Monthly Archives: October 2012


In Virginia, 350K Would-Be Voters Wait for Democracy’s Slow Return

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is restoring the voting rights of more formerly incarcerated residents than any previous administration. And it’s still a drop in the bucket.

Investigative reporter Brentin Mock uncovers the story.

Janet Mock on the Freedom of Telling Her Own Story

Join us and editor Janet Mock at Facing Race 2012, a
gathering of racial justice thinkers and culture makers, in Baltimore, Nov.
15-17. Register now

The Associated Press’ Developing, Conflicted Policy on the I-Word

The AP’s policy updates are hopeful, because they articulate all of the evidence necessary to stop calling people “illegal.” Monica Novoa reports.

Food Stamp Bashing, Race, and the Bipartisan Attack on the Safety Net The GOP is winning the rhetorical war on poverty because Obama’s afraid to talk about race. And the results could be disastrous for millions of families.

José Antonio Vargas: ‘You Know Someone Undocumented’ The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who’s become one of the nation’s most high profile immigration reform advocates talks to Rinku Sen about his journey.

Dignity Beyond Voting: Undocumented Immigrants Cast Their Hopes Long locked out of the front door to the electoral process, undocumented immigrants are creating a window of opportunity.

Ohio University Students Warn Against Making a Racist Fool of Yourself This Halloween A group of college students in Ohio has taken it upon themselves to school their schoolmates on racist Halloween costumes.

Is Apple’s New iPad Mini Product Video the First to Include More Than Just White Guys? It appears that the iPad mini product video released Tuesday, for the first time, prominently included someone who wasn’t a white male.

Anonymous Funder Pulls ‘Voter Fraud’ Billboards Rather Than Reveal Itself The anonymous funder of more than 140 threatening billboards in black and Latino neighborhoods across Ohio and Wisconsin has chosen to take down the ads rather than identify itself.

Romney Family Invests in ‘Faulty’ Voting Machines That Will Be Used in Ohio It’s clear Ohio will be the decider of the election, and this is a story worth following closely.

Top Row, Third From Left: Most Adorable Obama with Kids Photo Ever The president is seen hanging out with a group of children sitting on bleachers but a young boy sitting at the top “photobombed” the picture and stole the show.

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‘Sovereign’ President: ‘I Am in Jail Because I Stood for Righteousness’

by Ryan Lenz on October 24, 2012

James Timothy Turner, the enigmatic president of the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” group Republic for the united States of America (RUSA), has told his followers that despite his incarceration on federal tax charges, he is still very much their leader. And as for his legal problems? That’s simply the federal government squashing the “righteous” truth.

“The Lord has called for and annointed [sic] me for this position,” Turner says in a handwritten letter dated Oct. 15 and recently posted to the RuSA website. “His annointing [sic] has not been removed because I have been incarcerated.”

Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Turner on a host of tax charges, including allegations that he attempted to pay his own taxes with a fictitious $300 million bond and tried to assist others who wanted to get out paying taxes with similar bonds ranging from $10 million to $300 million.

Turner’s letter comes as RuSA experiences perhaps the biggest challenge to its survival amid increased law enforcement scrutiny and tremendous upheaval in its rank-and-file.

Fearing that Turner was a flight risk, a federal judge last month denied him bail, leaving RuSA, the largest and most organized sovereign citizens group in the United States, reeling.

As proof of that, RuSA has bumbled through plans to host an election to replace Turner – with some of his loyal acolytes publicly fearing that the end of the group is near. Kelby Smith, a spokesman for the group and one of Turner’s loudest supporters, said on an Oct. 17 telephone call with followers, “We as a Republic look very, very, very bad with our president sitting in jail.” He added, “Either the president gets out of jail, or the Republic is going to be split.”

Members of RuSA view the federal government as an illegitimate “corporation” designed to enslave American citizens in a system of financial snares, an idea with a storied history within the antigovernment “Patriot” movement. They also see Turner as a divinely anointed savior tapped to save a nation from turmoil.

That reality alone has prompted law enforcement worries that members of RuSA, some of whom have already been embroiled in criminal enterprises, will lash out violently as sovereigns have in the past. And Turner, who has historically calmed his followers when their rhetoric against the federal government intensifies, seems willing to stoke those fires.

“I am not in jail for violating the law,” Turner wrote in the letter. “I am in jail because I stood for righteousness and truth in government.” He then asked his followers to “pray that God will crumble the foundations and break the power and strength of the corporation and restore his righteous government in America.”

“I am praying daily that God will cut off all financial, military, political, and spiritual support for the municipal corporate government in Washington, D.C.,” Turner wrote.

There is no indication when – or even if – RuSA will hold an election to replace Turner. For his part, though, the sovereign president for the time being seems unwilling to let go of a movement he founded two years ago and took further than most had before – by forming a shadow government to lie in waiting for the collapse of the federal government.

For Turner, the fantasy has continued even in jail.



“I am praying daily that God will cut off all financial, military, political, and spiritual support for the municipal corporate government in Washington, D.C.,” Turner wrote.”

Be careful what you wish for–and pray for.

In Turner’s case, he got exactly what he and his followers deserved:  an organization (his own) in shambles and chaos, looking to replace a leader whose grip on sanity and logical reasoning has gone the way of the Dodo bird.

Not to mention failure to pay taxes.

So, here is my question for the likes of Mr. Turner:

You do not want to pay taxes to the government under which you live now.

How the hell are you going to maintain a so-called ‘sovereign nation’ without the tax system you hate so much? How will you handle those who do not want to pay taxes under your supposed nation?

Riddle me that, ‘kay.

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-21-2012



Published: October 21, 2012

George McGovern, the United States senator who won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the war in Vietnam and a champion of liberal causes, and who was then trounced by President Richard M. Nixon in the general election, died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90.

His death was announced in a statement by the family. He had been moved to hospice care in recent days after being treated for several health problems in the last year. He had a home in Mitchell, S.D., where he had spent his formative years.

In a statement, President Obama called Mr. McGovern “a champion for peace” who was a “statesman of great conscience and conviction.”

