Finally, the Alabama House has apologized to Mrs. Recy Taylor for the horrific racist gang-rape she suffered at the hands of seven White men in 1944.
The resolution can be viewed in the following article, via a PDF link.
I also notice where at the end of the resolution, they state that no reparations are to be paid to Mrs. Taylor (as if she even asked for any reparations).
This country, both state and federal, is so scared gutless when it comes to any kind of apology that concerns Black citizens, that the first thing the state/federal governments can snot and cry over is if there will be any reparations demands from the abused victims.
All Mrs. Taylor wanted was justice for the vicious crime committed against her—not money. Justice she never received in 1944 at the hands of persons who most certainly were not unknown.
Mrs. Taylor was robbed of justice for over 67 years, and finally she has received a so-called apology from the Alabama House, even if they were scared of reparation payments enough to put it into this resolution.
“Today, federal law enforcement officials have reopened dozens of civil rights era murders, but have not revisited the rapes and sexual assaults that went un-prosecuted.”
Of course the many, many rapes of Black women and girls remain uninvestigated, unrevisited, unprosecuted and unsolved. What the hell—they were just Black women and girls.
Alabama House Approves Apology for Recy Taylor
The Alabama House made an historic move Tuesday evening towards a state apology to Recy Taylor, 91, who was gang raped by 7 white men in Abbeville, Ala., in 1944. The AP reports:
The House on Tuesday approved by an apparent unanimous voice vote a resolution that expresses “deepest sympathies and solemn regrets” to Recy Taylor….
Her 74-year-old brother, Robert Corbitt, who still lives in Abbeville, said he was happy his sister was finally going to get what she wanted — an apology.
The strongly worded resolution said the failure of Alabama law enforcement and the court system to prosecute the crimes “was, and is “morally abhorrent and repugnant.”
It was introduced by freshman Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Newville. It now goes to the Senate, where Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, who also represents Abbeville, said he expects it to pass.
“The most important thing is to say we are sorry and we hope you are doing well. … It’s important we move on in Alabama,” Beasley said.
Grimsley’s resolution was spurred by revelations of Taylor’s story by Danielle McGuire in her book “At Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance,” published last fall, and by a Change.org petition to Alabama officials, launched in February after The Root’s Cynthia Gordy reported that Taylor, now living in Florida, and her brother wanted the state of Alabama and the city Abbeville to apologize for officials’ inaction and obstruction of justice. After Colorlines broke the news earlier this month that Grimsley was planning to introduce a resolution, signatures skyrocketed on the petition. Grimsley, Abbeville Mayor Ryan Blalock and other local officials held a press conference, where they made personal apologies to Taylor and declared that formal apologies were on the way.
Taylor’s case has for decades lingered as an icon of the sexual violence black women suffered from white men in the South. At the time, her case became a rallying point for a movement to end impunity for that violence. Today, federal law enforcement officials have reopened dozens of civil rights era murders, but have not revisited the rapes and sexual assaults that went un-prosecuted.
Grimsley’s resolution reads in part (scroll down for full text):
WHEREAS, this deplorable lack of justice remains a shame for all Alabamians; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we acknowledge the lack of prosecution for crimes committed against Recy Taylor by the government of the State of Alabama, that we declare such failure to act was, and is, morally abhorrent and repugnant, and that we do hereby express profound regret for the role played by the government of the State of Alabama in failing to prosecute the crimes.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we express our deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to Recy Taylor and her family and friends.
Grimsley “now vows to take the official House resolution to her Florida doorstep,” according to Change.org’s Alex DiBranco.
“I’m excited for the family,” Grimsley told Change.org following the vote. “I’m excited that I could have the resolution introduced and at least get it through the House, that I had the opportunity to do something for a resident of my district and a former resident of my district.”
“It’s not ‘justice,’ but a big step and all she’s asked for,” The Root’s Gordy tweeted this morning. I concur—though it’s not quite all Recy Taylor has asked for. There is still no news regarding an official apology from the city of Abbeville or from Henry County.
*This article has been altered since publication.
(Cross-posted at Hungry Blues.)
FULL TEXT OF HOUSE RESOLUTION (download as PDF)
EXPRESSING REGRET FOR THE STATE OF ALABAMA’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE FAILURE TO PROSECUTE CRIMES COMMITTED AGAINST RECY TAYLOR.
WHEREAS, on September 3, 1944, in the small Town of Abbeville, Alabama, Recy Taylor, a young Black mother was walking home from church with her companions when she was confronted by a car of seven white men; the men forced Ms. Taylor into the car at knife and gunpoint, drove off, and six of the seven men brutally raped her in a deserted grove of pine trees; and
WHEREAS, Taylor’s younger brother, Robert Corbitt, of Abbeville, said he remembers the day his sister was raped 67 years ago like it was yesterday, saying the police tried to blame his sister, and the family was harassed so that he was not allowed to play in the front yard; and
WHEREAS, an all white, all male grand jury failed to bring any charges for indictment; and then Governor Chauncey Sparks ordered a second investigation, and the grand jury again failed to indict; and
WHEREAS, the case got the attention of NAACP activist Rosa Parks, who interviewed Taylor in 1944 in Abbeville and later recruited other activists to create the “Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor”; and
WHEREAS, in an interview last year with the AP, Recy Taylor, who now resides in Florida, said she eventually gave up trying to bring charges against the men; and
WHEREAS, this deplorable lack of justice remains a source of shame for all Alabamians; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we acknowledge the lack of prosecution for crimes committed against Recy Taylor by the government of the State of Alabama, that we declare such failure to act was, and is, morally abhorrent and repugnant, and that we do hereby express profound regret for the role played by the government of the State of Alabama in failing to prosecute the crimes.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we express our deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to Recy Taylor and her family and friends.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That it is the specific intent of the Legislature that reparations shall not be considered or made regarding past actions of the government of the State of Alabama concerning the lack of prosecution of the crimes committed against Recy Taylor, and that this resolution shall not be used or construed in any manner whatsoever as support for such reparations.
Sheriff: White supremacist group linked to murder
HARDIN COUNTY – The Hardin County sheriff says four people arrested on charges of murdering a man, putting his car in a trunk and setting the vehicle on fire, have admitted to their roles in the crime.
According to Sheriff Ed Cain, the suspects take pride in the crime and the fact they belong to a white supremacist group.
The sheriff says Kenny Don Stanley, 29, of Vidor, confessed to pulling the trigger and killing the 25-year-old victim.
He says three other people have admitted to taking part in the crime: Kristopher Guidry, 26, of Humble, Vickie Fitts, 47, of Hull, and Tanner Bourque, 31, of Bridge City.
Investigators aren’t releasing the name of the victim because they’re trying to positively identify him and notify his relatives.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sheriff Cain revealed the four suspects are members of the Southern White Soldier gang. It’s a spin-off of the Aryan Brotherhood.
The woman, Vickie Fitts, and two of the men, Kristopher Guidry and Tanner Bourque, were brought from the Hardin County Jail to the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, where a judge arraigned them. The suspect who confessed to pulling the trigger, Kenny Stanley, is in the Polk County Jail where he also faces federal charges. He’s awaiting transfer to Hardin County.
The burned car was discovered at about 8 p.m. March 23 near the Hardin/Liberty County line.
A burned body was in the trunk of the 1995 Nissan Maxima.
The sheriff says evidence indicates the 25-year-old victim was shot in the head March 16 at a home in Hull, then placed in the trunk of the car, which was driven to a wooded area and burned.
Investigators haven’t found the murder weapon but have seized another car.
It’s the one the sheriff says the suspects drove away in after they set fire to the Maxima with the victim’s body in the trunk.
Sheriff Cain said the gang is known in the area for stealing and for drug crimes.
Cain said he believes there was some conflict with another gang and the victim was involved in that conflict and got killed over it.
“If gang members or anyone else comes to the county with the mindset to commit a criminal act, then leave, becauase we’re real proud of our crime clearance rate. We cleared this one real quick. We’re very proud of that. We’re gonna find you and put you in jail if you commit a crime in Hardin County.”
