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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 10, 2021

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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and consort of Queen Elizabeth IIAnne Beatts, comedy writer on original staff of 'Saturday Night Live'Ramsey Clark, LBJ's attorney generalCharles H. Coolidge, oldest WWII recipient of Medal of HonorJames Hampton, TV character actorLee Hart, wife of Sen. Gary HartAlcee Hastings, first sitting US judge tried on criminal chargesHans Küng, Catholic theologian and priestPeter Manso, celebrity biographer and journalistPaul Ritter, British actorMarshall D. Sahlins, inventor of 'teach-in'Earl ('DMX') Simmons, New York rapperHoward Weitzman, Hollywood lawyer

Education

Marshall D. Sahlins (90) anthropologist who, starting in the ‘70s, explored how individuals shape and are shaped by their cultures—a point he had already put in practice 10 years earlier as inventor of the “teach-in” against the Vietnam War. In March 1965, Sahlins and several colleagues from the University of Michigan gathered in his living room to discuss what they could do to oppose President Lyndon B. Johnson's escalation of the war. Some wanted to go on strike, a move that threatened to shut down the university and, Sahlins worried, harm the students they were there to instruct. Instead, he said, taking a page from the sit-in protests of the civil rights movement, what if they gave lectures about America’s foreign policy, politics, and history? Sahlins called friends at Columbia and other schools, and within weeks faculty at dozens of campuses were holding teach-ins. In May 1965, Sahlins led a national teach-in in Washington that received worldwide news media coverage. His activism didn’t stop the war, of course, but the teach-in created an intellectual bridge between older leftists like himself and budding activists of the baby boom generation. Sahlins died in Chicago, Illinois on April 5, 2021.


Law

Ramsey Clark (93) attorney general in the Johnson administration who became an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of US policy. Clark’s father, Tom Clark, was also a former attorney general and a US Supreme Court justice. After serving in President Lyndon B. Johnson's Cabinet in 1967–68, Ramsey Clark set up a private law practice in New York in which he championed civil rights, fought racism and the death penalty, and represented declared foes of the US including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He also defended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In courtrooms around the country Clark defended antiwar activists. In the court of public opinion, he charged the US with militarism and arrogance, starting with the Vietnam War and continuing with conflicts in Grenada, Libya, Panama, and the Gulf War. When Clark visited Iraq after Operation Desert Storm and returned to accuse the US of war crimes, Newsweek dubbed him the Jane Fonda of the Gulf War. Clark said he just wanted the US to live up to its ideals. He died in New York City on April 9, 2021.

Howard Weitzman (81) Hollywood power lawyer perhaps best known for defending Michael Jackson and his estate. The attorney’s client list included almost every studio, plus William Morris and other major agencies, and a long list of stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears, and Sean Combs. A prominent trial lawyer and dealmaker for 50 years, Weitzman deftly defended some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Hugh Grant and O. J. Simpson. He defended Jackson and his estate against creditor claims and accusations of pedophilia, most recently prompted by HBO’s 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland. Weitzman died of cancer in Pacific Palisades, California on April 4, 2021.


News and Entertainment

Anne Beatts (74) comedy writer on the original staff of Saturday Night Live who later created the cult sitcom Square Pegs. Starting in 1975, Beatts was among a team of writers and such cast members as Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase, who helped to make SNL a cultural phenomenon. With Rosie Shuster, Beatts helped to develop the beloved family of nerds, the Loopners, and later drew upon her own background as an outsider in high school for her series. Premiering in 1982, Square Pegs was then a rare sitcom centering on teenage girls. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker in an early role as a first-year high school student trying to fit in, it lasted just one season but was praised for anticipating—and even topping—the teen comedies that filmmaker John Hughes soon became famous for. Beatts’s other credits included writing for Murphy Brown and The Belles of Bleecker Street, producing A Different World, and helping to write the stage musical Leader of the Pack. She died in West Hollywood, California on April 7, 2021.

James Hampton (84) character actor who achieved a measure of sitcom immortality with one of his earliest roles, inept bugler Hannibal Dobbs on the ‘60s series F Troop. Hampton had a face well suited to comedic roles characterized by bumbling or gullibility. He had appeared in a handful of TV shows, Death Valley and Dr. Kildare among them, when the director of a Gunsmoke episode he was in brought him to the attention of a Warner Bros. casting director. That led to the role on F Troop, an ABC comedy about a military outpost, Fort Courage, in the 1860s. The show starred Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Melody Patterson, and Ken Berry, but Hampton made an indelible impression in his secondary role as a bugler whose playing bore only a passing resemblance to music. He died of Parkinson’s disease in Trophy Club, Texas on April 7, 2021.

Peter Manso (80) biographer of Marlon Brando and Norman Mailer and a journalist whose interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward I. Koch returned to haunt them when they ran for the governorships of California and New York, respectively. A New York native who fancied racing and writing about fast cars, Manso preferred a scholarly approach to researching what proved to be mammoth oral biographies, consisting heavily of transcribed interviews. The 768-page Mailer: His Life & Times (1985) took him six years to write. He worked for eight years on his Brando: The Biography (1994), which weighed in at 1,160 pages. Manso died of heart failure in Truro, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, on April 7, 2021.