To the liberal Democratic faithful, Mr. McGovern remained a standard-bearer well into his old age, writing and lecturing even as his name was routinely invoked by conservatives as synonymous with what they considered the failures of liberal politics.

He never retreated from those ideals, however, insisting on a strong, “progressive” federal government to protect the vulnerable and expand economic opportunity while asserting that history would prove him correct in his opposing not only what he called “the tragically mistaken American war in Vietnam” but also the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A slender, soft-spoken minister’s son newly elected to Congress — his father was a Republican — Mr. McGovern went to Washington as a 34-year-old former college history teacher and decorated bomber pilot in World War II. He thought of himself as a son of the prairie as well, with a fittingly flat, somewhat nasal voice and a brand of politics traceable to the Midwestern progressivism of the late 19th century.

Elected to the Senate in 1962, Mr. McGovern left no special mark in his three terms, but he voted consistently in favor of civil rights and antipoverty bills, was instrumental in developing and expanding food stamp and nutrition programs, and helped lead opposition to the Vietnam War in the Senate.

520 to 17

That was the cause he took into the 1972 election, one of the most lopsided in American history. Mr. McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and won just 17 electoral votes to Nixon’s 520.

The campaign was the backdrop to the burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, and by the Nixon organization’s shady fund-raising practices and sabotage operations, later known as “dirty tricks,” which were not disclosed until after the election.

The Republicans portrayed Mr. McGovern as a cowardly left-winger, a threat to the military and the free-market economy and outside the mainstream of American thought. Fair or not, he never lived down the image of a liberal loser, and many Democrats long accused him of leading the party astray.

Mr. McGovern resented that characterization mightily. “I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,” he said in an interview for this obituary in 2005 in his home in Mitchell. “My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I’m what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like.

“But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image,” he added, referring to his campaign organization. “We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment.

“It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.”

Mr. McGovern was 50 years old and in his second Senate term when he won the 1972 Democratic nomination, outdistancing a dozen or so other aspirants, including Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, the early front-runner; former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, the nominee in 1968; and Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, a populist with a segregationist past who was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt in Maryland during the primaries.

Mr. McGovern benefited from new party rules that he had been largely responsible for writing, and from a corps of devoted young volunteers, including Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, who took time off from Yale Law School to work on the campaign in Texas.

The nominating convention in Miami was a disastrous start to the general election campaign. There were divisive platform battles over Vietnam, abortion, welfare and court-ordered busing to end racial discrimination. The eventual platform was probably the most liberal one ever adopted by a major party in the United States. It advocated immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, amnesty for war resisters, abolition of the draft, a guaranteed job for all Americans and a guaranteed family income well above the poverty line.

Several prominent Democrats declined Mr. McGovern’s offer to be his running mate before he finally chose Senator Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri.

Mr. McGovern’s organization was so disorganized that by the time he went to the convention rostrum for his acceptance speech, it was nearly 3 a.m. He delivered perhaps the best speech of his life. “We reject the view of those who say, ‘America, love it or leave it,’ ” he declared. “We reply, ‘Let us change it so we can love it more.’ ”

The delegates loved it, but most television viewers had long since gone to bed.

The Eagleton Debacle

The convention was barely over when word got out that Mr. Eagleton had been hospitalized three times in the 1960s for what was called nervous exhaustion, and that he had undergone electroshock therapy.

Mr. McGovern declared that he was behind his running mate “a thousand percent.” But less than two weeks after the nomination, Mr. Eagleton was dropped from the ticket and replaced by R. Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law and former director of the Peace Corps.

The campaign never recovered from the Eagleton debacle. Republicans taunted Mr. McGovern for backing everything a thousand percent. Commentators said his treatment of Mr. Eagleton had shown a lack of spine.

In the 2005 Times interview, Mr. McGovern said he had handled the matter badly. “I didn’t know a damn thing about mental illness,” he said, “and neither did anyone around me.”

With a well-oiled campaign operation and a big financial advantage, Nixon began far ahead and kept increasing his lead. When Mr. McGovern proposed deep cuts in military programs and a $1,000 grant to every American, Nixon jeered, calling the ideas liberalism run amok. Nixon, meanwhile, cited accomplishments like the Paris peace talks on Vietnam, an arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union, a prosperous economy and a diplomatic opening to China.

On election night, Mr. McGovern did not bother to call Nixon. He simply sent a telegram offering congratulations. Then, he said, he sat on his bed at the Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls and wrote his concession speech on hotel stationery.

In his book on the campaign, “The Making of the President 1972,” Theodore H. White wrote that the changes Mr. McGovern had sought abroad and at home had “frightened too many Americans.”

“Richard M. Nixon,” Mr. White wrote, “convinced the Americans, by more than 3 to 2, that he could use power better than George McGovern.”

Mr. McGovern offered his own assessment of the campaign. “I don’t think the American people had a clear picture of either Nixon or me,” he said in the 2005 interview. “I think they thought that Nixon was a strong, decisive, tough-minded guy and that I was an idealist and antiwar guy who might not attach enough significance to the security of the country.

“The truth is, I was the guy with the war record, and my opposition to Vietnam was because I was interested in the nation’s well-being.”

His staff, he said, urged him to talk more about his war experience, but like many World War II veterans at the time, he was reluctant to do so.

How long, he was asked, did it take to get over the disappointment of losing? “You never fully get over it,” he replied. “But I’ve had a good life. I’ve enjoyed myself 90 percent of the time.”


George Stanley McGovern was born on July 19, 1922, in a parsonage in Avon, S.D., a town of about 600 people where his father, Joseph, was the pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. A disciplinarian, his father, who was born in 1868, tried to keep his four children from going to the movies and playing sports. His mother, the former Frances McLean, was a homemaker about 20 years her husband’s junior.

The family moved to Mitchell, in southeastern South Dakota, when George was 6. He went to high school and college there, enrolling at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell in 1940. After Pearl Harbor, Mr. McGovern joined the Army Air Corps, and before going overseas, in 1943, he married Eleanor Stageberg, who had grown up with an identical twin on a South Dakota farm. They had met at Dakota Wesleyan.