The Texas Rangers and the U..S Marshal’s Office are also working the case.
Stanley, the suspect Sheriff Cain says confessed to the murder, remains in the Polk County Jail, and is expected to be taken to the Hardin County Jail at some point in the future.
HARDIN COUNTY – (earlier report) – The Hardin County Sheriff says members of a white supremacist group are linked to the murder of a man who was shot and placed in a car trunk before the vehicle was set on fire.
Sheriff Ed Cain revealed the details during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
According to the sheriff, members of the Southern White Soldier group are charged with murdering the 25-year-old victim.
6 News anchor Ashley Gaston is covering the story. Watch KFDM News at 6 for more details.
He says one of the suspects, Kenny Don Stanley, 39, of Vidor, admitted to shooting the man. The others charged Monday include: Kristopher Leigh Guidry, 26, of Humble; Tanner Lynn Bourque, 31, of Bridge City; and Vickie Starks Fitts, 47, of Hull.
Deputies responded to a report of a burned car and a burned body in the trunk of the vehicle at about 8 p.m. on March 23. The 2005 Nissan Maxima was found off Liberty County Road 2486 just inside Hardin County, northwest of Votaw.
Investigators say the victim was shot in the head at about midnight on March 16 at a home in Hull. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the victim was placed in the trunk of the Nissan and driven to a wooded area near Votaw and set on fire.
All four suspects are in the Hardin County Jail.
I’d wager that none of the accused are feeling so supreme right now, with the death penalty/life without parole starring them in the face, if convicted.
|Walt Handelsman, New Orleans, LA — The New Orleans Picayune|
ELIZABETH TAYLOR, 1932-2011: A LUSTROUS PINNACLE OF HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR
By MEL GUSSOW
Published: March 23, 2011
Elizabeth Taylor, the actress who dazzled generations of moviegoers with her stunning beauty and whose name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 79.
In a career of some 70 years and more than 50 films, she won two Academy Awards as best actress, for her performances as a call girl in “BUtterfield 8” (1960) and as the acid-tongued Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966). Mike Nichols, who directed her in “Virginia Woolf,” said he considered her “one of the greatest cinema actresses.”
When Ms. Taylor was honored in 1986 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, “More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Taylor represents the complete movie phenomenon — what movies are as an art and an industry, and what they have meant to those of us who have grown up watching them in the dark.”
Ms. Taylor’s popularity endured throughout her life, but critics were sometimes reserved in their praise of her acting. In that sense she may have been upstaged by her own striking beauty. Could anyone as lovely as Elizabeth Taylor also be talented? The answer, of course, was yes.
Given her lack of professional training, the range of her acting was surprisingly wide. She played predatory vixens and wounded victims. She was Cleopatra of the burnished barge; Tennessee Williams’s Maggie the cat; Catherine Holly, who confronted terror suddenly last summer; and Shakespeare’s Kate. Her melodramatic heroines would have been at home on soap operas.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed her in “Suddenly, Last Summer” and “Cleopatra,” saw her for the first time, in Cannes, when she was 18. “She was the most incredible vision of loveliness I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “And she was sheer innocence.”
Mankiewicz admired her professionalism. “Whatever the script called for, she played it,” he said. “The thread that goes through the whole is that of a woman who is an honest performer. Therein lies her identity.”
It was also Mankiewicz who said that for Ms. Taylor, “living life was a kind of acting,” that she lived her life “in screen time.”
Marilyn Monroe was the sex goddess, Grace Kelly the ice queen, Audrey Hepburn the eternal gamine. Ms. Taylor was beauty incarnate. As the director George Stevens said when he chose her for “A Place in the Sun,” the role called for the “beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy, some time or other, thinks he can marry.”
There was more than a touch of Ms. Taylor herself in the roles she played. She acted with the magnet of her personality. Although she could alter her look for a part — putting on weight for Martha in “Virginia Woolf” or wearing elaborate period costumes — she was not a chameleon, assuming the coloration of a character. Instead she would bring the character closer to herself. For her, acting was “purely intuitive.” As she said, “What I try to do is to give the maximum emotional effect with the minimum of visual movement.”
Sometimes her film roles seemed to be a mirror image of her life. More than most movie stars, she seemed to exist in the public domain. She was pursued by paparazzi and denounced by the Vatican. But behind the seemingly scandalous behavior was a woman with a clear sense of morality: she habitually married her lovers. People watched and counted, with vicarious pleasure, as she became Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky — enough marriages to certify her career as a serial wife. Asked why she married so often, she said, in an assumed drawl: “I don’t know, honey. It sure beats the hell out of me.”
In a lifetime of emotional and physical setbacks, serious illnesses and accidents, and several near-death experiences, Ms. Taylor was a survivor. “I’ve been lucky all my life,” she said just before turning 60. “Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything. But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters.” At 65, she said on the ABC program “20/20”: “I’m like a living example of what people can go through and survive. I’m not like anyone. I’m me.”
Her life was played out in print: miles of newspaper and magazine articles, a galaxy of photographs and a shelf of biographies, each one painting a different portrait. “Planes, trains, everything stops for Elizabeth Taylor, but the public has no conception of who she is,” said Roddy McDowall, who was one of her earliest co-stars and a friend for life. “People who damn her wish to hell they could do what they think she does.”
There was one point of general agreement: her beauty. As cameramen noted, her face was flawlessly symmetrical; she had no bad angle, and her eyes were of the deepest violet.
One prominent and perhaps surprising dissenter about her looks was Richard Burton, who was twice her husband. The notion of his wife as “the most beautiful woman in the world is absolute nonsense,” he said. “She has wonderful eyes,” he added, “but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she’s rather short in the leg.”
For many years she was high on the list of box-office stars. Even when her movies were unsuccessful, or, late in her career, when she acted infrequently, she retained her fame: there was only one Liz (a nickname she hated), and her celebrity increased the more she lived in the public eye. There was nothing she could do about it. “The public me,” she said, “the one named Elizabeth Taylor, has become a lot of hokum and fabrication — a bunch of drivel — and I find her slightly revolting.”
Late in life she became a social activist. After her friend Rock Hudson died, she helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research and helped raise money for it. In 1997, she said, “I use my fame now when I want to help a cause or other people.”
Twice she had leading roles on Broadway, in a 1981 revival of Lillian Hellman’s “Little Foxes” and two years later in Noël Coward’s “Private Lives,” with Burton, then her former husband. In the first instance she won critical respect; in the second she and Burton descended into self-parody. But theater was not her ideal arena; it was as a movie star that she made her impact.
In a life of many surprises, one of the oddest facts is that as an infant she was considered to be an ugly duckling. Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London on Feb. 27, 1932, the second child of American parents with roots in Kansas. Her father, Francis Lenn Taylor, was an art dealer who had been transferred to London from New York; her mother, the former Sara Viola Warmbrodt, had acted in the theater in New York, under the name Sara Sothern, before she was married. (Her brother, Howard, was born in 1929.) At birth, her mother said, her daughter’s “tiny face was so tightly closed it looked as if it would never unfold.”
Elizabeth spent her early childhood in England. It was there, at 3, that she learned to ride horseback, a skill that helped her win her first major role. Just before World War II, the family moved to the United States, eventually settling in Beverly Hills.
An Inauspicious Start
Ms. Taylor’s mother shared with her daughter a love of movies and encouraged her to act. Elizabeth made her movie debut in 1942 as Gloria Twine in a forgettable film called “There’s One Born Every Minute,” with Carl Switzer, best known as Alfalfa, the boy with the cowlick in the “Our Gang” series. The casting director at Universal said of her: “The kid has nothing.” Despite that inauspicious debut, Sam Marx, an MGM producer who had known the Taylors in England, arranged for their daughter to have a screen test for “Lassie Come Home.” She passed the audition. During the filming, in which Ms. Taylor acted with Roddy McDowall, a cameraman mistakenly thought her long eyelashes were fake and asked her to take them off.
