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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, June 1, 2019

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Dr. Patricia Bath, pioneering ophthalmologistRobert L. Bernstein, Random House publishing executive and human rights activistCamille Billops, artist who chose her career over her daughterLeann Birch, developmental psychologistBill Buckner, baseball fielder famous for World Series blunderLeah Chase, New Orleans chefThad Cochran, US senator from MississippiRoky Erickson, headed rock band 13th Floor ElevatorsTony Glover, harmonica playerRoger O. Hirson, author of Broadway hit musical, 'Pippin'Tony Horwitz, Pulitzer-winning journalistDr. James S. Ketchum, Army psychiatristEverett Raymond Kinstler, portrait painter, with his painting of friend and former classmate, Tony BennettFrank Lucas, former Harlem drug kingpin who inspired gangster movieRichard P. Matsch, federal judge who presided over Oklahoma City bombing trialsLouis Levi Oakes, last of Mohawk code talkersMarc Okkonen, artist and baseball historianMurray Polner, editor of 'Present Tense'Anthony Price, author of spy thrillersLeon Redbone, mysterious blues and jazz singerEdward Seaga, prime minister of JamaicaBart Starr, Green Bay Packers leading quarterbackPrem Tinsulanonda, Thai army commander and prime minister

Art and Literature

Camille Billops (85) internationally recognized sculptor, painter, and filmmaker who held salons and created extensive archives of black cultural life in New York. But Billops gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving up her 4-year-old daughter, Christa, for adoption and their reunion 20 years later. She was unapologetic about her decision, even as society judged her harshly and wanted her to repent. The 55-minute film, Finding Christa, won the 1992 Grand Jury Prize in the documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival. But mother and daughter had a testy relationship and had not spoken for three years when Christa was found dead in 2016 of heart disease at 59. Billops died of heart failure in New York City on June 1, 2019.

Everett Raymond Kinstler (92) artist who went from drawing “Zorro” and “Hawkman” to painting hundreds of portraits of the glamorous and powerful, including several American presidents. Attracted to art from an early age, Kinstler dropped out of high school at 15 to work in the comic-book industry, illustrating lots of western sagas but also titles like Space Detective and Hawkman. After 12 years he left that field to do magazine and book covers and, increasingly, portraits. He was soon in demand for those and began to attract marquee names. The first big one was astronaut Scott Carpenter in 1963. Celebrities like Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, and Carol Burnett soon followed. So did sports figures like Arthur Ashe, Tommy Lasorda, and Byron Nelson. And there were also the presidents, Richard M. Nixon being the first. His presidential portfolio eventually included Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and both Bushes. He also painted Donald J. Trump, but before he became president. Kinstler died of heart failure in Bridgeport, Connecticut on May 26, 2019.

Marc Okkonen (85) was watching the movie The Natural in 1984 when his attention shifted from its story of mysterious slugger Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford, to the uniforms worn by Hobbs’s opponents onscreen. A commercial artist and baseball aficionado with an appreciation for vintage apparel, Okkonen spotted flaws in the purported uniforms of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs and wondered why they were not precise replicas of the originals from 1939, when the movie takes place. Given how thoroughly documented baseball’s history is, he thought, accurate details would not have been too difficult to uncover. But he could find no single volume containing images of historic uniforms. He spent the next five years poring through books, microfilms, and archives, including those at the Library of Congress and the Baseball Hall of Fame, to find images of every home and road uniform worn by all major league teams, starting in 1900. The fruit of his research, the book Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century (1991), with illustrations by his own hand, established Okkonen as a leading historian of baseball's evolving clothing history, in particular cap styles, stocking colors, and jersey designs. He died in Muskegon, Michigan after a fall, on May 27, 2019.

Anthony Price (90) whose string of espionage novels, rich in historical references and complex characters, drew comparisons to the work of John le Carré. Price, whose first spy novel, The Labyrinth Makers, came out in 1970, was among several thriller writers who moved the espionage genre beyond the slick shenanigans of early James Bond. The Labyrinth Makers was the first of 19 novels featuring David Audley, an analyst for the British secret service, who was often the protagonist but sometimes a secondary figure. Price was not content with simple linear plots. He loved to burden his characters with ghosts from the past and explore how long-ago actions influenced events years or even centuries later. His stories ranged far and wide. Other Paths to Glory (1974), which the London Daily Telegraph named one of the top 20 spy thrillers of all time, involves both a nuclear summit and the Battle of the Somme during World War I. Price died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in London, England on May 30, 2019.