Mr. McGovern was trained to fly the B-24 Liberator, a four-engine heavy bomber, and he flew dozens of missions over Germany, Austria and Italy.

On his 30th mission, his plane was struck by enemy fire and his navigator was killed. Lieutenant McGovern crash-landed the plane on an island in the Adriatic. He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for the exploit.

After his discharge, Mr. McGovern returned to Mitchell — his father had recently died — and resumed his studies at Dakota Wesleyan. He graduated in 1946 and went to Northwestern University for graduate studies in history.

With a master’s degree, he returned to Dakota Wesleyan, a small university, to teach history and political science. “I was the best historian in a one-historian department,” he said in an interview in 2003. During summers and in his free time, he continued his graduate work and received a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern in 1953.

Mr. McGovern left teaching to become executive secretary of the South Dakota Democratic Party, and almost single-handedly revived a moribund party in a heavily Republican state.

Month after month, he drove across South Dakota in a beat-up sedan, making friends and setting up county organizations. In 1956, gaining the support of farmers who had become New Deal Democrats during the Depression, he was elected to Congress himself, defeating an overconfident incumbent Republican. He became the first Democratic congressman from his state in more than 20 years.

After two terms he left the House to run for the Senate in 1960 and was soundly beaten by the sitting Republican, Karl E. Mundt. He then became a special assistant to the newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, and director of Kennedy’s Food for Peace program, an effort to provide food for the hungry in poor countries.

In 1962, Mr. McGovern ran for the Senate again, and this time he won, by 597 votes, defeating Joseph H. Bottum, a Republican filling the term of Senator Francis H. Case, who had died in office.

In the Senate, Mr. McGovern became a reliable vote for Democratic initiatives and a leader on food and hunger issues as a member of the Agriculture Committee. But he was more interested in national politics than in legislation. After Robert F. Kennedy, fresh from his victory in the California presidential primary, was assassinated in Los Angeles in June 1968, the Kennedy camp encouraged Mr. McGovern to enter the race as an alternative to Humphrey and Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota. Mr. McGovern did so but was unable to catch up to Humphrey.

Almost from the moment the 1968 campaign ended, Mr. McGovern began running for the 1972 nomination. He traveled the country, recording on index cards the names of potential supporters he met. He also became chairman of a Democratic Party commission on delegate selection, created after the fractious 1968 national convention to give the rank and file more say in picking a presidential nominee.

What became known as the McGovern commission rewrote party rules to insure that more women, young people and members of minorities were included in delegations. The influence of party leaders was curtailed. More states began choosing delegates on the basis of primary elections. And the party’s center of gravity shifted decidedly leftward.

Though the rules were not written specifically to help Mr. McGovern win the nomination, they had that effect.

After he was crushed by Nixon in the election, Mr. McGovern returned to the Senate and began campaigning for re-election in 1974. At the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner in 1973, he told the assembled Washington elite, “Ever since I was a young man, I wanted to run for the presidency in the worst possible way — and I did.”

Mr. McGovern was re-elected to the Senate in 1974, a landslide year for Democrats after Watergate. He defeated Leo K. Thorsness, a novice politician.

It proved to be Mr. McGovern’s last success in elective politics. As the conservative movement gained force, Mr. McGovern’s popularity dropped.

In 1980, he was defeated by James Abdnor, a plain-spoken Republican congressman who had clung to Ronald Reagan’s coattails and was helped by anti-McGovern advertisements broadcast by the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

Unlike some of his peers, Mr. McGovern did not become wealthy in office, and he said he had no interest in lobbying afterward. Instead, he earned a living teaching, lecturing and writing. He briefly owned a motor inn in Stratford, Conn., and a bookstore in Montana, where he owned a summer home. But neither investment proved profitable.

A Father’s Heartbreaking Loss

What he called “the big tragedy of my life” occurred in 1994. His daughter Teresa J. McGovern, who had suffered from alcoholism and mental illness, froze to death at 45, acutely intoxicated, in a parking lot snowbank in Madison, Wis.

His eyes welled up as he talked about it 11 years later. “That just about killed me,” he said. “I had always had a very demanding schedule. I didn’t do everything I could as a father.”

As therapy, Mr. McGovern researched and wrote a book, “Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle With Alcoholism,” published in 1997. (An addiction-treatment center named after her was established in Madison.)

That year, President Bill Clinton appointed Mr. McGovern ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Agricultural Organization. He moved to Rome, and he worked on plans for delivering food to malnourished people around the world. In 2000, Mr. Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

After four years in Rome, the McGoverns moved back to Mitchell, where they lived in a ranch-style house owned by Dakota Wesleyan and helped raise money for a university library that was named after him and his wife. The university is also home to the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service, a research and educational institution founded in 2006. He also had a home in St. Augustine, Fla.

Eleanor McGovern died in 2007 at age 85. A son, Steven, who had also struggled with alcoholism, died in July at 60.

Mr. McGovern’s survivors include three daughters — Ann, Susan and Mary — 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Mr. McGovern remained robust in old age. To celebrate his 88th birthday, he sky-dived in Florida. Last fall, he was hospitalized twice, once after falling and hitting his head outside the Dakota Wesleyan library before a scheduled C-Span interview, and another time for fatigue after completing a lecture tour. But he rebounded and resumed making public and television appearances this year.

Mr. McGovern remained a voice in public affairs, notably in 2008, when, in an op-ed article in The Washington Post, he called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their prosecution of the war in Iraq.

He published books regularly, on history, the environment and other subjects. In “Out of Iraq” (2006), written with William R. Polk, he argued for a phased withdrawal from Iraq, to end in 2007. In his final book, “What It Means to Be a Democrat,” released in November 2011, he despairs of an “insidious” political atmosphere in Washington while trying to rally Democrats against “extremism” in the Republican ranks.

“We are the party that believes we can’t let the strong kick aside the weak,” Mr. McGovern wrote. “Our party believes that poor children should be as well educated as those from wealthy families. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes and that everyone should have access to health care.”