The power of her attraction was evident as early as 1944, in “National Velvet.” MGM had for many years owned the film rights to the Enid Bagnold novel on which that film was based but had had difficulty finding a child actress who could speak with an English accent and ride horses. At 12, Elizabeth Taylor met those requirements, though she was initially rejected for being too short. Stories circulated that she stretched herself in order to fill the physical dimensions of the role: Velvet Brown, a girl who was obsessed with horses and rode one to victory in the Grand National Steeplechase. “I knew if it were right for me to be Velvet,” she said, “God would make me grow.”
In one scene her horse, which she called the Pie, seemed to be dying, and Ms. Taylor was supposed to cry — the first time she was called on to show such emotion on screen. Her co-star was Mickey Rooney, a more experienced actor, and he gave her some advice on how to summon tears: pretend that her father was dying, that her mother had to wash clothes for a living and that her little dog had been run over. Hearing that sad scenario, Ms. Taylor burst out laughing at the absurdity. When it came time to shoot the scene, she later said: “All I thought about was the horse being very sick and that I was the little girl who owned him. And the tears came.”
Ms. Taylor gave a performance that, quite literally, made grown men and women weep, to say nothing of girls who identified with Velvet. In his review of the film in The Nation, James Agee, otherwise a tough-minded critic, confessed that the first time he had seen Ms. Taylor on screen he had been “choked with the peculiar sort of adoration I might have felt if we were both in the same grade of primary school.”
She was, he said, “rapturously beautiful.”
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Elizabeth Taylor in 1957.
“I think that she and the picture are wonderful, and I hardly know or care whether she can act or not.”
The movie made her a star. Decades later she said “National Velvet” was still “the most exciting film” she had ever made. But there was a drawback. To do the movie she had to sign a long-term contract with MGM. As she said, she “became their chattel until I did ‘Cleopatra.’ ”
At first she played typical teenagers (in “Life With Father,” “A Date With Judy” and “Little Women”). At 16 she was “an emotional child inside a woman’s body,” she later said. But in contrast to other child actresses, she made an easy transition to adult roles. In 1950 she played Robert Taylor’s wife in “Conspirator.” The same year, she was in Vincente Minnelli’s “Father of the Bride,” with Spencer Tracy. And, life imitating art, she became a bride herself in 1950, marrying the hotel heir Conrad N. Hilton Jr., who was known as Nicky. After an unhappy nine months, she divorced him and then married the British actor Michael Wilding, who was 20 years older than she.
By her own estimation, she “whistled and hummed” her way through her early films. But that changed in 1951, when she made “A Place in the Sun,” playing her prototypical role as a seemingly unattainable romantic vision. The film, she said, was “the first time I ever considered acting when I was young.”
In the film she plays a wealthy young woman of social position who is the catalyst for Montgomery Clift’s American tragedy. To the astonishment of skeptics, she held her own with Clift and Shelley Winters.
“A Place in the Sun” was followed by “Ivanhoe,” “Beau Brummel” and “The Last Time I Saw Paris.” Then she made two wide-screen epics back to back, “Giant” (with Rock Hudson and James Dean, who died after finishing his scenes) and “Raintree County” (with Clift, who became a close friend). Her role in “Raintree County” (1957), as Susanna Drake, a Civil-War era Southern belle who marries an Indiana abolitionist, earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress. It was the first of four consecutive nominations; the last resulted in a win for “BUtterfield 8.”
Ms. Taylor was filming “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” with Paul Newman in 1958 when her third husband, the impresario Mike Todd, was killed with three others in New Mexico in the crash of a small plane called the Lucky Liz. They had been married little more than a year and had a newly born daughter, Liza.
A bereaved Ms. Taylor was consoled by her husband’s best friend, the singer Eddie Fisher, who in a storybook romance was married to the actress Debbie Reynolds, one of America’s sweethearts. Soon a shocked nation learned that Debbie and Eddie were over and that Mr. Fisher was marrying Ms. Taylor, continuing what turned out to be a chain of marital events. (In 1993, at an AIDS benefit, Ms. Reynolds appeared on stage 20 minutes before Ms. Taylor and said, to waves of laughter, “Well, here I am, sharing something else with Elizabeth.”) Mr. Fisher died in 2010.
After Ms. Taylor finished “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” MGM demanded that she fulfill her contract and act in a film version of John O’Hara’s “BUtterfield 8.” Her performance as the call girl Gloria Wandrous brought her an Oscar in 1961 as best actress.
The award was bestowed less than six weeks after she had an emergency tracheotomy in London after being overcome by pneumonia and losing consciousness, prompting one of several times that headlines proclaimed her close to death. She and others felt that the Oscar was given to her more out of sympathy for her illness than in appreciation of her acting. Next was “Cleopatra,” in which she was the first actress to be paid a million-dollar salary. Working overtime, she earned more than twice that amount. The movie was made in Rome and cost so much ($40 million, a record then) and took so long that it almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox and caused an irrevocable rift between the producer Darryl F. Zanuck and the director, Mankiewicz.
When “Cleopatra” was finally released in 1963 it was a disappointment. But the film became legendary for the off-screen affair of its stars, Ms. Taylor, then married to Mr. Fisher, and Richard Burton, then married to Sybil Williams.
Taylor and Burton: it seemed like a meeting, or a collision, of opposites, the most famous movie star in the world and the man many believed to be the finest classical actor of his generation. What they had in common was an extraordinary passion for each other and for living life to the fullest. Their romantic roller coaster was chronicled by the international press, which referred them as an entity called Dickenliz.
After finishing the film, Ms. Taylor went with Burton to Toronto, where he was on a pre-Broadway tour with “Hamlet.” In Toronto, and later in New York, the two were at the height of their megastardom, accompanied by a retinue as large as that of the Sultan of Brunei and besieged by fans, who turned every public appearance into a mob scene. In New York as many as 5,000 people gathered outside the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on West 46th Street after every performance of “Hamlet,” hoping Ms. Taylor was backstage and eager to see the couple emerge.
They were married in 1964, and Ms. Taylor tried without success to keep herself in the background. “I don’t think of myself as Taylor,” she said, ingenuously. “I much prefer being Burton.” She told her husband, “If I get fat enough, they won’t ask me to do any more films.” Although she put on weight, she continued to act.
The life of Dickenliz was one of excess. They owned mansions in various countries, rented entire floors of hotels and spent lavishly on cars, art and jewelry, including the 69.42-carat Cartier diamond and the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond. (In 2002 Ms. Taylor published “My Love Affair With Jewelry,” a coffee-table memoir as told through the prism of her world-class gems.)
In Hollywood’s golden age, stars were protected by the movie studios. That’s not true anymore.
Since childhood Ms. Taylor had been surrounded by pets. When she was not allowed to take her dogs to London because of a quarantine rule, she leased a yacht for them at a reported cost of $20,000 and moored it on the Thames.
After “Cleopatra,” the couple united in a film partnership that gave the public glossy romances like “The V.I.P.’s” and “The Sandpiper” and one powerful drama about marital destructiveness, the film version of Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” As Martha, the faculty wife, a character 20 years older than she was, Ms. Taylor gained 20 pounds and made herself look dowdy. After she received her second Academy Award for the performance, Burton, who played Martha’s husband, George, offered a wry response: “She won an Oscar for it, he said, bitterly, and I didn’t, he said, equally bitterly.”
The Burtons also acted together in “Doctor Faustus” (1968), in which she was a conjured-up Helen of Troy; “The Comedians” (1967), with Ms. Taylor as an adulterous ambassador’s wife in Haiti; Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of “The Taming of the Shrew” (1967), with Ms. Taylor as the volatile Katharina to Burton’s wife-hunting Petruchio; “Boom!” (1968), based on the Tennessee Williams play “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” with Ms. Taylor as a rich, ailing woman living on an island; “Under Milk Wood” (1972), an adaptation of the Dylan Thomas play; and “Hammersmith Is Out” (1972), a retelling of the Faust legend in which she played a diner waitress. On her own, Ms. Taylor was an adulterous Army major’s wife in “Reflections in a Golden Eye” (1967), with Marlon Brando; a fading prostitute in “Secret Ceremony” (1968); an aging Las Vegas chorus girl in “The Only Game in Town” (1970), with Warren Beatty; a rich widow who witnesses a murder in “Night Watch” (1973); and a wife who tries to save her marriage through plastic surgery in “Ash Wednesday” (1973).
