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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, September 19, 2020

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Supreme Court justiceSteve Carter, playwright who explored black lifeStephen F. Cohen, historian of RussiaStanley Crouch, critic, columnist, and jazz loverBryan Fonseca, Indianapolis theater producerWilliam H. Gates Sr., father of Microsoft cofounder Bill GatesAnn Getty, socialite turned publisher and philanthropistWinston Groom, author of novel 'Forrest Gump'Roy Hammond, soul singer and songwriterMomcilo Krajisnik, Bosnian Serb leader convicted of crimes against humanitySam McBratney, Irish children's authorCharles Peterson, baseball scout for St. Louis CardinalsAnne Stevenson, poet and biographerMoussa Traore, former president of MaliLarry Wilson, Cardinals player and executive

Art and Literature

Winston Groom (77) writer whose novel Forrest Gump was made into a six-Oscar-winning 1994 movie that became a pop cultural phenomenon. Forrest Gump was the tale of a slow-witted but mathematically gifted man who was a participant or witness to key points of 20th century history—from Alabama segregationist Gov. George Wallace’s “stand at the schoolhouse door,” to meetings with presidents. It was the best-known book by Groom, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965. He served in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965–69. His service included a tour in Vietnam—one of the settings for Forrest Gump. Groom wrote 16 books, fiction and nonfiction. But it was Forrest Gump—and the success of the 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks, who won a best-actor Oscar—that earned him widespread fame and some financial success. Groom died of a heart attack in his sleep in Fairhope, Alabama on September 17, 2020.

Sam McBratney (77) Irish children’s author whose picture story, Guess How I Much Love You, became bedtime reading for millions of families. McBratney died less than two weeks before the publication of Will You Be My Friend?, a companion to his 1994 classic, which has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 57 languages. With illustrations by Anita Jeram, Guess How Much I Love You tells of older and younger nutbrown hares—presumed to be father and son—and their game of one-upmanship as each declares his love for the other. McBratney was a history teacher who wrote more than 50 books even though he didn’t become a full-time writer until middle age, when he retired from teaching. He died in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on September 18, 2020.

Anne Stevenson (87) poet whose 1989 biography of an even more prominent poet, Sylvia Plath, fueled the debate over Plath’s troubled life and her marriage to poet Ted Hughes. Stevenson published 16 poetry collections, including, this year, Completing the Circle. Her work covered a broad range. Her 1974 book, Correspondences: A Family History in Letters, was a narrative poem that traced 140 years in the history of a fictional American family. But nothing got her as much attention as her biography, Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963 at age 30, and many of her admirers blamed her husband, Hughes, who was having an affair with a woman named Assia Wevill (who herself committed suicide in 1969). But Stevenson’s book painted a different picture, portraying Plath as “a wall of unrelenting rage” prone to outrageous behavior, while depicting Hughes as generous and caring. Stevenson died in Durham, in northeast England, on September 14, 2020.


Business and Science

Ann Getty (79) former California farm girl who married Gordon Getty, scion of one of the world’s wealthiest families, and transformed herself into a publisher, author, interior designer, and philanthropist. Already a San Francisco cultural benefactor, Getty in the mid-‘80s moved to New York, where she was wooed to the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, and New York University and rose to the epicenter of the loftiest social circles. In 1985 she and George Weidenfeld, eminent British publisher, created the Wheatland Corp. (named for her hometown in California) and bought Grove Press, famous for its audacity but ailing financially. Under Barney Rosset, Grove had published avant-garde authors like Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco and successfully challenged bans on books that had been deemed obscene, among them Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. Getty bought Grove for $2 million, invested some $15 million more, and, after ousting Rosset, folded the companies together as Grove Weidenfeld. In 1993 Grove became an imprint of Atlantic Monthly Press. Ann Getty died of a heart attack in San Francisco, California on September 14, 2020.