With the country burdened economically, he added, there has “never been a more critical time in our nation’s history” to rely on those principles.

“We are at a crossroads,” he wrote, “over how the federal government in Washington and state legislatures and city councils across the land allocate their financial resources. Which fork we take will say a lot about Americans and our values.”

David E. Rosenbaum, a Washington correspondent for The New York Times, died in 2006. William McDonald contributed reporting.




Ralph Gatti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The actress Sylvia Kristel, on the beach, during the Cannes Film Festival. She starred in the erotic film “Emmanuelle.”


Published: October 18, 2012

  • Sylvia Kristel, a Dutch actress who became an international sex star after she played the title role in the 1974 erotic film “Emmanuelle,” died on Wednesday in the Netherlands. She was 60.

The cause was cancer, her agency, Features Creative Management said in a statement on its Web site, without saying where she died. AVN, a trade publication for the sex film industry, reported that she died at home in The Hague.

Ms. Kristel was a willowy, dark-haired model and beauty contest winner in her early 20s with scant acting experience when she was cast by the French director Just Jaeckin as Emmanuelle, the wife of a French diplomat in Bangkok who seeks solace for her boredom in a variety of sexual encounters.

With its simulated sex scenes shot largely in soft focus, an exotic locale and a sentimental pop score, the film became an avatar of soft-core pornography. An immediate hit in France — it stayed at the same theater in Paris for several years — and later in Japan, where it was perceived as a triumph of feminism (mostly, Ms. Kristel pointed out, for one scene in which Emmanuelle climbs on top of her husband during sex), it was distributed in the United States by a major studio, Columbia Pictures, a relatively respectable alternative to the scandalous hits of two years earlier, “Deep Throat” and “Behind the Green Door.”

Ms. Kristel went on to appear in several Emmanuelle feature films and made-for-television movies.

According to AVN, ”Emmanuelle” is said to have earned more than $100 million. Ms. Kristel was ambivalent about her experience making the films; they allowed her to travel and opened doors for her as an actress, she said, and it was hard not to be proud of a film that so many people had seen. But the career that grew out of them was not what she had planned or hoped for.

She did act in mainstream films, working with renowned European directors including Alain Robbe-Grillet (“Playing With Fire,” 1975) and Claude Chabrol (“Alice or the Last Escapade,” 1977), starring in Mr. Jaeckin’s adaptation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (1981) and spending several years in Hollywood, where she appeared in the action-adventure film “The Fifth Musketeer” (1979); “The Nude Bomb” (1980, a reprise of the 1960s television series “Get Smart,” starring Don Adams); and the racy, very successful comedy “Private Lessons” (1981), in which she played an immigrant maid who seduces a teenager. But she was nearly always cast in sexually suggestive parts, and her performances drew considerably less attention than her face and figure.

In her 2006 autobiography, “Undressing Emmanuelle,” she wrote that she was “disappointed and a little hurt” that her more serious work went unappreciated. “I was dressed but people preferred me naked,” she wrote.

Ms. Kristel was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on Sept. 28, 1952, and grew up in a hotel owned by her parents, who separated when she was 16. She worked as a secretary before becoming a model, and when she was 20 she won the Miss TV Holland and the Miss TV Europe beauty contests.

In later years Ms. Kristel pursued a career as a painter. She directed a short animated film, “Topor et Moi,” that was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006.

She was married and divorced twice. In Hollywood, she had a volatile relationship with the British actor Ian McShane, whom she met while making “The Fifth Musketeer,” and she acknowledged that during that time she had problems with alcohol and cocaine. She also acknowledged romantic liaisons with Gérard Depardieu, Roger Vadim and Warren Beatty.

Her survivors include a son, Arthur Kristel, whose father was Hugo Claus, a Belgian artist and writer who died in 2008.

In interviews in recent years, Ms. Kristel spoke about her time as Emmanuelle with appreciative dispassion. “The series allowed me to paint for a year and live in peace,” she said in 2009. “And I think that justifies the means.”




Tom Cunningham/NY Daily News, via Getty Images

George Whitmore Jr., center, was picked up on a Brooklyn street for questioning in April 1964.


Published: October 15, 2012

  • George Whitmore Jr., an eighth-grade dropout whose confession in 1964 to three New York murders he did not commit had a decisive role in the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling protecting criminal suspects and in the partial repeal of capital punishment in New York State, died on Oct. 8 in a nursing home in Wildwood, N.J. He was 68.

The cause was a heart attack, his daughter Regina Whitmore said.

Mr. Whitmore was 19 in April 1964, when he was picked up on a Brooklyn street for questioning about an attempted rape in the neighborhood the night before. A soft-spoken young man, he had grown up in a house in a junkyard that his father owned in Wildwood. After trying hard in school but dropping out at 17, he moved to Brooklyn and was waiting for a ride to work when the police car pulled over.

At first he was pleased that the police were asking for his help in solving a crime, he later told interviewers; he would have a good yarn to tell his friends, he thought. But when his interrogation ended several days later, Mr. Whitmore had confessed to the attempted rape, and more. He also confessed to the rape and murder a few weeks earlier of another woman in the neighborhood, Minnie Edmonds, as well as to the murder of two young women in Manhattan in August 1963. Their bodies had been found bound and stabbed numerous times in the apartment they shared on East 88th Street.

Called “the Career Girl Murders” in newspaper headlines, the killings of Janice Wylie, 21, a researcher at Newsweek magazine, and Emily Hoffert, 23, a schoolteacher, had been under investigation for eight months.

Mr. Whitmore recanted his confessions and maintained his innocence. He contended repeatedly afterward that the police had beaten him and that he had signed a statement confessing to the crimes without knowing what it was. In the case of the Wylie-Hoffert killings, he said, he could provide the names of a dozen people who would remember seeing him that day, because it was the day of the civil rights march on Washington, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He and everybody else in Wildwood had watched it on television and talked about it all day, he said.