After 10 high-living and often torrid years, the Burtons were divorced in 1974, remarried 16 months later (in a mud-hut village in Botswana), separated again the next February and granted a divorce in Haiti in July 1976.
Burton died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 58 in 1984 in Switzerland. Thirteen years later Ms. Taylor said that Todd and Burton were the loves of her life, and that if Burton had lived they might have married a third time. For years after his death, she told The Times in 2000, she couldn’t watch when the films they had made were on television.
After her second divorce from Burton, she wed John W. Warner, a Virginia politician, and was active in his winning campaign for the United States Senate. For five years she was a Washington political wife and, she said, “the loneliest person in the world.” Overcome by depression, she checked into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She later admitted that she had been treated as “a drunk and a junkie.”
Battling Drugs and Food
In addition to alcohol and drugs, she had a problem with overeating, and it became the butt of jokes by the comedian Joan Rivers. (“She has more chins than a Chinese phone book.”) Ms. Rivers later apologized to Ms. Taylor through a friend, though Ms. Taylor shrugged off the insults, saying they did not “get me where I live.” Ms. Rivers said, “From then on, I was crazy about her.” Ms. Taylor wrote a book about her weight problems, “Elizabeth Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Image & Self-Esteem” (1988). When she returned to the Ford Center for further treatment, she met Larry Fortensky, a construction worker, who was also a patient. In a wedding spectacular in 1991, she and Mr. Fortensky were married at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif., with celebrated guests sharing the grounds with Jackson’s giraffes, zebras and llamas. Although the press was not invited, a photographer parachuted in and narrowly missed landing on Gregory Peck. Five years later, the Fortenskys were divorced. Ms. Taylor, a longtime friend of Jackson’s, was a visible presence at his funeral in 2009.
Through the 1980s and ’90s, Ms. Taylor acted in movies sporadically, did “The Little Foxes” and “Private Lives” on Broadway, and appeared on television as Louella Parsons in “Malice in Wonderland” in 1985 and as the aging actress Alexandra Del Lago in Tennessee Williams’s “Sweet Bird of Youth” in 1989.
In 1994 she played Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law in “The Flintstones,” and in 1996 she made appearances on four CBS sitcoms. In 2001 she and Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Debbie Reynolds made fun of their own images in “These Old Broads,” a tepidly received television movie — written by Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Ms. Reynolds and Eddie Fisher — about aging movie stars (with Ms. Taylor, getting little screen time, as their caftan-wearing agent) who despise one another but reunite for a TV special.
Ms. Taylor was often seen as a caricature of herself, “full of no-nonsense shamelessness,” as Margo Jefferson wrote in The Times in 1999, adding, “Whether it’s about how she ages or what she wears, she has, bless her heart, made the principles of good and bad taste equally meaningless.”
Increasingly, Ms. Taylor divided her time between her charitable works, including various Israeli causes (she had converted to Judaism in 1959), and commercial enterprises, like a line of perfumes marketed under her name. She helped raise more than $100 million to fight AIDS. In February 1997, she celebrated her 65th birthday at a party that was a benefit for AIDS research. After the party Ms. Taylor entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for an operation on a brain tumor.
There were other medical setbacks. In recent years she had to use a wheelchair because of osteoporosis/scoliosis. In 2009 she had surgery to address heart problems. This year she refused to undergo a back operation, saying she had already had a half-dozen and wasn’t up for another. In February she entered Cedars-Sinai for the final time with congestive heart failure.
She is survived by her sons Michael and Christopher Wilding; her daughter Liza Todd; another daughter, Maria Burton; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
In 2002 Ms. Taylor was among five people to receive Kennedy Center Honors in the performing arts.
Married or single, sick or healthy, on screen or off, Ms. Taylor never lost her appetite for experience. Late in life, when she had one of many offers to write her memoirs, she refused, saying with characteristic panache, “Hell no, I’m still living my memoirs.”
Mel Gussow, the principal writer of this article, died in 2005. William McDonald, William Grimes and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed updated reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 23, 2011
An earlier version of this article misstated the given name of an actor, best known as Alfalfa, who appeared with Ms. Taylor in her first film, “There’s One Born Every Minute.” He was Carl Switzer, not Alfred.
Elizabeth Taylor, whose name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, dazzled generations of moviegoers with her beauty.
The actress became a regular at the Abbey in West Hollywood, where customers and employees were saddened by her death.
Elizabeth Taylor was a survivor, and it was that survival that helped separate her from many other old Hollywood stars.
Those eyes. Those mesmerizing violet eyes.
That voice, that look.
She was definitely a one of a kind woman and actress, the likes of which the world will never see again.
Elizabeth Taylor was more than beauty—she was a magnificent screen presence.
Loved, vilified and imitated, she was in a class by herself.
Yes, she had many husbands, and knew many men (my favourite was when she married construction worker Larry Fortensky. When they broke up, all I could think of was: “Liz, Liz, did you keep enough beer in the fridge?), and many fans castigated her when she became involved with Debbie Reynolds’ husband Eddie Fisher (with whom she starred in “Butterfield Eight“). Many called her her a homewrecker, but, I’ll say this about Ms. Taylor: every man she was publicly connected to, she married.
She’s gone now, a shining star amongst the constellation of those no longer with us.
Thank you, Ms. Taylor, for all the wonderful moments you gave us, thanks for gracing us with your presence, your talent, your elan. Thank you for standing by your friends (Rock Hudson, Michael Jackson, Montgomery Clift) when the world had whipped them so much.
Thank you for speaking out boldly for those who suffered from HIV-AIDS, at a time when many were too ashamed to be connected with that deadly disease.
Most of all. . . .
. . . .thank you for just being you.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor.
Rest in peace, Ms. Taylor.
Rest in peace.
LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY, GOSPEL AND DISCO SINGER
By JON PARELES
Published: March 23, 2011
Loleatta Holloway, a gospel-charged disco singer whose 1980 hit “Love Sensation” had a long afterlife when fragments of it were used in later hits, died Monday in a suburban Chicago hospital. She was 64 and lived in Chicago.
Salsoul, via Photofest
Ms. Holloway was born in 1946 and grew up singing in gospel groups, including her mother’s Holloway Community Singers choir. From 1967 to 1971 she sang in one of gospel’s most respected groups, the Caravans, led by Albertina Walker. She then turned to secular music, bringing the raspy fervor and airborne whoops of her gospel performances to songs about desire.
Her rhythm-and-blues career began with the single “Rainbow ’71,” produced by her future husband, the guitarist Floyd Smith. Mr. Smith went on to produce her first two albums, “Loleatta” in 1973 and “Cry to Me” in 1975. He died in 1982; Ms. Holloway is survived by four children and nine grandchildren.
Her 1975 remake of the Solomon Burke hit “Cry to Me” reached No. 10 on the R&B chart. But Ms. Holloway’s label, Aware, closed down, and disco was on the rise in 1976 when she signed with the Philadelphia-based Gold Mind label, a subsidiary of Salsoul Records. She recorded with the producer and singer Bunny Sigler, and “Only You,” a duet with him, reached No. 11 on the R&B chart. In 1977 two of her dance tracks, “”Dreamin’ ” and “Hit and Run,” both reached No. 3 on the dance chart, where she would have most of her hits.
In the late 1970s Ms. Holloway began working with the singer Dan Hartman. She can be heard on his 1979 dance-club hit “Relight My Fire,” and he wrote and produced “Love Sensation” for her. Those sessions, Ms. Holloway recalled in a 2009 interview with discomusic.com, required 29 vocal takes over two days of recording. On the second day, she said, she lost her voice, but she put some Vicks VapoRub in her coffee to keep singing. “That’s how I was able to hold that note for so long,” she recalled.
