WARREN KIMBRO, EX-BLACK PANTHER WHO SOUGHT TO ATONE FOR KILLING
Warren Kimbro, who as a fledgling member of the Black Panther Party shot and killed a suspected police informer in New Haven in 1969, prompting a series of trials that made national headlines, but who later earned a Harvard degree and became a respected community leader, died in New Haven on Tuesday. He was 74 and lived in Hamden, Conn.
Bob Child/Associated Press
The cause had not been determined, said his son, Germano. Warren Kimbro had been taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital on Tuesday complaining of chest pains, said Paul Bass, editor of The New Haven Independent, an online news site.
Mr. Kimbro’s story involves an instantaneous tumble from grace and a long climb to regain it. Since 1983, he had run Project MORE, an agency that helps ex-convicts with job training and drug rehabilitation and that advocates for alternatives to jail or prison. It was the centerpiece of Mr. Kimbro’s effort to redeem himself after his crime, said Mr. Bass, who worked with Mr. Kimbro on a book about the 1969 killing, “Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale and the Redemption of a Killer” (Basic Books, 2006).
“Every morning he prayed about it,” Mr. Bass said. “He really wanted to come clean.”
The murder of Alex Rackley, whose body was found in Middlefield, Conn., on May 21, 1969, became a notorious episode in the history of New Haven, which had become home to a chapter of the Black Panthers, an activist group begun in Oakland, Calif., that advocated socialism, believed American blacks were in need of liberation and did not disavow the use of guns in defense of the revolution.
Mr. Rackley, a 24-year-old member of the Panthers from New York City, had been accused of informing the police about the party’s activities. For three days, he had been held by Panthers in Mr. Kimbro’s apartment, where was interrogated and tortured.
Eventually Mr. Kimbro and two other men drove Mr. Rackley to a swamp in Middlefield, north of the city, and killed him. Mr. Kimbro pleaded guilty to a murder charge, confessing to firing the first shot into the back of Mr. Rackley’s head. He was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 20 years.
While Mr. Rackley was being tortured, the Panthers’ national chairman, Bobby Seale, arrived in New Haven to give a speech at Yale; he was eventually charged with ordering Mr. Rackley’s execution. Mr. Seale’s impending trial generated mass demonstrations in New Haven and a student strike at Yale. The university’s president, Kingman Brewster, famously linked the accusations against Mr. Seale and seven other Panthers to a history of racial injustice, declaring he was “skeptical of the ability of black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States.”
Mr. Seale was freed in 1971 when his trial ended in a hung jury. Mr. Kimbro, who said he was repentant from the moment he pulled the trigger, testified for the prosecution; he said that Mr. Seale had visited the apartment while Mr. Rackley was there. Mr. Kimbro said he understood that the execution was decreed by Panther officers, but he could not confirm that Mr. Seale gave the order.
“I think Warren Kimbro was an outstanding brother, a person who in the history of that trial got caught up in a bad situation,” Mr. Seale said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Warren Aloysious Kimbro was born in New Haven on April 29, 1934. His father was a factory worker. He did not care for school and never finished high school. He served in the Army during the Korean War, and when he returned to New Haven, he worked odd jobs, including managing a dry cleaner’s store. Later, as the city became a focal point of a national experiment in urban renewal, he became active in antipoverty and neighborhood planning programs.
It was his frustration with the bureaucracies of the groups he worked for, and their limited effectiveness, that led him to join the Black Panthers in 1969, offering the apartment he shared with his wife and children as local party headquarters. At 35, he was older than most of the men who were his compatriots, and he had been a party member for only six months when he killed Mr. Rackley. Later he would say he feared for his own life if he did not carry out the killing.
In prison, he counseled other inmates, edited the newspaper and was “more than a model prisoner,” Richard Hills, warden of the Brooklyn Correctional Institution in Connecticut, told The New York Times in 1973. On work release, he became director of a youth drug counseling program, returning to his cell at night, and earned a highly unusual reduction of his minimum sentence — to 41/2 years. When his parole requirements were satisfied, he entered Harvard as a student in social work at the Graduate School of Education. Later he became an assistant dean at Eastern Connecticut State University.
In addition to his son, who lives in New Haven, Mr. Kimbro is survived by a brother, Joseph, also of New Haven; a daughter, Veronica, of Brookline, Mass.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
“I was just a kid out there who didn’t know how to handle himself, and it was a slap in the face with cold, hard reality that turned me around back to what I was,” Mr. Kimbro said in 1973, reflecting on his crime and punishment in an interview with The New York Times. “I’d lie awake in my cell at night trying to figure out what makes me tick, and I succeeded. I’m now what I was before 1969.”
