 after a record 64 seasons as a head coach, with 60 of those at St. John’s, an all-male private school in Collegeville. He finished with 489 victories, 138 losses, and 11 ties, winning four national championships with the Johnnies. But he also drew national attention to a school with fewer than 2,000 students with his laid-back approaches to the sport. His policy was to not cut any players from the roster and guide nonstrenuous practices that never exceeded 90 minutes. Gagliardi died in Collegeville, Minnesota on October 7, 2018.

Alex Spanos (95) son of Greek immigrants who used a self-made fortune from construction and real estate to buy the San Diego Chargers in 1984. After building a nationwide construction empire based in Stockton, his northern California hometown, Spanos realized a lifelong dream of owning an NFL franchise when he bought controlling interest in the Chargers from Gene Klein in 1984 for about $50 million. Eventually he bought all but 3 per cent of the team. The Chargers in 2017 left San Diego, their home of 56 years, and moved north after years of fruitless attempts to secure funding for a new arena to replace the aging Qualcomm Stadium. They are currently in the midst of their second of three seasons playing at StubHub Center in suburban Carson, but they will share a multibillion-dollar stadium complex in Inglewood with the Los Angeles Rams upon its completion in 2020. Spanos's wife, Faye, died in August at 92. Alex Spanos died in Stockton, California on October 9, 2018.

George Taliaferro (91) Indiana running back who in 1949 became the first black player drafted in the NFL when George Halas and the Chicago Bears took him in the 13th round. Taliaferro was leading rusher on Indiana’s 1945 Big Ten championship team that went 9-0-1, the only undefeated team in school history. In the NFL he played seven positions and earned Pro Bowl honors in 1951–53. He totaled 2,266 rushing yards, 1,300 receiving yards, and 1,633 passing yards and accounted for 37 touchdowns while playing for franchises in New York, Dallas, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. He lined up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner, and defensive back. Taliaferro later earned a master’s degree at Howard University, taught at Maryland, and was dean of students at Morgan State. He died of heart failure in Mason, Ohio on October 8, 2019.

Jim Taylor (83) Hall of Fame fullback who embodied the Green Bay Packers’ unstoppable ground game during the Vince Lombardi era and helped the team to win four NFL titles and the first Super Bowl. Taylor played on the great Packer teams and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1962. He scored the first rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history. Taylor spent 10 seasons in the NFL after being drafted in the second round out of Louisiana State University in 1958. He joined a backfield that featured Paul Hornung and began to thrive when Lombardi took over in 1959. Lombardi devised the Packers’ “Sweep,” which featured pulling guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston clearing the path for Taylor or Hornung running around the end. Taylor best fulfilled the play’s punishing effectiveness, a workhorse always charging forward, dragging would-be tacklers along. He died unexpectedly at a hospital in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 13, 2018.

Tex Winter (96) pioneer “Triangle Offense” coach who assisted Phil Jackson on NBA championship teams with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. Winter began his coaching career at Kansas State in 1947 and led the Wildcats to two Final Fours and eight Big Seven/Eight titles as head coach from 1954–68. He spent more than 60 years in coaching. He was 451-336 as a college head coach, also directing Marquette (1951–53), Washington (1969–72), Northwestern (1975–78), and Long Beach State (1978–83). He coached the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 1972–74, going 51-78. Winter had been largely incapacitated by a stroke he suffered in April 2009. He died in Manhattan, Kansas on October 10, 2018.


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