Education

Swphwn F. Cohen (81) historian whose books and commentaries on Russia examined the rise and fall of communism, Kremlin dictatorships, and the emergence of a post-Soviet nation still struggling for identity in the 21st century. From the conflicts of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and the tyrannies of Stalin to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Vladimir V. Putin’s intrigues to retain power, Cohen chronicled a Russia of social upheavals and the passions of people that endured a century of wars, political repression, and economic hardships. A professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton and New York Universities, he was fluent in Russian, visited Russia frequently, and developed contacts among intellectual dissidents and government and Communist Party officials. Cohen wrote or edited 10 books and many articles for The Nation, The NY Times, and other publications. He was a CBS-TV commentator and counted President George Bush and many American and Soviet officials among his sources. Cohen died of lung cancer in New York City on September 18, 2020.


Law

William H. Gates Sr. (94) lawyer and philanthropist best known as the father of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. The elder Gates was responsible for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s first efforts to improve global health and his own advocacy for progressive taxation, especially unsuccessful efforts to pass a state income tax on the wealthy in Washington state. In 1950 he began working in private practice and as a part-time Bremerton city attorney. He formed a Seattle law firm with two other partners that eventually became Preston Gates & Ellis—now known as K & L Gates, one of the world’s largest law firms and one of the first to work with the region’s technology industry. His civic work included serving as a trustee of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Planned Parenthood, and United Way and as a regent of the University of Washington, where he led fund-raising drives. Gates Sr. also was president of the state and local bar associations and involved in the leadership of the American Bar Association, helping to create diversity scholarships and promoting legal services for the poor. He died from Alzheimer’s disease on Hood Canal, in the Seattle, Washington area, on September 14, 2020.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (87) US Supreme Court Justice, a women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice. Ginsburg’s death just over six weeks before Election Day was likely to set off a heated battle over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known. Trump, who called Ginsburg “an amazing woman,” made his view clear. He urged the Senate to consider “without delay” his upcoming pick for the high court. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate would vote, even though it’s an election year. Biden said the winner of the November election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer. She spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. She died of pancreatic cancer in Washington, DC on September 18, 2020.


News and Entertainment

Steve Carter (90) award-winning playwright who explored the black and Caribbean-American experiences with incisiveness, humor, and a willingness to wrestle with difficult themes, including hatred, revenge, and forgiveness. Carter was one of many playwrights to emerge from the renowned Negro Ensemble Co. in New York in the ‘60s–’80s. Several of his major plays had their premieres there. He was earlier associated with Caribbean-born playwright, director, and producer Maxwell Glanville and his American Community Theater in Harlem during the Black Arts movement, a flowering of politically motivated artistic achievement that began in the mid-‘60s. Carter’s arrival as a playwright was heralded in 1965 with a production of his one-act play, Terraced Apartment, a satire about a lower-income black couple who feel out of place after moving into a more upscale neighborhood in Harlem. Carter died in Tomball, Texas, a suburb of Houston, on September 15, 2020.

Stanley Crouch (74) critic, columnist, and self-taught Renaissance man who in fiction and nonfiction was inspired by his knowledge and love of blues and jazz and his impulse to step over the line. In a career dating back to the ‘60s, Crouch was a columnist for the Village Voice and the New York Daily News, a guest on NPR and Charlie Rose’s show, a jazz drummer, a founder of what became Jazz at Lincoln Center and mentor to Wynton Marsalis and many younger writers and musicians, an aficionado of baseball and American folklore, and scourge of novelist Toni Morrison and filmmaker Spike Lee, among others. He was also a favorite of documentary maker Ken Burns, his commentary appearing in Jazz and The Civil War, among other films. Crouch had been in poor health in recent years after suffering a stroke. He died in New York City on September 16, 2020.

Bryan Fonseca (65) leading theater producer in Indianapolis who challenged audiences with cutting-edge plays and was one of the city’s first impresarios to stage a show during the coronavirus pandemic. Fonseca cofounded the Phoenix Theater in 1983 and led it for 35 years. It was a home for productions that might never have found a place on the city’s half-dozen more mainstream stages. His shows included Terrence McNally’s exploration of a group of gay men, Love! Valour! Compassion!—which attracted picketers—Human Rites by Seth Rozin, which deals with female circumcision, and unconventional musicals like Urinetown and Avenue Q. Fonseca left the Phoenix Theater in 2018 after a dispute with the board and started the Fonseca Theater Co., a grass-roots theater in a working-class neighborhood on the city’s west side. He died of the coronavirus in Indianapolis, Indiana on September 16, 2020.