MILLARD FULLER, WHO FOUNDED HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Millard Fuller, who at 29 walked away from his life as a successful businessman to devote himself to the poor, eventually starting Habitat for Humanity International, which spread what he called “the theology of the hammer” by building more than 300,000 homes worldwide, died Tuesday near Americus, Ga. He was 74.
Walter Petruska/Associated Press
Edward Hausner/The New York Times
His brother, Doyle, said Mr. Fuller became ill with a severe headache and chest pains and was taken to a hospital in Americus, his hometown. He died in an ambulance on the way to a larger hospital in Albany, Ga. Doyle Fuller said the cause had not been determined, but may have been an aneurysm.
Propelled by his strong Christian principles, Millard Fuller used Habitat to develop a system of using donated money and material, and voluntary labor, to build homes for low-income families. The homes are sold without profit and buyers pay no interest. Buyers are required to help build their houses, contributing what Mr. Fuller called sweat equity.
More than a million people live in the homes, which are in more than 100 countries. There are 180 in New York City, including some that former President Jimmy Carter, a longtime Habitat supporter and volunteer, personally helped construct. Mr. Carter said of him on Tuesday that “he was an inspiration to me, other members of our family, and an untold number of volunteers who worked side by side under his leadership.”
Former President Bill Clinton has also volunteered on Habitat projects. When he presented Mr. Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, he said, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”
Mr. Fuller said his inspiration came from the Bible, starting with the injunction in Exodus 22:25 against charging interest to the poor. He spoke of the “economics of Jesus” and insisted that providing shelter to all was “a matter of conscience.” Christianity Today in 1999 called him “God’s contractor.”
His skills included fund-raising finesse, an exuberant speaking style and a talent for making use of the news media. In 1986, The Chicago Tribune quoted him asking a publicity man about a woman in front of her ramshackle apartment, “Don’t you think that’d make some great pictures to show her in that rat-infested place?”
The article later said Mr. Fuller did not expect to house the world. “Instead,” it said, “he sees Habitat as a hammer that can drive the image of a woman in a rat-infested apartment as deep into the mind of America as the image of an African child with a distended stomach.”
Mr. Fuller liked to tell and re-tell the stories of his earliest houses. One man had moved from a leaky shack into a new house.
“When it rains, I love to sit by the window and see it raining outside,” one new homeowner said, “and it ain’t raining on me!”
Another new resident saw his new home as a literal resurrection. “Being in this house is like we were dead and buried, and got dug up!” she said.
In 2005, a woman employed by Habitat accused Mr. Fuller of verbally and physically harassing her, a widely publicized charge that an investigation by the organization did not prove. But he and a new generation of Habitat board members were disagreeing on organizational and other issues, and he and his wife agreed to resign.
Mr. Fuller started a new organization called the Fuller Center for Housing. It is active in 24 states and 14 foreign countries.
Millard Dean Fuller was born on Jan. 3, 1935, in Lanett, Ala., then a small cotton-mill town. His mother died when he was 3, and his father remarried. Millard’s business career began at 6 when his father gave him a pig. He fattened it up and sold it for $11. Soon he was buying and selling more pigs, then rabbits and chickens as well. He dabbled in selling worms and minnows to fishermen.
When he was 10, his father acquired 400 acres of farmland, and Mr. Fuller sold his small animals to raise cattle. He remembered helping his father repair a tiny, ramshackle shack that an elderly couple had inhabited on the property. He was thrilled to see their joy when the work was complete.
Mr. Fuller went to Auburn University, running unsuccessfully for student body president, and in 1956 was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He graduated from Auburn with a degree in economics in 1957 and entered the University of Alabama School of Law.
He and Morris S. Dees Jr., another law student, decided to go into business together while in the law school. They set a goal: get rich.
They built a successful direct-mail operation, published student directories and set up a service to send cakes to students on their birthdays. They also bought dilapidated real estate and refurbished it themselves. They graduated and went into law practice together after Mr. Fuller briefly served in the Army as a lieutenant.
As law partners, they continued to make money. Selling 65,000 locally produced tractor cushions to the Future Farmers of America made $75,000. Producing cookbooks for the Future Homemakers of America did even better, and they became one of the nation’s largest cookbook publishers. By 1964, they were millionaires. Mr. Dees went on to help found the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Mr. Fuller’s life changed completely after his wife, the former Linda Caldwell, whom he had married in 1959, threatened to leave him. She was frustrated that her busy husband was almost never around, and she had had an affair, their friend Bettie B. Youngs wrote in “The House That Love Built” (2007), a joint biography. For the rest of his career, he talked openly about repairing the marriage.