Business and Science

Dr. Patricia Bath (76) pioneering ophthalmologist who became the first black female doctor to receive a medical patent after she invented a more precise treatment for cataracts. Bath was born in Harlem in New York City. Her mother was a domestic worker, and her father worked in the city subway system. Bath won a National Science Foundation scholarship while a teenager. She graduated from Howard University medical school and interned in New York. She then moved to California, where she became the first black surgeon at UCLA Medical Center and the first woman ophthalmologist on the faculty of UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. She also cofounded an ophthalmology residency program and in 1983 was appointed chairwoman of the King-Drew-UCLA Ophthalmology Residency Program, becoming the first woman in the US to head such a residency program. Bath died of cancer in San Francisco, California on May 30, 2019.

Robert L. Bernstein (96) publishing executive and human rights activist who presided over a generation of dynamic growth at Random House and advocated for dissidents around the world, from the Soviet Union to Argentina. Bernstein was president of Random House from 1966–90, when its authors included Toni Morrison, James Michener, and E. L. Doctorow. He also helped to found Helsinki Watch, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations and was among the first recipients of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, presented to him in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. Bernstein died in New York City on May 27, 2019.

Leann Birch (72) University of Georgia psychologist whose research into children’s eating habits challenged some long-held notions about finicky young eaters and led to new insights on childhood nutrition and obesity. A developmental psychologist, Birch and the researchers she worked with studied pea-hating children, coached new mothers in ways to quiet crying babies other than feeding them, and scrutinized time-honored parental practices like demanding that a child finish everything on the dinner plate. Her work found that a child’s food preferences and eating habits are formed very early and that things parents do in the interest of good nutrition often backfire. Birch died of cancer in Durham, North Carolina on May 26, 2019.

Leah Chase (96) New Orleans chef and civil rights icon who created the city’s first white-tablecloth restaurant for black patrons, broke the city’s segregation laws by seating white and black customers, and introduced countless tourists to southern Louisiana Creole cooking. Chase transformed the Dooky Chase’s restaurant from a sandwich shop where black patrons bought lottery tickets to a refined restaurant where tourists, athletes, musicians, and even presidents of all races dined on fare such as jambalaya and shrimp Clemenceau. The restaurant and Chase’s husband were both named after her father-in-law. Chase’s determination propelled her from a small-town Louisiana upbringing to a celebrated chef who wrote cookbooks, appeared on cooking shows, and fed civil rights greats such as Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr. Well into her 90s, Chase could be found daily at the restaurant, using a walker while greeting customers and supervising the kitchen. She died in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 1, 2019.

Dr. James S. Ketchum (87) Army psychiatrist who in the ‘60s conducted experiments with LSD and other powerful hallucinogens using volunteer soldiers as test subjects in secret research on chemical agents that might incapacitate the minds of battlefield adversaries. Decades before a convention eventually signed by more than 190 nations outlawed chemical weapons, Ketchum argued that recreational drugs favored by the counterculture could be used humanely to befuddle small units of enemy troops and that a psychedelic “cloud of confusion” could stupefy whole battlefield regiments more ethically than the lethal explosions and flying steel of conventional weapons. For nearly 19 years he spearheaded those studies at Edgewood Arsenal, a secluded Army chemical weapons center on Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore, where thousands of soldiers were drugged. Army officials ultimately abandoned the idea. Ketchum died in Peoria, Arizona on May 27, 2019.


Frank Lucas (88) former Harlem drug kingpin whose life and lore inspired the 2007 movie American Gangster. Lucas climbed the ranks of crime in Harlem in the ‘60s and ’70s, becoming a major drug dealer known for supplying huge amounts of particularly potent heroin. He said it netted him millions, and authorities seized over $500,000 in cash when they raided his house in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1975. He was convicted and sentenced to decades in prison, but he turned informant and was released after about five years. He was arrested again for drug dealing on a much smaller scale and served seven more years, getting out again in 1991. His story became the basis for the Ridley Scott-directed American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington as Lucas and Russell Crowe as Richard (“Richie”) Roberts, a composite of various detectives and prosecutors. The real-life Roberts is a former prosecutor who helped to convict Lucas but later became his lawyer and friend, even godfather to his son. Lucas died in New Jersey on May 30, 2019.