In 1964, a Brooklyn jury convicted Mr. Whitmore on the charges of attempted rape. The verdict was overturned when jurors were found to have been reading newspaper accounts of the case in which Mr. Whitmore was called the “prime suspect” in the Career Girl Murders. Tried a second time, he was convicted again, but again the verdict was thrown out, on different grounds.

By 1965, Manhattan prosecutors had evidence that Mr. Whitmore had been wrongly accused in the Wylie-Hoffert murders. They had linked the deaths to Richard Robles, a recently released prisoner. (He was later convicted, and remains in prison.)

Even so, while Mr. Whitmore now faced a second trial in the rape and murder of Ms. Edmonds, his indictment in the Wylie-Hoffert case remained in place. News accounts said that by refusing to dismiss the indictment, prosecutors hoped to deny Mr. Whitmore’s defense lawyers an argument: that dismissal of the double-murder indictment proved it had been coerced, and that Mr. Whitmore’s confession to the Edmonds murder, elicited in the same interrogation, had therefore been coerced, too.

Selwyn Raab, who was a reporter for The New York World-Telegram and Sun at the time (and later for The New York Times), had found a dozen witnesses who remembered seeing Mr. Whitmore in Wildwood on the day of the double murder. They had bumped into him in the homes of friends and relatives while watching Dr. King’s speech, Mr. Raab wrote in a front-page article.

“Whitmore’s case showed how fragile the whole system was, and still is,” Mr. Raab said in an interview on Sunday. “Even now, police use the same techniques to manipulate suspects into giving false confessions. And 90 percent of convictions are still based on confessions.”

The police and prosecutors at the time denied any misconduct. Legal reformers asked Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, a Republican, to appoint a panel to investigate, but he declined.

Mr. Raab went on to write a book about the case, “Justice in the Back Room,” which was made into a television movie, “The Marcus-Nelson Murders,” in 1973. That movie starred Telly Savalas as a police detective and led to the television series “Kojak,” in which he starred.

With the Manhattan district attorney refusing to clear him entirely in the Wylie-Hoffert case, Mr. Whitmore went to trial in the murder of Minnie Edmonds solely on the evidence of his “confession.”

In the debate in the New York State Legislature over a proposal to abolish the death penalty, Mr. Whitmore’s case became a warning cry against the killing of innocents. “In Whitmore’s case,” said Assemblyman Bertram L. Podell of Brooklyn, “we have learned to our shock and horror that a 61-page statement of completely detailed confession was manufactured and force-fed to this accused.”

Governor Rockefeller signed a bill in 1965 abolishing capital punishment, except for the killing of police officers. (The death penalty was reinstated in 1995, and declared unconstitutional in 2004.) The Supreme Court cited Mr. Whitmore’s case as “the most conspicuous example” of police coercion when it issued its 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, establishing a set of protections for suspects, like the right to remain silent. Mr. Whitmore was tried several times in the Edmonds murder, with each trial ending in a hung jury.

Entangled in multiple cases, Mr. Whitmore was in and out of prison for months and years at a time, until April 10, 1973, when the Brooklyn district attorney, Eugene Gold, dismissed the last case against him — a retrial on the attempted rape charges — after new evidence exonerating Mr. Whitmore had surfaced. Upon his release, Mr. Whitmore said: “I’m not bitter. I appreciate greatly what the D.A. did.”

Mr. Whitmore moved back to Wildwood, operated a commercial fishing boat for a time, and was later disabled in a boating accident. He was unemployed for long stretches and suffered from depression and alcoholism, said T. J. English, who wrote a book about Mr. Whitmore.

Mr. Whitmore’s daughter Regina said he had never married.

His survivors include three other daughters, Aida, Sonya and Tonya; two sons, George and James; and more than 20 grandchildren.

“He told us about what happened to him,” Ms. Whitmore said. “But he said he never held it against anybody. He was always a very sweet man with us. He wanted us to grow up happy.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 15, 2012

An earlier version of a headline with this article misstated the number of murders to which George Whitmore Jr. had confessed. It was three, not two.




By and

Published: October 14, 2012

  • Norodom Sihanouk, the charismatic Cambodian leader whose remarkable skills of political adaptation personified for the world the tiny, troubled kingdom where he was a towering figure through six decades, died early Monday in Beijing. He was 89.

Stephen Shaver/Agence France-Presse

Norodom Sihanouk was crowned king in 1941 and held on to some form of power for 60 years.

Associated Press

Mr. Sihanouk, left, marking the 15th anniversary of National Independence, in Phnom Penh on Nov. 9, 1968.

The death was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bunchhay, quoted by news services. The former king had been dogged by ill health for years and regularly traveled to China for treatment.

King Sihanouk was crowned in 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and held on to some form of power for the next 60-plus years. He served as monarch, prime minister, figurehead of the Communist revolution, leader in exile, and once again as monarch until he abdicated in 2004. He handed the crown to one of his sons, Norodom Sihamoni, after which he was known as the retired king, or the king-father.

He survived colonial wars, the Khmer Rouge and the intrigues of the cold war, but his last years were marked by expressions of melancholy, and he complained often about the poverty and abuses of what he called “my poor nation.”

Alternately charming and ruthless, he dazzled world leaders with his political wit and, in the process, raised the stature of his small Southeast Asian nation. He won independence for Cambodia from the French colonial rulers in 1953, using diplomacy and repression to outmaneuver his domestic rivals but without resorting to war, as his neighbors in Vietnam had done.

He put his nation on a modern footing in the 1960s, especially bolstering the education system, but his Buddhist socialist agenda did poorly and produced economic stagnation.

When the Vietnam War threatened to engulf the region, he tried to carve out a neutral role for Cambodia, siding neither with the Communists nor the United States. But when the Vietnamese Communists began using the port of Sihanoukville and Cambodia’s eastern border to ship military supplies on what was known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, he took steps to repair relations with the United States. He turned a blind eye when the Nixon administration undertook a secret bombing campaign in 1969 against the border area of Cambodia. But this only further unsettled his country and led to a coup that ousted him the next year.