There was much soul-searching. Finally, the two agreed to start their life anew on Christian principles. Eschewing material things was the first step. Gone were the speedboat, the lakeside cabin, the fancy cars.
The Fullers went to Koinonia Farm, a Christian community in Georgia, where they planned their future with Clarence Jordan, a Bible scholar and leader there. In 1968, they began building houses for poor people nearby, then went to Zaire in 1973 to start a project that ultimately built 114 houses.
In 1976, a group met in a converted chicken barn at Koinonia Farm and started Habitat for Humanity International. Participants agreed the organization would work through local chapters. They decided to accept government money only for infrastructure improvements like streets and sidewalks.
Handwritten notes from the meeting stated the group’s grand ambition: to build housing for a million low-income people. That goal was reached in August 2005, when home number 200,000 was built. Each home houses an average of five people.
The farm announced plans for a simple public burial service for Mr. Fuller on Wednesday.
Besides his brother, Doyle, of Montgomery, Ala., and his wife, Mr. Fuller is survived by their son, Christopher, of Macon, Ga.; their daughters, Kim Isakson of Argyle, Tex., Faith Umstattd of Americus, and Georgia Luedi of Jacksonville, Fla.; and nine grandchildren.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Fuller Center built a house in Shreveport, La., for a mother and her daughters, one named Genesis, the other Serenity. Mr. Fuller loved the religious connotations he saw in their names.
“What will little Genesis become?” he asked at the time. “What will little Serenity become? We don’t know, but we know one thing: if we give them a good place to live, they’ve got a better chance.”
WILLIAM T. CLOSE, WHO HELPED CONTROL EBOLA EPIDEMIC IN CONGO
Dr. William T. Close, an American surgeon who in 1976 played an important role in controlling the first epidemic of the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever in central Africa and preventing it from spreading, died on Jan. 15 at his home in Big Piney, Wyo. He was 84.
The cause was a heart attack, said his daughter Glenn, the actress.
Dr. Close was both personal physician to President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, now known as Congo, and chief doctor of the army at the time of the epidemic, which caused widespread panic in the country, three doctors involved in helping to control it recalled in interviews. His connections, organizational ability and medical expertise were essential in halting it, they said.
Ebola was a newly discovered viral disease causing severe sore throat, rash, abdominal pain and bleeding from multiple sites, particularly the gastro-intestinal tract.
Medical resources were scarce at the time and under threat themselves. The missionary hospital in rural Yambuku, in the heart of the epidemic, had closed after 11 of 17 staff members died of the disease. Belgian missionary nurses who had been infected at the hospital died after they were transferred to Kinshasa, the capital. Roads were blocked. River traffic and commercial air service stopped. Military personnel shunned the epidemic area.
President Mobutu was rumored to have fled with his family to France. There was fear that infected people fleeing the epidemic could spread the virus to neighboring African countries and elsewhere.
“No more dramatic or potentially explosive epidemic of a new acute viral disease has occurred in the world in the past 30 years,” the commission that investigated and controlled the epidemic wrote in The Bulletin of the World Health Organization in 1978.
Dr. Close’s role in the crisis began on a flight from Geneva to Kinshasa as he was returning from home leave in the United States. Overhearing comments between two epidemiologists sent at Zaire’s request from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to help control the epidemic, Dr. Close asked to join in the conversation. The three spoke the entire night flight, said one of them, Dr. Joel G. Breman.
On arrival in Kinshasa, Dr. Close, a man with a take-charge personality, immediately arranged a meeting with the Ministry of Health. He was able to help commandeer pilots and airplanes to ferry equipment to where it was needed. Dr. Peter Piot, a co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, said Dr. Close played “an indispensable” role in controlling the epidemic by using his direct access to Mr. Mobutu to gain political and military logistic support.
Dr. Close had one of the earliest mobile phones, “so heavy it had to be carried by someone,” said Dr. Piot, who recently retired as director general of the United Nations AIDS program.
“He impressed everybody” by commandeering a Zairian Army transport plane to fly a team to the epidemic area and helping to identify capable people to work on the team, Dr. Piot said, adding, “I thought, ‘This man is more than Mobutu’s physician.’ ”
“We, the investigating team, were scared,” said Dr. Breman, who now works at the Fogarty Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. But, he said, “Bill was right in the middle, running the hospital in Zaire, assigning aides and making sure the needles, syringes, generators and other equipment were getting to where needed.”
The team broke the chain of Ebola virus transmission by providing protective clothing for hospital workers, sterilizing equipment and strictly isolating patients in their villages. The final tally: 318 cases, 88 percent fatal.