“Love Sensation” reached No. 1 on the dance chart. Four years later her “Crash Goes Love” reached No. 5.
But “Love Sensation” proved durable. Samples of her vocal were used by the Italian dance-music group Black Box for “Ride on Time,” a No. 1 hit in Britain, at first without crediting Ms. Holloway; the video clip showed another woman lip-synching Ms. Holloway’s sampled vocals. She successfully sued Black Box, in a case settled out of court. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, led by Mark Wahlberg, also drew on “Love Sensation” — this time giving Ms. Holloway prominent credit — for “Good Vibrations,” which became a No. 1 pop hit in the United States in 1991.
The song was also sampled on dance tracks by Cappella and Cevin Fisher, and Ms. Holloway remade it herself in 2006, as she continued to perform on the dance-club circuit.
“I never thought of myself as a good singer,” Ms. Holloway said in 2009. “When I was 5 years old I started singing in church and I hated my voice because I sounded like a grown woman, not a child. I was ashamed of it.”
NIKOLAI ANDRIANOV, GYMNASTICS ICON
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: March 22, 2011
Nikolai Andrianov, the record-setting Russian gymnast who had won more Olympic medals than any other male athlete before the swimmer Michael Phelps passed him, died Monday in Vladimir, Russia. He was 58.
Gymnast Nikolai Andrianov in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Immensely powerful in the upper body and with a gift for leaping quickly off the floor, Andrianov was especially strong in the rings and floor exercises, but over three Summer Olympics —Munich in 1972, Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980 — his 15 medals, seven of them gold, included at least one in all four of the other gymnastic events as well: the vault, pommel horse, parallel bars and horizontal bar.
Andrianov was the 1976 Olympic all-around champion and the silver medalist in the 1980 all-around competition. Only the Soviet women’s gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 18 medals in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 games, and Phelps, who won eight medals for the United States in Beijing in 2008, bringing his total to 16, have won more Olympic medals.
“He was good on everything,” said Peter Vidmar, a three-medal winner at the 1984 Olympics who is now the chairman of USA Gymnastics, the governing body of the sport in America. “He was not the most flexible athlete on the floor, which was unusual because the Russians were typically considered the artists. But he was really consistent, and very, very strong, with almost a barrel chest. There wasn’t one event where he was the best in the world, but if he hit, he was going to win.”
Beyond his physical gifts and technical mastery, however, he was known for his courage and the kind of bravado attributed to fighter pilots and astronauts — “the right stuff,” in the writer Tom Wolfe’s phrase. He pushed other gymnasts to match his feats — attempting triple back flip dismounts from the rings, for example, when everyone else was doing doubles. He also enjoyed his cigarettes and vodka.
“He was one of the toughest gymnasts I’ve ever seen,” said Bart Conner, who competed against Andrianov in the late 1970s and went on to win two gold medals in the 1984 Summer Olympics. “Flat-out tough.”
Nikolai Yefimovich Andrianov was born in Vladimir, east of Moscow, on Oct. 14, 1952, one of four children raised by a single mother after his father abandoned the family. He grew up poor and was something of a hoodlum, headed for trouble before he was rescued by gymnastics in general and a coach, Nikolai Tolkachev, in particular.
He earned a place on the Soviet national team in 1970 and won his first medals in international competition — including two golds, in pommel horse and vault — at the European Championships in 1971. The next year, he was the all-around champion of the Soviet Union.
At the 1972 Summer Olympics, at age 19, Andrianov won a gold in floor exercises, a bronze in the vault and a silver in the team combined competition. His finest hour came at the 1976 Games, when he won seven medals, including gold in the floor exercises, rings, vault and all-around. In 1980 he added five more medals, including a gold in the vault. In 1978, he was the all-around winner at the world championships.
After his retirement from competition, Andrianov was an international judge and a coach in the Soviet Union and, later, in Japan.
In the 1980s, he coached the Soviet junior team, where his prize pupil was Vitaly Scherbo, who went on to win six out of eight possible gold medals at the 1992 Summer Olympics, the greatest performance ever by a gymnast at an Olympics.
Scherbo said in an interview Tuesday that Andrianov, perhaps owing to his own rugged upbringing, helped him cope with his own worst instincts and once persuaded the coach of the Soviet national team to reinstate him after he had been suspended, threatening his future.
“He was my mentor,” Scherbo, who now runs a gymnastics school in Las Vegas, said of Andrianov. “He taught me how to concentrate, to keep myself inside myself. He is the man who made my gymnastics life.”
Andrianov’s survivors include his wife, Lyubov Burda, also a world-class gymnast, whom he married in 1973, and two sons.
“His contributions were immeasurable,” said Conner, now the president of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. “There’s a fellowship, a brotherhood of these athletes, and we appreciated the artistry of a classical gymnast, but we were most in awe of a guy who would cut for a triple back flip off the rings when nobody else would go for it. In our little fraternity, we hold all these layers of respect, and to a man, gymnasts say, ‘That guy was a stud!’ ”
PINETOP PERKINS, DELTA BOOGIE-WOOGIE MASTER
By BILL FRISKICS-WARREN
Published: March 21, 2011
Pinetop Perkins, the boogie-woogie piano player who worked in Muddy Waters’s last great band and was among the last surviving members of the first generation of Delta bluesmen, died on Monday at his home in Austin, Tex. He was 97.
Pinetop Perkins playing at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2008.
From his days in the groups of Waters and the slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk to the vigorous solo career he fashioned over the last 20 years, Mr. Perkins’s accomplishments were numerous and considerable. His longevity as a performer was remarkable — all the more so considering his fondness for cigarettes and alcohol; by his own account he began smoking at age 9 and didn’t quit drinking until he was 82. Few people working in any popular art form have been as prolific in the ninth and tenth decades of their lives.
A sideman for most of his career, Mr. Perkins did not release an album under his own name until his 75th year. From then until his death he made more than a dozen records on which he was the leader. His 2008 album, “Pinetop Perkins & Friends” (Telarc), included contributions from admirers like B. B. King and Eric Clapton. His last album, released in 2010, was “Joined at the Hip” (Telarc), a collaboration with the harmonica player Willie Big Eyes Smith, which won a Grammy this year as best traditional blues album.
Mr. Perkins’s durability was born of the resilience and self-reliance he developed as a child growing up on a plantation in Honey Island, Miss., in the years leading up to the Great Depression.
“I grew up hard,” he said in a 2008 interview with No Depression, the American roots music magazine. “I picked cotton and plowed with the mule and fixed the cars and played with the guitar and the piano.”
“What I learned I learned on my own,” he continued. “I didn’t have much school. Three years.”
The author Robert Gordon, in his book “Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters,” wrote that Mr. Perkins “learned to play in the same school as Muddy — a cotton field, where the conjugation was done with a hoe and the school lunch was a fish sandwich and homemade whiskey.”
Originally a guitarist, Mr. Perkins concentrated exclusively on the piano after an incident, in 1943, in which a dancer at a juke joint attacked him with a knife, severing the tendons in his left arm. The injury left him unable to hold a guitar or manage its fretboard.
In 1943 Mr. Perkins moved to Helena, Ark., to work with Nighthawk. He later joined Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Boys, before moving on to the band of the slide guitarist Earl Hooker. He also appeared on the recordings that Nighthawk made for the Chess label and that Hooker made for Sun in the 1950s. It was for Sun, in 1953, that he cut his first version of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” the song that furnished him with his nickname and became his signature number. He appropriated the tune from the repertory of the barrelhouse piano player Clarence Smith, who was also known as Pinetop.
Mr. Perkins has also been credited with teaching Ike Turner how to play the piano. Rock and pop pianists like Elton John, Billy Joel and Gregg Allman have said they were influenced by his exuberant, down-home style of playing.