Convinced that the United States had been behind the overthrow, King Sihanouk allied himself with the Khmer Rouge at the urging of his Chinese patrons, giving the Cambodian Communists his prestige and enormous popularity. Their victory in 1975 brought the ruthless Pol Pot to power, with King Sihanouk serving, for the first year, as the figurehead president until he was placed under house arrest and fell into a deep depression. Over the next four years, the Khmer Rouge regime led to the death of 1.7 million people and nearly destroyed the country.

Criticized throughout his life for these dramatic shifts in allegiances, King Sihanouk said he followed only one course in politics: “the defense of the independence, the territorial integrity and the dignity of my country and my people.”

In fact, he skillfully manipulated the great powers, usually with the support of China, to ensure his survival as well as his country’s independence. His worst nightmare, he said in an interview, was to be pushed out of his country’s political life into a quiet retirement, like Vietnam’s last emperor, Bao Dai, who died in obscurity in Paris in 1997.

Instead, King Sihanouk returned in 1993 as monarch and head of state after an accord brokered by the United Nations ended nearly 14 years of war in Cambodia.

Even in his darkest moments, the king never lost his flair for flamboyance or his taste for the finer things. As a young ruler and the scion of one of Asia’s oldest royal houses, he gained a well-deserved reputation as a playboy, a gourmand and an amateur filmmaker.

In his years in exile with his wife, Queen Monique, he kept his Cambodian movement alive by lavishly entertaining diplomats and foreign officials with Champagne breakfasts and elaborate French meals.

Denied any active role in government, he contented himself with the ceremonial position of king, still revered by many peasants.

Occasionally he interfered in politics. He undermined Prince Norodom Ranariddh, another son, by forcing him to accept a position as co-prime minister after winning the first postwar democratic election in 1993. Prince Ranariddh was ousted from that position in a coup by the other co-prime minister, Hun Sen, who became the country’s dominant power during King Sihanouk’s final years.

Norodom Sihanouk was born in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, on Oct. 31, 1922. A prince of the Norodom branch of the royal family, he was never considered a serious candidate to gain the throne. Instead, he was seen as a sensitive, if lonely, prince with a serious gift for music and, later, a passion for film.

He received a first-rate French education, initially at a primary school in Phnom Penh and then at the Lycee Chasseloup-Laubat in Saigon, the best in colonial Indochina. He was only 18 when King Monivong died in 1941 and the French colonial powers tapped him as the unlikely successor.

France had surrendered to Nazi Germany and was under Vichy control, worried that it would also lose its Indochinese colonies to Japan. The prince seemed the most malleable candidate, the one who would obey the dictates of French colonial officials.

For the first three years, King Sihanouk, a true Francophile, met all their expectations. As World War II engulfed Asia, he was a loyal partner of the French colonial administrators, who collaborated with Japan and hoped to fend off a nascent Cambodian independence movement.

In those early years, King Sihanouk seemed uninterested in government. He filled his days pursuing women and, in the tradition of his forebears, had several consorts who eventually bore him at least 13 children.

But in March 1945, as they were losing the war, the Japanese sought to oust the French in Cambodia. King Sihanouk stepped forward on the side of Japan and declared Cambodia the new independent state of Kampuchea. With Japan’s defeat, King Sihanouk welcomed back the French, largely ignoring the growing number of Cambodians who thought their country should remain independent.

By his own account, the king did not pick up the banner of independence again until 1951, using it to fend off challenges from democratic and Communist movements demanding an end to French colonialism.

Taking advantage of the increasing French weakness from Communist victories in neighboring Vietnam, King Sihanouk persuaded the French to make Cambodia independent in November 1953 in advance of the 1954 Geneva peace conference that led to a divided Vietnam.

Then in a cunning move, King Sihanouk announced he would give up the throne to run in his country’s first independent elections. Through a combination of repression, rigging and reliance on the votes of peasants who still considered him a god-king, his party swept the elections, and he set about creating Cambodia anew.

His brand of politics evolved into a one-party rule with some dissidents and rival parties pulled into his umbrella political party, the People’s Socialist Community. The towers of Angkor decorated the country’s new flag, one of the many ways that King Sihanouk used the massive temple complex at Angkor as a visible reminder that Cambodia was once the premier state and culture of the region.

He maintained strong ties to France, hiring French experts to help run his government and French teachers for his schools. In Phnom Penh, he nurtured a cafe society of intellectuals while he left the countryside in what he considered a more or less bucolic state but that was, in fact, a backward region of grinding poverty.

In contrast to its neighbors — Vietnam to the east, with its war, and Thailand to the west, with its disfiguring modern development and militarism — Cambodia appeared to be a welcome oasis throughout the 1960s, with now Prince Sihanouk presiding as charming, benevolent despot, treating his citizens like devoted children.

At the same time, he was imprisoning and sometimes executing opponents or driving others — notably the Communist leader Solath Sar, who would become Pol Pot — into exile and fueling discontent that fed growing political opposition and eventually armed insurrection.

Stories about King Sihanouk’s extravagance became a staple of the diplomatic circuit, especially as he turned his hand to his first loves — music and film. He entertained guests at his exclusive parties on his saxophone and embarked on a film career, eventually producing 19 movies for which he was director, producer, scriptwriter, composer and often leading man.

All the while he was head of state of a country increasingly squeezed by the Vietnam War. He took his place as one of the leaders of the nonaligned movement of newly independent nations — Egypt and India among them — hoping to emerge from poverty and avoid taking sides in the cold war. Yet he also accepted the outstretched hand of China, which was convinced that the United States posed a military threat to its borders.

Crystallizing Cambodia’s hopes for avoiding entanglement was a speech in 1966 by the French president, Charles de Gaulle, in Phnom Penh calling for the end of the Vietnam War and the neutrality of Indochina. He paid King Sihanouk the ultimate compliment by saying Cambodia and France were alike, with “a history laden with glory and sorrow, an exemplary culture and art, and a fertile land with vulnerable frontiers.” But the war would spill across Cambodia’s border.