Dr. Close’s efforts also played an indirect role in early studies of H.I.V. a decade later. Tests showed that a high percentage of people in Kinshasa were infected with the AIDS virus. But the rate of infection in rural areas was unknown.
To determine whether the prevalence of the disease had changed over a decade in rural Zaire, Dr. Joseph B. McCormick, a co-investigator of the Ebola epidemic, led another team that tested people in the area in the mid-1980s. In part by comparing rates found in blood stored from a survey in the Ebola region in 1976 to rates from the newer samples, Dr. McCormick said, “we found that the prevalence of infection in the rural area was stable and low at 0.8 percent.”
The AIDS study showed that H.I.V. infection and AIDS could have existed and remained stable in a rural area of Africa for many years. It was one of the rare studies able to compare rates over time in the early period of AIDS and would have been impossible without Dr. Close, said Dr. McCormick, now dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville.
William Taliaferro Close was born on June 7, 1924, in Greenwich, Conn. He was reared in France and educated in British and American schools before entering Harvard in 1941. He left in 1943 to become an Army pilot in World War II.
After his discharge, he earned his medical degree from Columbia University, trained as a surgeon at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and soon joined a peace missionary group, Moral Re-Armament, for which he went to Zaire in 1960. There, he had a private practice and directed the 1,500-bed Mama Yemo hospital in Kinshasa and the Zairian national health service.
“He made a real effort to get public health support into rural Zaire,” Dr. McCormick said.
Besides his daughter Glenn of New York City, survivors include his wife, Bettine; two other daughters, Tina Close of Wilson, Wyo., and Jessie Close of Bozeman, Mont.; two sons, Alexander D. Close of Belgrade, Mont., and Tambu Misoki of Sacramento; his twin brother, Edward B. Close Jr. of Littleton, Colo.; and nine grandchildren.
Dr. Close left Zaire in 1977 because he was disillusioned by Mr. Mobutu’s corruption and was losing access to him, his daughter Glenn said. He then became a rural doctor in Big Piney championing hands-on care. He wrote four books, including accounts of his life in Africa and Wyoming. He made his last house call a month before he died, she said.
JAMES WHITMORE, VERSATILE CHARACTER ACTOR OF FLINTY INTEGRITY
Seymour Kravitz & Company
James Whitmore, a leading character actor whose craggy face became a familiar one to film, television and stage audiences for decades and who won wide acclaim for a pair of one-man performances, as the humorist Will Rogers and a vinegary Harry S. Truman, died Friday at his home in Malibu, Calif. He was 87.
The cause was lung cancer, his son Steve told The Associated Press. He said his father had received the cancer diagnosis a week before Thanksgiving.
Mr. Whitmore found success early. He won a Tony Award for his performance in his Broadway debut, as a wisecracking headquarters sergeant in “Command Decision,” a 1947 play about the air bombardment of Germany during World War II. In one of his first films, the 1949 “Battleground,” his performance as a hard-bitten, tobacco-chewing G.I. during the Battle of the Bulge was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor.
During the 1970s, Mr. Whitmore gave three solo stage performances that underlined his ability to go beyond surface details. In “Will Rogers’ U.S.A” (1974), the first of these one-man shows, he brought the homespun humorist to vibrant life on Broadway, his only props being a cowboy hat, a rope and a cheekful of chewing gum.
The following year he took to the stage as an outspoken President Truman in “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” That show was promptly filmed, and Mr. Whitmore received his second Oscar nomination, this time for best actor. Then it was another president’s turn. In “Bully” (1977), Mr. Whitmore played Theodore Roosevelt, a man he summed up at the time as “the most neglected important president in our history.”
Mr. Whitmore also appeared Off Broadway. At the Manhattan Theater Club in 1983, he co-starred with his second wife, Audra Lindley, in “Elba,” a play by Vaughn McBride about an elderly couple who escape from the nursing home their children have confined them to.
Mr. Whitmore and Ms. Lindley were divorced in 1979 but continued to perform Off Broadway. In 1990, they co-starred in a double bill at the John Houseman Theater consisting of William Gibson’s “Handy Dandy” — he as a conservative judge, she as a liberal nun — and Tom Cole’s “About Time,” in which they played characters identified simply as Old Man and Old Woman.
As he aged, Mr. Whitmore’s rough-hewn features became more pronounced, accentuated by the bushy gray eyebrows that virtually became his trademark. In an interview in The New York Times when he was in his mid-50s, he emphasized that he shunned mimicry, “simply because I can’t do it.” Nor, he said, did he ever wear makeup, adding, “I’m allergic to it.”