Roy Hammond (81) soul singer, songwriter, and producer with an impressive catalogue in the ‘60s and ’70s who produced a song that became one of hip-hop’s foundational samples. Hammond wrote and produced the Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President,” a political funk barnstormer released in 1973 as the Watergate scandal unfolded around President Richard M. Nixon. It was resuscitated just over 10 years later by Queens hip-hop producer Marley Marl, who sampled its drum intro for MC Shan’s “The Bridge.” Released in 1986, that track caused a shift in the sound of New York rap. Hammond died of liver cancer in Allendale, South Carolina on September 16, 2020.


Politics and Military

Momcilo Krajisnik (75) Bosnian Serb leader who was convicted of crimes against humanity for his involvement in the 1992–95 Bosnian war. A hard-line Serbian nationalist, Krajisnik was one of the most prominent politicians in the Bosnian war, which claimed 100,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. As speaker of the separatist Bosnian Serb Parliament and a close adviser to wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, he was among the leadership that oversaw plans to persecute and forcibly expel non-Serbs from parts of Bosnia. In 2006, after a 30-month trial before the United Nations tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Krajisnik was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison. The judges found him guilty of the deportation, persecution, murder, extermination, and forced transfer of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. At the time he was the highest-ranking Serbian politician convicted by the court. Karadzic remained a fugitive but was convicted of war crimes in 2016. Krajisnik was acquitted on counts of genocide for lack of evidence, and his sentence was reduced to 20 years in 2009. He ended up spending 13 years in detention and prison. He died of the coronavirus in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on September 15, 2020.

Moussa Traore (83) Mali’s former president, who ruled the West Africa nation for more than 22 years. Traore seized power in a military coup in 1968, eight years after Mali gained independence from France and amid growing discontent with then-president Modibo Keita, the country’s first president. Traore and other officers set up the Military Committee for National Liberation, abolished the constitution, and established a regime. Traore ruled the country as its military leader until 1979, when he installed himself as civilian president of a one-party state. He was the sole presidential candidate in elections held in 1985. Traore was eventually ousted in a coup in 1991 after days of violent protests killed at least 200 people following years of economic decline. After the coup d’etat of March 26, 1991, Traore was imprisoned and sentenced to death in ’93. Alpha Oumar Konare, who was president from 1992–2002, commuted his sentence to life imprisonment and finally pardoned him in ’02. Traore’s death came nearly a month after military leaders in Mali staged a coup on August 18, deposing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who had three years left in his second term in office. Traore died in Bamako, Mali, 10 days before his 84th birthday, on September 15, 2020.


Sports

Charles Peterson (46) high school sports star in South Carolina who played minor league baseball for 14 seasons before becoming a professional baseball scout and a volunteer football coach. Peterson brought a charismatic, gregarious style to his work as both a defensive line coach at Spring Valley High School in Columbia and a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. In June he signed the team’s top draft pick, Jordan Walker, a third baseman. Peterson died of the coronavirus in Columbia, South Carolina on September 13, 2020.

Larry Wilson (82) former Cardinals safety and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wilson spent more than 43 years in the Cardinals’ organization as a player and an executive. A seventh-round draft pick out of Utah in 1960, he played 13 seasons with the Cardinals. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All Pro five times. Wilson was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was on both the NFL’s 75th and 100th anniversary teams. He held franchise records with 52 career interceptions and 800 interception return yards. His seven straight games with an interception in 1966 are second-most in NFL history. After his playing career, Wilson spent 30 years as a Cardinals executive, serving as director of pro scouting, director of pro personnel, and a short stint as interim head coach in 1979. He was vice president and general manager from the team’s inaugural season in Arizona in 1988 until ’93 and was the team’s VP until retiring in 2003. He died in Scottsdale, Arizona on September 17, 2020.


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