With King Sihanouk’s acquiescence, the Vietnamese Communists used Cambodia for its logistics. When the Vietnamese sanctuaries expanded, he only mildly objected to the United States’s secret bombing of them. That bombing campaign was later cited in the articles of impeachment drawn up but never used against President Richard M. Nixon.

Despite the growing unrest in Cambodia, King Sihanouk was unprepared for his overthrow in 1970 by Prince Sirik Matak, a cousin, and Gen. Lon Nol. Supported by the United States, the new government immediately allowed American troops to invade Cambodia from Vietnam.

The invasion ignited protests around the world, including those at Kent State University in Ohio, where national guardsmen killed four students. After his ouster, King Sihanouk fled to Beijing, where Chinese leaders persuaded him to join forces with Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, the group of Cambodian Communists that had been seeking to overthrow him since the ’60s.

Although King Sihanouk had aggressively pursued the Khmer Rouge, arresting and often torturing them, he was so stung by the betrayal of the coup plotters that he agreed to head their resistance. His name and appearance in propaganda films and booklets helped the Communists recruit peasants in Cambodia and gave respectability to their cause in diplomatic circles. In the end, King Sihanouk helped bring Pol Pot to power.

The Khmer Rouge won in 1975 and immediately began a reign of terror. Cambodians were ordered out of the towns and cities and sent to grueling work camps and farms in the countryside. Cambodia was cut off from the rest of the world. Society was destroyed, with all religion and professions outlawed.

Intellectuals, monks and anyone deemed a political enemy were murdered. Tens of thousands of people died of treatable diseases, overwork or starvation.

King Sihanouk was the titular president during the first year of the Khmer Rouge rule. He said he had resigned a year later and was put under house arrest with his consort, Princess Monique, in one of the palaces. There he listened to world news on a radio and, he said, at times wanted to commit suicide.

He was rescued when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979. But rather than turn against Pol Pot, King Sihanouk went to the United Nations and defended him, saying the country’s enemy was Vietnam.

For the next 12 years, King Sihanouk provided a fig leaf of respectability for the Khmer Rouge as they and several non-Communist groups tried to evict Vietnam from Cambodia in the name of national liberation. The United States, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations supported King Sihanouk, who maneuvered himself into a pivotal role in the final negotiations. Lined up against him, the Khmer Rouge and the rest of the resistance were Vietnam, the Soviet Union and Mr. Hun Sen, who was then the head of the Cambodian government established under the Vietnamese occupation.

With the end of the cold war, Cambodia was no longer hostage to great power politics. The United Nations negotiated a settlement to the war in 1991, and national elections were held two years later. King Sihanouk returned to Phnom Penh to a thunderous welcome, encouraging him to believe he could become a powerful chief of state once again. But other Cambodian politicians, including his own children, did not want him back in control.

A party led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh won the elections. Mr. Hun Sen’s party came in second; the Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections. Furious that he had lost, Mr. Hun Sen and his surrogates threatened to reignite the war. King Sihanouk stepped in and persuaded the United Nations to create the position of co-prime minister for Mr. Hun Sen, effectively nullifying his son’s victory. However, King Sihanouk was returned to the throne and became king-father for the rest of his life.

Chastened, he maintained that he had been above the fray throughout, attempting to duplicate the role of national unifier played by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in neighboring Thailand.

But for the most part, King Sihanouk sided with Mr. Hun Sen, his political son. Toward the end of his life, the king reduced his once hectic travel schedule and rarely ventured outside Asia. Beijing, where the Chinese government maintained a villa for him, was his most frequent destination.

Michael Leifer, the Southeast Asia expert and professor at the London School of Economics who died in 2001, wrote that “the powerful myth of Sihanouk contributed to the people of Cambodia and the international community” repeatedly turning to him “as the font of national unity.”

He added: “The record of the man, however, would suggest a greater facility for reigning than for ruling. He has been more at home with the pomp and circumstance of government than with its good practice.”


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planet around Alpha Centauri B

ESO / L. Calçada / N. Risinger (

Planet Found in Alpha Centauri System

October 17, 2012 | Astronomers announced what might be the closest exoplanet to Earth, a roasted Earth-mass world whipping around the Sun-like star Alpha Centauri B. > read more


News From Across the Solar System

October 19, 2012 | From new models of the Moon’s formation to planets forming around distant stars, nearly 800 planetary scientists had plenty of new results to present this week when they met in Reno, Nevada. > read more


A Problem with Pluto’s Moons

October 17, 2012 | The discovery of two tiny moons circling the most famous “dwarf planet” has raised concerns that the New Horizons spacecraft might be endangered when it flies by in July 2015. > read more


A Taurid fireball

NASA / Hiroyuki Iida

October Meteors Slow and Fast

October 19, 2012 | As Earth wheels through the October portion of its orbit around the Sun, it passes through two reliable annual meteoroid streams: one fast, one slow, both long-lasting. > read more


Tour October’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

August 27, 2012 | Mars is managing to hang on low in the west after sunset, while in the east you’ll see the Square of Pegasus and, later on, the giant planet Jupiter. > read more



Babak Tafreshi

S&T‘s Iceland Aurora Adventure

October 8, 2012 | Join Sky & Telescope on the aurora adventure of a lifetime in April, 2013! Walk through a rift valley, witness magnificent waterfalls and the Strokkur geyser, bathe in the Blue Lagoon, and best of all, maximize your chances of seeing the beautiful Northern Lights. > read more


This Week’s Sky at a Glance
Binoculars help in bright twilight.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

October 19, 2012 | The crescent Moon points to the pairup of Mars and Antares, then the gibbous Moon glides below the Square of Pegasus, and Arcturus becomes the Ghost of Summer Suns. > read more


SkyWeek Television Show
View SkyWeek as seen on PBS click here to watch this week’s episode

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October 15 - 21, 2012 Powered by TheSkyX from Software Bisque

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The Difference Between Equity and Binders Full of Anybody

Mitt Romney turned a question about equal pay into one about diversity hiring. There’s a difference, explains Rinku Sen, and understanding it is crucial to achieving justice for all.