Mr. Whitmore’s acting career spanned six decades and included dozens of films, countless television shows and a handful of Broadway credits, including his solo efforts.
Besides the one in “Battleground,” his film roles included a hunchback diner owner and sometime criminal in John Huston’s “Asphalt Jungle” (1950); a lightfooted thug who, with Keenan Wynn, dances and sings his way through “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” in “Kiss Me Kate” (1953); a white journalist who disguises himself as a black man in “Black Like Me” (1964); a police inspector who may be up to no good in “Madigan” (1968); Admiral William F. Halsey in “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970), and an elderly convict and prison librarian in “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994).
Mr. Whitmore was also familiar to many television viewers as the on-screen promoter of Scotts Miracle-Gro plant food. A spokesman for Scotts since 1982, he was replaced by a younger actor, Peter Strauss, in 2002.
James Whitmore was born on Oct. 1, 1921, in White Plains. He attended Choate preparatory school in Connecticut and Yale University, served in the Marine Corps during World War II and studied at the Actors Studio and the American Theater Wing in New York, where he met his first wife, Nancy Mygatt. They had three sons, Daniel, Steven and James Jr., who became an actor and director.
After that marriage ended in divorce, Mr. Whitmore married Ms. Lindley. After they split, he then remarried Ms. Mygatt, only to divorce her again and marry for a fourth time, to Noreen Nash, in 2001.
Besides his son Steve, Mr. Whitmore is survived by his wife, two other sons, James Jr. and Dan, and eight grandchildren.
By the late 1950s and early ’60s, with film offers thinning out, Mr. Whitmore increasingly acted on television, appearing in series like “Playhouse 90,” “Studio One,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Dr. Kildare” and “Gunsmoke.”
In 1960 he had his own series as a crusading lawyer in “The Law and Mr. Jones,” on ABC.
Among his other television roles, Mr. Whitmore was a general assigned to force an Indian tribe to move to a reservation in “I Will Fight No More Forever,” also on ABC, in 1975; the guilty father in a production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” on PBS in 1986; another lawyer in “The Practice,” on ABC, for which he won an Emmy Award in 2000, and a former governor of California whose son becomes a senator, in the NBC series “Mister Sterling” in 2003.
Mr. Whitmore, who said he found acting to be a “daunting” occupation, remained modest about his abilities. “You just hope to be able to grasp the hem of the garment,” he once said, “to give a sense of the man you’re dealing with.”
Mr. Whitmore was an actor whose films and talent spanned more than 50 years, although of late, he will probably be best remembered for his “Miracle Gro” plant flower food commercials.
One of my favourite James Whitmore films is the Sci-Fi classic, “THEM!” a movie where Mr. Whitemore, with James Arness of “Gunsmoke” fame, battled giant mutant ants that threatened the world, and the very little seen, “Black Like Me,” in which he protrayed the White author, John Howard Griffin who wrote the book of the same title (Griffin dyed his skin to live a few months as a Black man to see what life for a Black man was like in the American South.)
Mr. Whitemore was an outstanding actor who was the proverbial Everyman, in his films. He was also able to say that he had met some of America’s greatest presidents (FDR, Truman), and that he had just missed meeting Abraham Lincoln.
He will be sorely missed.
Rest en pacem, Mr. Whitmore. Heaven awaits you.
Here is Mr. Whitmore in a scene from “THEM!”, one of the first of the “nuclear monster” movies
Here is Mr. Whitemore endorsing then Sen. Barack Obama for president:
And here is Mr. Whitmore in the movie “Black Like Me”:
DEWEY MARTIN, DRUMMER FOR BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD
Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Dewey Martin, the drummer for Buffalo Springfield, the short-lived but influential 1960s California rock band that spawned the careers of Neil Young and Stephen Stills, was found dead on Feb. 1 in his apartment in Van Nuys, Calif. He was 68.
A roommate found his body , a friend, Lisa Lenes, told The Los Angeles Times. The cause has not been determined, the newspaper said; Ms. Lenes said he had had health problems in recent years.
Buffalo Springfield, which also included Richie Furay and Bruce Palmer, who died in 2004, was a “pivotal rock group with an organic, home-grown musical approach that reverberated beyond the ’60s,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says on its Web site, rockhall.com. Mr. Martin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the rest of the band, in 1997.
Along with the Byrds, the group helped establish the folk-rock and country-rock movements that gave birth to Poco, the Eagles and Jackson Browne.
The Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth,” written by Mr. Stills — with its chorus, “Stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down” — chronicled the social unrest of the late 1960s. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1967.
The band broke up in 1968 after two years and three albums. Mr. Martin later tried to capitalize on his connection to his more famous bandmates when he toured with groups called Buffalo Springfield Revisited and Buffalo Springfield Again in the 1980s and ’90s.