Paul Ritter (54) British actor who appeared in the Harry Potter franchise and played a key figure behind the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. A familiar face to British TV viewers and theatergoers, Ritter played Martin Goodman, the eccentric father of a London Jewish family, in the sitcom Friday Night Dinner. He also played the ill-fated nuclear engineer Anatoly Dyatlov in the HBO drama Chernobyl, the wizard Eldred Worple in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, and a devious political operative in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. Ritter was a frequent cast member in productions at Britain’s National Theatre, including All My Sons, Coram Boy, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. He also appeared in Art at London’s Old Vic and on a West End stage as Prime Minister John Major, performing opposite Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in the royal drama The Audience. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 for his performance in Alan Ayckbourn’s farce The Norman Conquests on Broadway. Ritter died of a brain tumor on April 5, 2021.

Earl ('DMX') Simmons (50) New York rapper who rose to fame with his 1998 blockbuster debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, and became a chart and tabloid mainstay for years after. DMX was a dominant figure in hip-hop and popular music in the late ‘90s and 2000s. Each of his first five albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and solidified his reputation as an intense performer who moved among party- and sex-themed music and songs that chronicled his demons, abusive upbringing, and struggles with his faith. His second album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, released during Christmas week 1998, sold just shy of 700,000 copies in its debut week. DMX was hospitalized on April 2 in White Plains, New York after suffering a heart attack following a reported drug overdose. He had been in a vegetative state when he died a week later, on April 9, 2021.


Politics and Military

Charles H. Coolidge (99) one of two oldest surviving World War II recipients of the Medal of Honor. When Charles was growing up outside Chattanooga, his grammar school class received a visit from Sgt. Alvin York, the Tennessean famed for World War I exploits that brought him the Medal of Honor. After World War II, it was Sgt. Coolidge making the rounds of his home state, telling of another harrowing firefight in France that brought him the nation’s highest decoration for valor in his own right. Coolidge’s death leaves Hershel W. Williams (97) as the oldest surviving recipient of the medal for fighting with the Marines on Iwo Jima in World War II. Celebrated in Chattanooga with a park and a highway and at the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, Coolidge died there on April 6, 2021.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (99) when Prince Philip of Greece married Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British throne, in 1947, he knew he was stepping into virtually uncharted territory. There was no official role for the husband of a sovereign queen, no constitutional duty or legal responsibility. His wife knew exactly what she had to do when she became queen in 1952 after the premature death of her father, King George VI. But for Philip, her ascension to the throne marked the end of his career as a naval officer and a plunge into uncertainty. But at that crucial moment he carved out the part he would carry through the decades: The queen’s honest and unwavering bedrock of support through a turbulent reign in which the 1,000-year-old monarchy was forced to reinvent itself for the 21st century. It was a role the Duke of Edinburgh played until his death in London, England on April 9, 2021, two months shy of his 100th birthday. His marriage both defined and constricted his life, placing Philip three steps behind the queen in public, even if he played a significant role at home. His life spanned nearly a century of European history, starting with his birth as a member of the Greek royal family and ending with him as the longest-serving consort in British history.

Lee Hart (85) wife of former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, who stood by him when his front-running campaign for the presidency collapsed in 1987 amid reports that he was having an extramarital affair. Lee Hart, a former English teacher, campaigned for her husband during his runs for the Senate and the White House. In 1984 Gary Hart sought the Democrat presidential nomination, losing narrowly to former Vice President Walter F. Mondale. He declined to seek reelection to the Senate in 1986 and sought the Democrat presidential nomination in ’88. He was widely seen as the front-runner, but his campaign was derailed amid questions about his relationship with a young Miami model, Donna Rice. Hart denied that he was having an affair, and his wife strongly rejected the allegation. After dropping out of the race, Hart tried vainly to revive his campaign, and again Lee was supportive. She died in Lakewood, Colorado on April 9, 2021.

Alcee Hastings (84) longtime liberal Florida congressman who was dogged throughout his tenure by an impeachment that ended his previous judicial career. Hastings was known as an advocate for minorities, a defender of Israel, and a voice for gays, immigrants, women, and the elderly. He held senior posts on the House Rules Committee and the Helsinki Commission, which works with other countries on a variety of multinational issues. But his impeachment remained a nagging footnote. It was repeatedly invoked in news accounts and seen as derailing his ambitions for a greater leadership role. Despite his seniority, he was passed over for the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats took control of Congress in 2006. He was the first sitting US judge tried on criminal charges. Along with Washington lawyer William Borders Jr., Hastings was accused of soliciting a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers seeking to shorten their sentences. He died of pancreatic cancer on April 6, 2021.


Society and Religion

Hans Küng (93) Catholic theologian and priest whose thoughts in more than 50 books and countless speeches advanced ecumenism and provoked the Vatican to censure him. Küng, who as an 11-year-old Swiss boy knew he wanted to be a priest, stood at the center of Christianity’s great upheavals in the latter half of the 20th century. His challenges to the church hierarchy caused his critics to call him the greatest threat to the church since Martin Luther. As a liberal, he criticized church policy on governance, liturgy, papal infallibility, birth control, priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, mixed marriages, homosexuality, abortion, the meaning of hell, and much else. On some issues, Küng said, Buddhism and Judaism were more constructive than Catholicism. Serving Jesus Christ is what matters, he insisted—not serving the church that took his name. Many Catholics supported him, or at least admired his effectiveness. Küng died in Tübingen, Germany on April 6, 2021.


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