Richard P. Matsch (88) US District judge who ruled his courtroom with a firm gavel and a short temper and gained national respect in the ‘90s for his handling of the Oklahoma City bombing trials. Known for his conservative suits, big boots, and cowboy hat, Matsch saw it as his personal duty to restore order, decorum, and respect to the courtroom after the judiciary got a black eye during the often-chaotic O. J. Simpson trial. As chief judge of the federal court in Denver, Matsch was assigned to oversee the trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in 1996 after a judge ruled they could not receive a fair trial in Oklahoma City. He ruled decisively on matters of evidence and tolerated no courtroom antics. McVeigh was convicted of murder and other charges and was executed for the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast, the worst act of terrorism on US soil before the 9/11 attacks, killed 168 and injured hundreds of others. Nichols was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison. Matsch received a liver transplant in 2001. He died in Louisville, Colorado on May 26, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Roky Erickson (71) Texan who headed the Austin-based 13th Floor Elevators, a pioneering psychedelic rock band in the ‘60s that scored with “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” Erickson’s lead guitar and vocals didn’t turn him into a chart topper, but they cemented his role as a musician’s musician. His fans included everyone from Lenny Kaye and the Swedish metal group Ghost—who covered his “If You Have Ghosts”—to ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. A 1990 tribute al-bum to Erickson, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, attracted REM, T-Bone Burnett, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Julian Cope, the Mighty Lemon Drops, Primal Scream, and ZZ Top. After the 13th Floor Elevators dissolved in the face of drug arrests and instability, Erickson in the early ’70s entered an insanity plea to a marijuana possession charge and ended up spending time in an institution. A short-lived effort to reunite the Elevators followed. Erickson put out a book of poetry—Openers—and continued making music, including the song “Two-Headed Dog” and the LP The Evil One. In 1986 he released the album Don’t Slander Me, and a 2005 documentary by Keven McAlester about him was called You’re Gonna Miss Me. Erickson died in Austin, Texas on May 31, 2019.

Tony Glover (79) harmonica player who as a member of the group Koerner, Ray & Glover was at the center of the folk music revival of the ‘60s and helped to introduce a new audience to the blues. A reserved man who rarely smiled, Glover emerged from the post-beatnik coffeehouse scene in Minneapolis that also helped to nurture Bob Dylan, with whom he occasionally played. He died in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 29, 2019.

Roger O. Hirson (93) writer for live TV in the ‘50s and ’60s who collaborated with composer Stephen Schwartz on the hit Broadway musical Pippin (1972). Schwartz, who also composed musicals like Godspell and Wicked, had developed Pippin while he was a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At the time, 1969, he was looking for someone to write the book when he was introduced to Hirson. Pippin is set in AD 780 and tells the story of the starry-eyed title character (played in the original production by John Rubinstein), a son and heir to Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, king of the Franks, and his quest to understand life’s mysteries. A troupe of clowns, headed by the Leading Player (originally Ben Vereen), a charming and manipulative master of ceremonies, are the guides to Pippin’s adventures. The show, which ran for 1,944 performances, was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won five. Hirson died in New York City on May 27, 2019.

Tony Horwitz (60) Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author of Confederates in the Attic. Horwitz covered conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans for the Wall Street Journal for decades. He won the 1995 Pulitzer for a Journal series on widening income inequality and low-wage jobs. He was also a staff writer for the New Yorker before becoming an author full-time. Besides Confederates in the Attic, which chronicles modern-day Southern attitudes about the Civil War, Horwitz wrote seven other books. He died of apparent cardiac arrest in Washington, DC on May 27, 2019.

Leon Redbone (69) blues and jazz artist whose growly voice, Panama hat, and cultivated air of mystery made him seem like a character out of the ragtime era or the Depression-era Mississippi Delta. Redbone released his debut album, On the Track, in 1975 and recorded 16 albums throughout his career. Most often dressed in a white suit with a string tie, wearing glasses and a Panama hat, he performed twice on Saturday Night Live in its first season (1975–76) and was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He voiced Leon the Snowman in the 2003 Christmas comedy Elf, starring Will Ferrell, and sang “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a duet with Zooey Deschanel, for the film. He also sang the theme songs for the TV series Mr. Belvedere and Harry & the Hendersons. A 16-minute documentary about his life, aptly titled Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, was released in 2018. Redbone died in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on May 30, 2019.

Politics and Military

Thad Cochran (81) on the Washington political scene of bombast and big egos, Republican Cochran of Mississippi wielded power with a quiet demeanor. He played piano in his Capitol Hill office and dashed off handwritten notes of thanks or congratulations to constituents. The conservative reared in the segregationist Deep South hired black staff members, supported historically black universities, and received support from black voters who provided a crucial margin for victory in his final campaign. As a leader on agriculture and budget issues, he steered billions of dollars to his home state. He was the 10th longest-serving US senator, serving 45 years in Washington, with the first six years in the House and the rest in the Senate. He became known as the “Quiet Persuader,” cultivating loyalty and respect from his staff and from politicians inside and outside his home state. Cochran died in Oxford, Mississippi just over a year after retiring, on May 30, 2019.