Dewey Martin was born Walter Milton Dewayne Midkiff on Sept. 30, 1940, in Chesterville, Canada, near Ottawa, according to the Web site of the rock historian Nick Warburton, nickwarburton.com. He moved to the United States, first to Nashville, then to Southern California, where the Byrds had helped create the growing folk-rock sound.
LUX INTERIOR, LEAD SINGER OF THE PUNK BAND THE CRAMPS
Lux Interior, who introduced the excitement of deviant rockabilly to the punk era as the lead singer of the Cramps, died early Wednesday in Glendale, Calif. He was 62.
The cause was heart failure, said Aleix Martinez, the band’s publicist.
The Cramps were founded in New York around 1976 by Lux Interior (born Erick Purkhiser in Stow, Ohio) and the guitarist Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) with a distinct musical and visual style. As connoisseurs of seemingly all forms of trashy pop culture from the 1950s and ’60s — ranging from ghoulish comic books to Z-grade horror films to the rawest garage rock — they developed a sound that mixed the menace of rockabilly’s primitivist fringe with dark psychedelia and the blunt simplicity of punk.
Cultivating a sense of sleazy kitsch, the band played songs with titles like “Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon,” and its members dressed like a rock ’n’ roll version of the Addams Family. Lux Interior, gaunt and dark, was fond of skintight rubber, although onstage he usually ended up in just his leopard-skin trunks, or less. Poison Ivy often performed in pin-up or bondage costumes, and others who passed through the band developed tawdry characters of their own.
Lux Interior and Poison Ivy met when he picked her up as a hitchhiker in California in the early ’70s. They bonded over their pop-culture interests — both scoured flea markets and thrift shops for discarded 1950s records — and by 1975 they had moved to New York. They took stage names and became regulars at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and they later married. She survives him.
After several singles in the late 1970s that were produced by Alex Chilton of the Box Tops and Big Star, the band released “Songs the Lord Taught Us” in 1980, and it became a club and college-radio standard. But subsequent albums had limited success, and the band’s album “A Date With Elvis,” considered by many critics to be among its best, was released in Britain in 1986 but not in the United States until four years later.
Though the band never found wide popularity, it had a fierce cult audience, and its approach to the sound of early rock ’n’ roll has been echoed in acts like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the White Stripes. The Cramps made eight studio albums and have numerous live and compilation records, and had been working on a new album, Mr. Martinez said.
In 2002 Lux Interior performed the voice of a character on the children’s television show “SpongeBob SquarePants”; he was the lead singer of an all-bird rock band called the Bird Brains.
In 1979 the Cramps were guest D.J.’s on WPIX-FM in New York, spinning records by Wanda Jackson, the Electric Prunes, Herbie Duncan and other vintage rockabilly and garage acts. Lux Interior was asked by one of the station personalities about the music.
Taken aback by the question, he replied: “Rock ’n’ roll has absolutely nothing to do with music. It’s much more than music. Rock ’n’ roll is who you are. You can’t call the Cramps music. It’s noise, rockin’ noise.”
ALAN SCOTT, ARTISAN OF THE RADIANT BRICK OVEN
Alan Scott, whose blacksmith’s skill in using radiant heat led to a revival of the ancient craft of building brick ovens, allowing bakers to turn out bread with luxuriously moist interiors and crisp crusts, died Jan. 26 in Tasmania, Australia. He was 72.
Art Rogers/Point Reyes
The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter Lila Scott. Her father had returned to his native Australia several years ago after becoming ill, she said. Ms. Scott and her brother, Nicholas, now operate OvenCrafters, the company their father opened nearly 30 years ago in a large Victorian home in Petaluma, Calif.
Several thousand amateur bread bakers and thin-crust pizza makers now have backyard brick ovens, many with cathedral-like arches, that were built either by Mr. Scott, with Mr. Scott or according to specifications he laid out with his protégé Daniel Wing in their 1999 book, “The Bread Builders” (Chelsea Green Publishing).
More than a how-to manual, the book is also a meticulous treatise on the history of bread making and the physics of baking, with instructions, for example, on how long to let the dough rise. Mr. Scott, who held instructional workshops around the country, played a role in bringing brick ovens to hundreds of bakeries and restaurants as well.
For centuries, beginning before the Middle Ages, home cooking was done mostly on a family’s open hearth; villagers would share a single brick-oven bakery.
Mr. Scott “took oven designs that were hundreds of years old and refined them,” said Dick Bessey, who teaches oven-building at Kendall College in Chicago and at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Mr. Scott’s drawings, he said, “allowed virtually anybody to build an oven that would perform in a way that would equal the old communal ovens.”