Joe Willie Perkins was born on July 7, 1913, in Belzoni, Miss. His parents separated when he was 6. Mr. Perkins, who dropped out of school after the third grade, taught himself the rudiments of blues guitar on a homemade instrument called a diddley bow: a length of wire stretched between nails driven into a wall. He began entertaining at dances and house parties at age 10 and soon learned to play the piano as well. While still in his teens he left Mississippi and traveled to Chicago.
He eventually returned to the Delta, where he drove a tractor in the cotton fields, but he again made Chicago his home in the late ’50s. He wasn’t very active as musician there, though, until Hooker enlisted him to appear on an album he was making for Arhoolie Records in 1968. When the pianist Otis Spann left Waters’s band the next year, Mr. Perkins, whose lean gutbucket style contrasted with Spann’s more florid playing, was recruited to replace him.
“I played more of a bluesy type than Spann did,” he told Mr. Gordon. “I taught myself off records, Memphis Slim, them old piano players, then added to it. Yeah, hard and loud, beat it to pieces.”
Mr. Perkins worked for Waters for more than a decade, appearing on his acclaimed comeback albums of the late ’70s and performing with him at, among other shows, the Band’s celebrated final concert in 1976, which was billed as “The Last Waltz.”
Mr. Perkins and other members of the Waters group left and formed the Legendary Blues Band in 1980. Mr. Perkins sang and played piano on that ensemble’s records before leaving, in the late ’80s, to concentrate on his solo career.
In 2000 he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. He was given a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2005 and won Grammys for “Joined at the Hip” and, in 2008, for “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas” (Blue Shoe Project), a collaboration with his contemporaries Henry Townsend, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Honeyboy Edwards. “Born in the Honey,” a documentary about Mr. Perkins’s life, was released in 2007.
Mr. Southard, his agent, said Mr. Perkins had no known survivors.
“What little family I got is in Mississippi,” Mr. Perkins said in an interview posted on his Web site, pinetopperkins.com. “A whole lot of them died before I left, and my sister died a long time ago, before my mama did. I had a bunch of friends and people in Chicago, but no family.”
JOHN CASHIN JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: March 26, 2011
John L. Cashin Jr., a civil rights campaigner who was the first black candidate for governor of Alabama since Reconstruction, mounting an unsuccessful challenge in 1970 to the arch-segregationist George C. Wallace, died on Monday in Washington, where he lived in recent years. He was 82.
John L. Cashin Jr. during his bid for elective office in 1970.
A dentist, Dr. Cashin came from a family that had long fought for social justice. Their struggle was chronicled by Ms. Cashin in her recent book, “The Agitator’s Daughter,” published by PublicAffairs in 2008. The book also relates her father’s later troubles with the law.
In 2009, The Huntsville Times in Alabama called Dr. Cashin “one of the most ferocious civil rights lions in Alabama back in the day.”
Dr. Cashin founded the National Democratic Party of Alabama in 1968 and was its chairman until it disbanded in 1976. A predominantly black splinter party, it was conceived in opposition to the fervently anti-integrationist Democratic Party embodied in the region by Wallace, who had been governor from 1963 to 1967 and by 1970 was seeking a second term.
As expected, Wallace won the governorship in a landslide in the 1970 general election, with 74.51 percent of the vote. Dr. Cashin, with 14.68 percent, finished second, ahead of several independent and minor-party candidates. (There was no Republican candidate.)
Wallace, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency four times, was later elected to third and fourth terms as governor. Paralyzed from the waist down as a result of an assassination attempt in 1972, he publicly moderated his views on segregation toward the end of his life. He died in 1998.
The party Dr. Cashin founded did succeed in changing the face of local offices throughout the state. In 1968, after Alabama refused to place its candidates on the ballot for the general election, the party sued. The case was ultimately heard by the United States Supreme Court, which ordered the state to put them on.
In November, 17 of the splinter party’s candidates won local offices in Alabama’s Black Belt, the region, named for its rich, dark soil, comprising 17 counties in the central and western part of the state.
But in Greene County, near Tuscaloosa, a judge defied the high court’s order and refused to place six of the party’s candidates on local ballots that fall. The case returned to the Supreme Court, which voided the results of the general election in the county and mandated a special election there.
In that election, held in July 1969, the six candidates, all African-American, prevailed. Their victory — four seats on the county commission and two on the school board — was the first time since 1816 that Greene County’s government had not been controlled by whites.
John Logan Cashin Jr. was born in Huntsville on April 16, 1928. His father, John Logan Sr., a dentist, and his mother, the former Grace Brandon, a junior high school principal, were active in civil rights work. His paternal grandfather, Herschel V. Cashin, had served in the Alabama Legislature during Reconstruction.
After attending Fisk University, John Cashin Jr. received a bachelor’s degree in natural science from Tennessee State University. He earned a D.D.S. from Meharry Medical College, a historically black institution in Nashville, and joined his father in practice. In the 1950s, he served with the Army Dental Corps in France.
The younger Dr. Cashin ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Huntsville in 1964. A licensed pilot, he took to the air in his single-engine plane each election season for years to drop campaign leaflets in the state’s black districts.
Partly because of his civil rights activities, Dr. Cashin’s life had no small share of turmoil. As his daughter’s memoir recounts, he was long monitored by the F.B.I. The Internal Revenue Service pursued a case against him for years, saying he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. (The amount was later greatly reduced.)
Although Dr. Cashin had been “moderately wealthy,” as The New York Times wrote in 1970, he poured nearly all of his personal resources into the party he founded, leaving his family in vastly reduced circumstances, Ms. Cashin wrote. In April 1982, Dr. Cashin was convicted of perjury in federal court in New York. He had been charged with giving false statements to a judge while trying to arrange bail for a narcotics dealer. He was sentenced to four months in prison.
Later that April, Dr. Cashin pleaded guilty in an Alabama court to two counts of second-degree theft for having cashed his mother’s Social Security and pension checks for at least several years after her death. As The Huntsville Times reported, he served 17 months in a minimum-security prison.
Dr. Cashin’s first wife, the former Joan Carpenter, whom he married in 1957, died in 1997. He is survived by their three children: his daughter, Ms. Cashin, and two sons, John M. and Carroll; his second wife, Louise White Cashin; and five grandchildren.
GERALDINE FERRARO, VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN 1984 ELECTION
Published: March 26, 2011
Geraldine A. Ferraro, the former Queens congresswoman who strode onto a podium in 1984 to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president and to take her place in American history as the first woman nominated for national office by a major party, died Saturday in Boston.
She was 75 and lived in Manhattan.
The cause was complications from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that she had battled for 12 years, her family said in a statement. She died at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she had been undergoing treatment since Monday.
“If we can do this, we can do anything,” Ms. Ferraro declared on a July evening to a cheering Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. And for a moment, for the Democratic Party and for an untold number of American women, anything seemed possible: a woman occupying the second-highest office in the land, a derailing of the Republican juggernaut led by President Ronald Reagan, a President Walter F. Mondale.
It did not turn out that way — not by a long shot. After the roars in the Moscone Center had subsided and a fitful general election campaign had run its course, hopes for Mr. Mondale and his plain-speaking, barrier-breaking running mate were buried in a Reagan landslide.
But Ms. Ferraro’s supporters proclaimed a victory of sorts nonetheless: 64 years after women won the right to vote, a woman had removed the “men only” sign from the White House door.
It would be another 24 years before another woman from a major party was nominated for vice president — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican running mate of Senator John McCain, in 2008. And though Hillary Rodham Clinton came close to being nominated that year as the Democratic presidential candidate, a woman has yet to occupy the Oval Office. But Ms. Ferraro’s ascendance gave many women heart.
Ann Richards, who was the Texas state treasurer at the time and went on to become governor, recalled that after the Ferraro nomination, “the first thing I thought of was not winning in the political sense, but of my two daughters.”
“To think,” Ms. Richards added, “of the numbers of young women who can now aspire to anything.”
In a statement, President Obama said Saturday, “Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life.”
As Mr. Mondale’s surprise choice, Ms. Ferraro rocketed to national prominence, propelled by fervid feminist support, a spirited and sometimes saucy personality, canny political skills and the calculation by Democratic strategists that Reagan might be vulnerable on issues thought to be more important to women.