Louis Levi Oakes (94) last of the remaining Mohawk “code talkers” belatedly honored for their World War II service. Oakes was one of 17 Akwesasne Mohawks to receive the Congressional Silver Medal for his military contributions as a Native American code talker in 2016. Code talkers used their various native languages for military communications. The Silver Star recipient served in the Army for six years and saw action in the South Pacific, New Guinea, and Philippines theaters. Oakes kept his role as a code talker secret for decades, even from relatives. He died in Quebec, Canada on May 28, 2019.

Murray Polner (91) voice for pacifism and civil liberties and founder and only editor of Present Tense magazine, a progressive counterpoint to Commentary that began in a period of one-upmanship among Jewish intellectuals. Present Tense, which started as a quarterly in 1973 and was later published bimonthly, was a liberal Jewish journalistic take on world affairs. Like Commentary, considered somewhat more highbrow and later branded as neoconservative, Present Tense was published by the American Jewish Committee, which blamed financial constraints when the magazine was closed in 1990. But some staff members said at the time that the decision was politically motivated because the magazine had been critical of Israeli policies and, earlier, of the Reagan administration. A member of the Naval Reserve and an Army veteran who served in Japan during the Korean War, Polner evolved into a pacifist. He opposed military conscription and expressed empathy for the former soldiers he interviewed for his book, No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran (1971). He died of sepsis in Manhasset, New York on May 30, 2019.

Edward Seaga (89) former Jamaican prime minister (1980–89) who shaped the island’s post-independence politics and cultural life. Seaga was the only remaining member of the generation of leaders who drafted the constitution when the Caribbean island gained independence from Britain in 1962. His political career began in the late ‘50s, and he won a parliamentary seat in 1962. He was West Kingston’s representative for 40 consecutive years and held a parliamentary seat longer than anyone in Jamaica’s history. Seaga died of cancer in Miami, Florida on his 89th birthday, May 28, 2019.

Prem Tinsulanonda (98) army commander, prime minister, and adviser to the royal palace, one of Thailand’s most influential political figures over 40 years. Prem was best known for his long-standing devotion to the monarchy, especially the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who appointed him to his Privy Council immediately after Prem’s eight years as PM, and named him head of that powerful advisory body in 1998, a position he held until his death. Prem was credited by some scholars with establishing the unspoken primacy of the palace in Thailand’s power structure, cementing a mutually beneficial alliance with the military. He was PM from 1980–88 and helped to usher in a period of relative stability after a successful pro-democracy uprising against a military dictatorship in 1973, a counterrevolution and coup in ’76, another coup in ‘77, and edginess about Communist takeovers in neighboring Indochina in ’75. He died in Bangkok, Thailand on May 26, 2019.


Bill Buckner (69) All-Star and batting champion and a reliable fielder. Buckner made one of the biggest blunders in baseball history when he let Mookie Wilson’s grounder roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. Buckner made his major league debut as a teenager, played until he was 40, and amassed 2,715 hits in between. Yet for all he accomplished, it was his October error at first base that fans always remembered. The Red Sox lost 8-5 in Game 7, and their World Series drought continued until they won the championship in 2004. In the aftermath of Boston’s near-miss, Buckner became a target of fans in New England and beyond, his mistake shown over and over on highlight reels. He died in Vallejo, California after a long battle with Lewy body dementia, which causes Alzheimer’s-like symptoms along with movement and other problems, on May 27, 2019.

Bart Starr (85) ordinary quarterback until teaming with coach Vince Lombardi on the powerhouse Green Bay Packers teams that ruled the ‘60s and ushered in the National Football League as a proponent of America’s most popular sport. Starr’s throws helped to turn a run-heavy league into a passing spectacle, yet it was a run for which he was most famous: The sneak that won the famed “Ice Bowl” in 1967. The Packers selected Starr out of the University of Alabama with the 200th pick in the 1956 draft. He led Green Bay to six division titles, five NFL championships, and wins in the first two Super Bowls. Until Brett Favre came along, Starr was known as the best Packer ever. The team retired his No. 15 jersey in 1973, making him just the third player to receive that honor. He had been in failing health since suffering two strokes and a heart attack in 2014. He died in Birmingham, Alabama on May 26, 2019.

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