Though he found his inspiration in the past, he used modern materials: high-grade bricks, high-temperature cements and insulation, ranging from Vermiculite, which is used to insulate walls and attics, to ceramic blankets — “if you want to spend a lot more money,” Mr. Bessey said. To build an oven for a homeowner, Mr. Scott would charge $5,000 to $10,000, not including material costs. For even higher fees, he would line an oven with authentic Italian refractory, or heat-resistant, tile and clad it with high-quality cut stone. In most brick ovens, a wood fire is built directly on the hearth floor. When it dies down, the ashes are swept out and food is put in to bake in the radiant heat — far higher than the usual 500 degrees Fahrenheit of a regular oven and sometimes up to 800 degrees. The walls hold the heat for hours, allowing batch after batch of bread to bake.
Brick-oven communities have sprung up on Web sites, with enthusiasts asserting that everything, from fruit galettes to slow-cooked roasts and especially pizza, tastes better when baked in brick scented by wood smoke.
Born in Toorak, Australia, on March 2, 1936, Alan Reid Scott was one of five children of Arthur and Lilian Burbury Scott. Besides his daughter Lila and his son, Nicholas, he is survived by his wife, the former Laura Argyros; another daughter, Samantha Bald; two brothers, Robert and Michael; two sisters, Eleanor Bjorkston and Sylvia Lerch; and a granddaughter.
Mr. Scott graduated from an agricultural college in Australia, then worked for a fertilizer company. “He never wanted to work for anyone else again,” Lila Scott said. “He hitchhiked around Australia, Sudan, Ethiopia and then Denmark, where he opened a jewelry shop.”
He moved to California in the mid-’60s and opened a blacksmith shop by the beach near Point Reyes, fashioning statuettes, chandeliers and hand-foraged fittings for wooden boats. One day, a friend, Laurel Robertson, the author of the cookbook “Laurel’s Kitchen,” asked him to make handles for a brick oven she intended to build. He completely redesigned the oven, employing his knowledge of how heat is best retained.
The project opened up far more than a new line of business. For Mr. Scott, brick-oven building became a way to bring a community together. Indeed, for a smaller fee, he would supervise a gathering of neighbors in building a communal oven, drawing on old traditions. “A lot of his ovens were done like Amish barn-raisings,” Mr. Bessey said.
MICHAEL J. HOMER, NETSCAPE EXECUTIVE
Michael J. Homer, a Silicon Valley executive who played important roles in the development of three waves of technology — the personal computer, the hand-held device and the Internet — died on Sunday in Atherton, Calif. He was 50.
The cause was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare neurodegenerative disorder, said Ron Conway, a close friend and prominent Silicon Valley investor.
In the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was just beginning to alter the high-tech landscape, and society along with it, Mr. Homer was a vice president at the Netscape Communications Corporation, the influential Silicon Valley start-up that commercialized the Web browser.
Marc Andreessen, Netscape’s co-founder, said Mr. Homer wrote the company’s business plan and helped to raise the last crucial round of private financing before its initial public offering in 1995. Mr. Homer also ran the marketing department during the period that the company endured a furious onslaught by Microsoft, which spawned an antitrust case that landed the software company in court.
Mr. Andreessen said Mr. Homer had “encyclopedic industry knowledge.” This came partly from an early career that included a stint at Apple Computer in the 1980s, as a technology adviser to John Sculley, then chief executive, and later as the marketing vice president at the Go Corporation, an early, failed pioneer in creating software for hand-held devices.
“He had seen everything from gigantic success to huge challenges and blowups,” Mr. Andreessen said.
After leaving Netscape in 2000 after America Online acquired it, Mr. Homer mentored and financed a wave of entrepreneurs from Netscape who went on to influence the future of the Internet. According to Mr. Conway, Mr. Homer played important roles in the early development of Google, TiVo and Tellme Networks, a voice communications company that was eventually acquired by Microsoft.
Mr. Homer also sat on the board of Palm Inc., which made the original Palm Pilot personal digital assistants.
He is survived by his wife of 10 years, Kristina; their three children, James, Jack and Lucy; his mother, Irene; and his sister, Sue Homer.
After experiencing persistent memory problems, Mr. Homer learned in 2007 that he had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is sometimes likened to the mad cow disease found in animals. His friends joined to create an organization called Fight for Mike, which raised $7 million to combat the disease. The money has helped to finance research in the neurology department of the University of California, San Francisco.
HERBERT HAMROL, 106, LAST QUAKE SURVIVOR
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Herbert Hamrol, one of the last survivors of the earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906, died Wednesday in Daly City, Calif. He was 106.