But it proved to be a difficult campaign. The incumbent Reagan-Bush ticket presented a formidable enough challenge in and of itself, but Ms. Ferraro found herself on the defensive almost from the start, answering critics who questioned her qualifications for high office. Then there were damaging revelations about the finances of her husband, John Zaccaro, forcing Ms. Ferraro to release his tax returns and hold a marathon news conference in the middle of the general election race. Some said she had become a liability to Mr. Mondale and only hurt his chances more.
Quick Study as Candidate
A former Queens criminal prosecutor, Ms. Ferraro was a vigorous but relatively inexperienced candidate with a better feel for urban ward politics than for international diplomacy. But she proved to be a quick study and came across as a new breed of feminist politician — comfortable with the boys, particularly powerful Democrats like the House speaker, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., and less combative than predecessors like Representative Bella Abzug of New York.
She was also ideal for television: a down-to-earth, streaked-blond, peanut-butter-sandwich-making mother whose personal story resonated powerfully. Brought up by a single mother who had crocheted beads on wedding dresses to send her daughter to good schools, Ms. Ferraro had waited until her own children were school age before going to work in a Queens district attorney’s office headed by a cousin.
In the 1984 race, many Americans found her breezy style refreshing. “What are you — crazy?” was a familiar expression. She might break into a little dance behind the speaker’s platform when she liked the introductory music. Feeling patronized by her Republican opponent, Vice President George Bush, she publicly scolded him.
With Ms. Ferraro on the ticket, Democrats hoped to exploit a so-called gender gap between the parties. A Newsweek poll taken after she was nominated showed men favoring Reagan-Bush 58 percent to 36 percent but women supporting Mondale-Ferraro 49 percent to 41 percent.
For the first time, a major candidate for national office talked about abortion with the phrase “If I were pregnant,” or about foreign policy with the personal observation “As the mother of a draft-age son….” She wore pearls and silk dresses and publicly worried that her slip was showing.
She also traveled a 55,000-mile campaign trail, spoke in 85 cities and raised $6 million. But in November the Democratic ticket won only one state — Mr. Mondale’s Minnesota — and the District of Columbia.
And to the Democrats’ chagrin, Mr. Reagan captured even the women’s vote, drawing some 55 percent; women, it appeared, had opposed, almost as much as men, the tax increase that Mr. Mondale, a former senator and vice president under Jimmy Carter, had said in his acceptance speech would be inevitable, an attempt at straight talking that cost him dearly at the polls.
Most election analysts believed that from the start the Democratic ticket had little chance against a popular incumbent who was basking in an economic recovery and proclaiming that it was “morning again in America.” Some said the choice of the little-known Ms. Ferraro had been a desperate move to attract the female vote in a daunting election year. Compounding the campaign’s woes was a barrage of questions about the Ferraro family finances — often carrying insinuations about ties to organized crime — that not only blemished Ms. Ferraro’s stature as the first Italian-American national candidate but also diverted attention from other issues.
Ms. Ferraro’s politics teetered from liberal positions, like her support for the Equal Rights Amendment for women and a nuclear freeze, to conservative ones, like her opposition to school busing and her support of tax credits for private and parochial school parents. In her first race for the House of Representatives, in 1978, from New York’s Ninth Congressional District in Queens, a Republican stronghold, her slogan was “Finally, a tough Democrat.”
The abortion issue, magnified because she was Roman Catholic and a woman, plagued her campaign. Though she opposed the procedure personally, she said, others had the right to choose for themselves. Abortion opponents hounded her at almost every stop with an intensity seldom experienced by male politicians.
Writing in The Washington Post in September 1984, the columnist Mary McGrory quoted an unnamed Roman Catholic priest as saying, “When the nuns in the fifth grade told Geraldine she would have to die for her faith, she didn’t know it would be this way.”
Named for a Brother
Geraldine Anne Ferraro was born on Aug. 26, 1935, in the Hudson River city of Newburgh, N.Y., where she was the fourth child and only daughter of Dominick Ferraro, an Italian immigrant who owned a restaurant and a five-and-dime store, and the former Antonetta L. Corrieri. One brother died shortly after birth, and another, Gerard, died in an automobile accident when he was 3, two years before Geraldine was born.
Geraldine was born at home; her mother, who had been holding Gerard at the time of the crash and who had washed and pressed his clothes for months after his death, would not go to the hospital for the delivery and leave the third brother, Carl, at home.
Geraldine was named for Gerard, but in her book “Framing a Life: A Family Memoir,” written with Catherine Whitney, Ms. Ferraro said her mother had emphasized that she was not taking his place.
“Gerry is special,” she quoted her mother as saying, “because she is a girl.”
Unknown to Ms. Ferraro at the time, her father had repeated trouble with the state liquor authorities and ultimately lost his restaurant license. During the vice-presidential campaign, she learned by reading The New York Post that her father had been arrested on charges of running a numbers racket but had died of a heart attack the morning he was to appear in court. Her mother was arrested as an accomplice, but the charges were dropped after her husband’s death, Ms. Ferraro wrote.
She called her father’s death, which happened when she was 8, “a dividing line that runs through my life.” In her grief, she said, she developed anemia.
Her mother soon sold the store and the family’s house and moved to the South Bronx. With the proceeds from the sale of property in Italy that her husband had left her, she sent Geraldine to the Marymount School, a Catholic boarding school in Tarrytown, N.Y. She sent Carl to military school.
Ms. Ferraro’s outstanding grades earned her a scholarship to Marymount College in Tarrytown, from which she transferred to the school’s Manhattan branch. She commuted there from Queens, where her mother had moved by then. An English major, Ms. Ferraro was editor of the school newspaper and an athlete and won numerous honors before graduating in 1956. “Delights in the unexpected,” the yearbook said.
After graduating, Ms. Ferraro got a job teaching in a public grade school in Queens. She later applied to Fordham Law School, where an admissions officer warned her that she might be taking a man’s place. Admitted to its night school, she was one of two women in a class of 179 and received her law degree in 1960.
Ms. Ferraro and John Zaccaro, whose family was in the real estate business, were married on July 16, 1960, two days after she passed her bar exam. She was admitted to the New York State bar in 1961, and decided to keep her maiden name professionally to honor her mother. (She was admitted to the United States Supreme Court bar in 1978.)
For the first 13 years of her marriage, Ms. Ferraro devoted herself mainly to her growing family. Donna was born in 1962, John in 1964 and Laura in 1966. Ms. Ferraro did some legal work for her husband’s business, worked pro bono for women in Family Court and dabbled in local politics. In 1970 she was elected president of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association.
In 1973, after her cousin Nicholas Ferraro was elected Queens district attorney, she applied for and got a job as an assistant district attorney in charge of a special victims bureau, investigating rape, crimes against the elderly, and child and wife abuse.
The cases were so harrowing, she later wrote, that they caused her to develop an ulcer. And the crime-breeding societal conditions she saw, she said, planted the seeds of her liberalism.
Sights Set on Congress
One night, before he became governor of New York, Mario M. Cuomo gave Ms. Ferraro and her husband a ride home from a bar mitzvah. She told him she was thinking of running for public office. “What about Congress?” Mr. Cuomo asked.
Ms. Ferraro found her opportunity in 1978, when James J. Delaney, a Democratic congressman from a predominantly working-class district in Queens, announced his retirement. In a three-way Democratic primary for the seat, Ms. Ferraro won with 53 percent of the vote. In the general election campaign, a slugfest against a Republican assemblyman, Alfred A. DelliBovi, she won by 10 percentage points, helped by her law-and-order background.
In the House, Ms. Ferraro was assigned to unglamorous committees but used them to her advantage. On the Public Works and Transportation Committee, she successfully pushed for improved mass transit around La Guardia Airport.
Mr. O’Neill, the speaker, took an immediate liking to her, and in her three terms she voted mostly with her party’s leadership. Liberal and labor groups gave her high ratings, though she was less adamant than many liberal Democrats about cutting military spending.