Eric Risberg/Associated Press
Mr. Hamrol’s death, at Seton Medical Center, was announced by a hospital spokeswoman. It came less than a month after he celebrated his birthday with a big party at a steakhouse.
The party was just Mr. Hamrol’s style, friends and co-workers said.
He smoked cigars into his 90s and told whoever wanted to know that his secret to a long life was “wild women and good liquor,” said Janine Barrett, a manager at Andronico’s Market in San Francisco, where Mr. Hamrol worked stocking shelves and greeting customers until January. He took the job after retiring as a grocer in 1967.
“He still came in twice a week — took the BART and the bus to work from Daly City, and walked,” Ms. Barrett said. “He was very independent.”
Mr. Hamrol, who was 3 at the time of the earthquake, was a regular at commemorations. He would tell stories about how he escaped an apartment in a crumbling building in his mother’s arms.
“She carried me in her left arm and used her right hand to grab the stair rail,” he told The Associated Press on the earthquake’s 99th anniversary.
Last April 17, Mr. Hamrol was the lone survivor to attend the annual commemoration of the quake and subsequent fire. He arrived in an immaculate antique car and said he would attend this year’s anniversary, “God willing.”
“You’re not going to get an earthquake every day,” he said. “So we celebrate the one that we had. It was a beautiful earthquake, if you want to look at it in the glorious way.”
JOHN PAUL BARNICH, FIRST OPENLY GAY CITY JUDGE
By Allan Turner
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Feb. 3, 2009, 11:35PM
Appointed to the court by then-Mayor Lee Brown in 1999, Barnich served as a judge until October 2007, when failing health led him to resign. He served as a part-time adjudication hearing officer, specializing in parking and red light camera cases, until his death.
“He was a wonderful, kind person. A character. He had a sense of humor that to me was very unique,” said presiding Municipal Court Judge Berta Mejia. “He was very thoughtful. He will be missed.”
Mejia said Barnich’s community involvement — he was a former board chairman of Houston AIDS Foundation Inc. — and his work in juvenile cases as a lawyer enhanced his stature as a judge.
State District Judge Steven Kirkland, a one-time city court judge who also is gay, called him a “trailblazer.”
“I was lucky to follow him,” said Kirkland.
Santa Claus lookalike
Barnich, friends and associates recalled Tuesday, was an empathetic man with a wry sense of humor. Increasingly hobbled by his illness, Barnich sometimes admitted to friends, “Well, I guess my days of dancing with the Bolshoi are over.”
“He was a round, jolly-looking fellow with long white hair and beard,” Kirkland said. “Occasionally he would look at defendants from the bench and say, ‘Who do you think I am, Santa Claus?’ ” Defendants invariably would be taken aback because of the resemblance, Kirkland said.
When questioned during a City Council hearing to confirm his appointment about how a gay judge would differ from a heterosexual judge, he responded that he would upgrade the courtroom’s sound system in order to play show tunes. On the occasion of his pet iguana’s fifth birthday, he gave the reptile a party featuring a mariachi band, said his longtime friend Jennifer Rantz.
Barnich arrived in Houston in 1969 with a psychology degree from Michigan State University, finding employment as a teacher with the Houston Independent School District. He partnered with the FBI to create a criminal justice program at Waltrip High School — an effort that evolved into what is now HISD’s High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
In 1977, he spent six months studying comparative religion in India as a Fulbright scholar. He graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1980.
A bear against HIV bias
Barnich joined the AIDS foundation board in 1984. In 1994, his lover died of the disease.
“It’s very, very personal to me,” Barnich told the author of a study of the disease’s impact on American life. “I tend to react to people who discriminate against people based on their HIV status like a wounded mother grizzly protecting her cubs. … I see my job as making it as costly as possible for them.”
Houston gay activist Ray Hill recalled first meeting Barnich — a man he affectionately called “Jumbo” — as the lawyer mowed the lawn of an HIV-positive man. “I told him I really appreciated him volunteering, and he responded that he actually was the chairman of the board.”
Hill described Barnich as a man with “enormous capacity for empathy.”
“He absorbed the pain of others and gave those parts back in better condition,” Hill said.
Added Houston lawyer Phyllis Frye, “John Paul broke the glass ceiling for out-of-the-closet GLBT judges in Harris County, and he was a sweet person to know.”
Survivors include two brothers, Bill Barnich III and Rick Barnich, and two sisters, Mary Barnich and Martha Jo Vanderberg.
His funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Rothko Chapel.
SOURCE: The Houston Chronicle: http://www.nytimes.com