Ms. Ferraro was a co-sponsor of the Economic Equity Act, which was intended to accomplish many of the aims of the never-ratified Equal Rights Amendment. She also supported federal financing for abortions.
“She manages to be threatening on issues without being threatening personally,” Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, told The Chicago Tribune in 1984.
Others were less laudatory. “Some see her as too compromising, too ambitious, too close to the leadership,” The Washington Post wrote that same year.
Her friendship with Mr. O’Neill helped her career. Thanks in part to him, she was elected secretary of the Democratic caucus, giving her influence on committee assignments, and in 1983 she was awarded a seat on the powerful budget committee, where she received a crash course in economics. To enhance her foreign policy credentials, she took trips to Central America and the Middle East.
It was Ms. Ferraro’s appointment as chairwoman of the 1984 Democratic Platform Committee that gave her the most prominence. In her book “Ferraro: My Story,” written with Linda Bird Francke, she said that in becoming the first woman to hold that post she owed much to a group of Democratic women — Congressional staffers, abortion rights activists, labor leaders and others — who called themselves Team A and who lobbied for her appointment.
Even before then, however, Ms. Ferraro’s name had been mentioned on lists of potential candidates for vice president, along with Representative Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, the former congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Dianne Feinstein, the mayor of San Francisco. By May 1984, Mr. O’Neill had endorsed her for the No. 2 spot on the ticket. It was, as Ms. Ferraro later put it, “the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.”
On July 1, the National Organization for Women threatened a convention floor fight if the Democrats did not choose a woman, and three days later a delegation of Democratic women went to Minnesota to urge Mr. Mondale to do so.
Mr. Mondale made his historic call, asking Ms. Ferraro to be his running mate, on July 11. His campaign believed that she would do well not only among women but also among blue-collar workers. Eight days later, wearing a white dress she had bought on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, she accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president.
Trouble Over Finances
Her campaign was soon stalled by accusations about her personal finances. The storm reached its height in a two-hour press conference on Aug. 21, after Ms. Ferraro had released the tax returns of her husband, Mr. Zaccaro. She responded to question after question in a confident, relaxed manner. Mr. Cuomo called it “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by a politician under pressure.”
Ms. Ferraro later faced down hecklers in Texas and pro-Reagan auto workers in Illinois. After Vice President Bush was overheard bragging that “we tried to kick a little ass last night,” referring to a debate with Ms. Ferraro, she declined to comment directly, though her aides called the remark insulting and demeaning. There were signs at campaign rallies saying, “Give ’em hell, Gerry!”
Everywhere people were adjusting — or manifestly not adjusting — to a woman on a national ticket. Mississippi’s agriculture secretary called Ms. Ferraro “young lady” and asked if she could bake blueberry muffins. When a Roman Catholic bishop gave a news conference in Pennsylvania, he repeatedly referred to the Republican vice-presidential nominee as “Mr. Bush” and to the Democratic one as “Geraldine.”
Ms. Ferraro’s words raised hackles as well. She was criticized for suggesting that Reagan was not a “good Christian” because, she said, his policies hurt the disadvantaged.
Her inability to escape questions about her finances was partly brought on by her husband’s initial refusal to release his tax returns. She riled Italian-Americans when she explained, “If you’re married to an Italian man, you know what it’s like.”
When her financial situation was finally disclosed, it turned out that the candidate with the rags-to-riches story had a net worth approaching $4 million, a boat, a full-time uniformed maid and vacation homes on Fire Island in New York and in the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Bush’s wife, Barbara, complained that Ms. Ferraro was masquerading as a working-class wife and mother, calling her a “four-million-dollar — I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.”
Her associations and finances revealed one questionable thing after another. The Federal Election Commission fined her 1978 campaign committee for accepting $134,000 in contributions from her husband and children when they were legally allowed to contribute only $4,000.
Evidence also emerged that organized-crime figures had contributed to her campaigns. When a House ethics panel investigated her financial disclosures, it came out that one of Mr. Zaccaro’s companies had rented two floors of a building to a pornography distributor.
The disclosures damaged a campaign that was already fighting an uphill battle; Mr. Mondale later said he thought they cost the campaign 15 percentage points in the polls. He also suggested that a male running mate might not have been dissected so severely. After the election, the House ethics committee determined that Ms. Ferraro’s financial disclosures had been inadequate. In 1986, the elections commission said one of her campaign committees had improperly allocated funds.
Ms. Ferraro’s family experienced legal problems of its own. In 1985, Mr. Zaccaro pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that he had schemed to defraud a mortgage broker. Two years later he was acquitted of attempted extortion in a cable television company’s bid to get a Queens franchise. And in 1988 the couple’s son, John Jr., was convicted of a felony for selling cocaine in Vermont while a student at Middlebury College.
After her defeat in 1984, Ms. Ferraro was criticized for appearing in a Diet Pepsi commercial. Feminists in particular called it undignified.
She is survived by her husband, three children and eight grandchildren.
Later Bids for Office
Weary of the spotlight on her family, Ms. Ferraro passed up a chance to challenge Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, Republican of New York, in his bid for a second term in 1986. But she decided to seek the seat in 1992 and entered the Democratic primary. She finished 10,000 votes (1 percent of the total) behind Robert Abrams, the state attorney general, who lost to Mr. D’Amato in the general election. She again ran for the Senate in 1998 but lost to Charles E. Schumer in the Democratic primary by a lopsided margin.
Ms. Ferraro was later ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission during the Clinton administration and co-host of the CNN program “Crossfire” from 1996 to 1998. She also wrote books and articles and did business consulting.
Near the end of 1998, she learned she had multiple myeloma, a bone-marrow cancer that suppresses the immune system. She was one of the first cancer patients to be treated with thalidomide, a drug used in the 1960s to treat morning sickness that caused severe defects in unborn children.
“Such a strange thing,” Ms. Ferraro said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001. “What was terrible for a healthy fetus has been wonderful at defeating the cancer cells.”
She addressed her place in history in a long letter to The Times in 1988, noting that women wrote to her about how she had inspired them to take on challenges, “always adding a version of ‘I decided if you could do it, I can too.’ ” Schoolgirls, she said, told her they hoped to be president someday and needed advice.
“I am the first to admit that were I not a woman, I would not have been the vice-presidential nominee,” she wrote. But she insisted that her presence on the ticket had translated into votes that the ticket might otherwise have not received.
In any event, she said, the political realities of 1984 had made it all but impossible for the Democrats to win, no matter the candidates or their gender. “Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office at the height of his popularity, with inflation and interest rates down, the economy moving and the country at peace, would have required God on the ticket,” Ms. Ferraro wrote, “and She was not available!”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 26, 2011
An earlier version of a video associated with this article misstated the year Ms. Ferraro was nominated for vice president. It was 1984, not 1983.
Bulletin at a Glance
March 23, 2011 | Astronomers have found what could be the first-ever members of a new stellar class — “stars” with surface temperatures lower than that of a hot cup of coffee. > read more
March 21, 2011 | A new study with the Hubble Space Telescope pins down the universe’s expansion rate with unprecedented accuracy. > read more
March 24, 2011 | Comet impacts? Magnetic oddities? Crashed alien spaceships? Soon scientists hope to solve the longstanding mystery of bright swirls like on the lunar surface. > read more
February 23, 2011 | Join the sixth worldwide GLOBE at Night 2011 star-counting campaign (March 22nd through April 4th), and do your part to fight light pollution! > read more
February 24, 2011 | This will be a month of transition, celestially speaking: spring and daylight-saving time arrive for northern skywatchers, > read moremakes an exit, and Saturn is waiting in the wings.
December 27, 2010 | A massive new storm in the ringed planet’s > read moreis bright enough to see in small telescopes.
March 25, 2011 | Mercury is fading in the sunset and Orion is tilting southwest on his way down, while Saturn is rising higher as it nears opposition in the eastern evening sky. > read more
March 24, 2011 | Watch S&T senior editor Alan MacRobert show and explain how to use > read moreand star wheels.