Also: Akiba Solomon on Violent Single Moms, Flex Pay and Other Odd Debate Moments

How Native Voters Are Routinely Disenfranchised in Arizona

A cascading series of voting rights violations  stand in the way of democracy. Aura Bogado reports from Apache County.

Jeff Chang on Hope, Change and How Culture Can Shape Politics

Join us and the celebrated hip-hop author at Facing Race 2012, a gathering of racial justice thinkers, advocates and culture makers, in Baltimore, Nov. 15-17. Register now.

Who Are Those “Gangbangers” Obama’s So Proud of Deporting? President Obama used a new word during the presidential debate on Tuesday night to describe the masses of immigrants he’s deported during his tenure.

Romney Cares About All Immigrant Children, But Only After They Join the Military Leave it to an undecided U.S. voter to force Mitt Romney to do what journalists have been struggling to do for months—pin down his immigration agenda.

The Scary, Familiar Way Romney Would Shrink the Food Stamp Rolls There are a shocking 47 million people getting the benefit. But the Romney plan for reducing that number isn’t about reducing the need.

Romney Uses the Term ‘Undocumented Illegals’ in Debate “Self-deportation” questions aside, the GOP hopeful’s immigration language raiseed eyeborows.

Is True the Vote Shaking Down States With Nuisance Lawsuits? The battered group’s poll watching “army” is on the retreat, but is it now trying to cash in through harassing state election officials?

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Woman Starts Native American Fashion Magazine Kelly Holmes says she founded “Native Max” magazine after getting tired of thumbing through issues of “Seventeen” or “Vogue” and not seeing models that look like her.

White Students in Blackface Reenact Chris Brown-Rihanna Fight The skit was performed in the school gym in front students, parents, and faculty.

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AFA’s Bryan Fischer Takes Knockout Punch on CNN

by Don Terry on October 16, 2012

Bryan Fischer, the gay-bashing, truth-challenged spokesman for the American Family Association, went one rant too far Tuesday for CNN anchor Carol Costello.

“And we know from the CDC and from the FDA, not part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, that homosexual behavior,” Fischer gushed excitedly, “has the same health risks associated with …”

“That’s just not true,” Costello said, cutting him off before he could insert his foot any further in his mouth. “I’m going to end this interview now, sir. I’m sorry because that’s just not true.”

The interview was about the AFA’s laughable attempt to portray the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mix It Up At Lunch Day program – in which students are simply asked to sit with someone new in the lunchroom – as part of a sinister plot to indoctrinate children into the “homosexual lifestyle.”

Earlier this month, the far-right AFA urged its supporters – it claims 2 million online activists – to call their local schools and harass them into dropping out of Mix It Up Day, which falls on Oct. 30 this year. So far, about 200 schools have canceled, but more than 2,500 are going forward and more are signing up every day.

Launched 11 years ago by the SPLC, Mix It Up is seen by many educators as a way to break down social barriers that can lead to bullying. The SPLC serves as a clearinghouse and provides ideas and free resources, but each school tailors the event to its own needs.

But to Fischer, who sees the “homosexual agenda” lurking behind every bush, Mix It Up is nothing less than an effort by the “fanatical pro-homosexual” SPLC  to “bully-push its gay agenda.”

On Monday night, Stephen Colbert and his audience had more than a few laughs at the AFA’s expense.

“Don’t fall for it kids,” Colbert said, looking directly into the camera. “It’s a devious plot. Get kids to learn that despite our outward differences in our hearts we’re all pretty much the same.’’

Laughed at one minute, hung up on the next. It’s been that kind of 24 hours for Fischer and the AFA, which SPLC added to its list of hate groups in 2010.

But it took the veteran journalist Costello quite a while to lose her patience.

“Mix It Up At Lunch appears to be a lesson in intolerance,” she said to Fischer as the interview began. “As a religious leader, what’s wrong with that?”

“Parents need to understand about this program,” he said, ignoring her question, “it’s a thinly veiled attempt to push the normalization of homosexual behavior in public schools. And eventually punish students who would express a Judeo-Christian view of sexuality.

“So it appears to be innocent and innocuous on the surface, but the hidden agenda if you look at the website,, is primarily about pushing  homosexual orientation and acceptance of alternative behavior – sexual behavior.’’

But Costello did something that it appears Fischer did not. She actually visited the website.

She told Fischer “it urges students to move out of their comfort zone, saying connect with someone new over lunch. There is absolutely no mention of homosexuality at all and this program has been going for 11 years.”

Straining for a metaphor that would make some sense, Fischer tried to capitalize on the date of Mix It Up, noting that it falls this year on the eve of Halloween. The program, he said, is “like poisoned Halloween candy. Somebody takes a candy bar, injects it with cyanide, the label looks fine. It looks innocuous, it looks fine. It’s not until you internalize it that you realize how toxic it is.”

Costello asked Fischer if the attack on Mix It Up was motivated by the fact that SPLC has listed the AFA as a hate group. He did not answer directly and instead accused the SPLC of being a bully, trying “to silence Christian students who take a conservative view of human sexuality …”

At one point, she read a statement Fischer made during a radio broadcast in 2010. “You have said, “Hitler recruited homosexuals around him to make up his storm troopers. They were his enforcers. They were his thugs. Hitler discovered he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders but that homosexual soldiers had no limit to the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whoever Hitler sent them after.”

She added that “by many people’s standards, this would be hate speech.”

A few moments later, she ended the interview.

“Mr. Fischer,” she said, “thanks for sharing your views. I guess.”


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IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-14-2012



J.Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, swore in Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. at the start of his 2006 Supreme Court confirmation hearing. More Photos »


Published: October 14, 2012

  • WASHINGTON — Arlen Specter, the irascible senator from Pennsylvania who was at the center of many of the Senate’s most divisive legal battles — from the Supreme Court nominations of Robert H. Bork and Clarence Thomas to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton — only to lose his seat in 2010 after quitting the Republican Party to become a Democrat, died Sunday morning at his home in Philadelphia. He was 82.


Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Mr. Specter was Pennsylvania’s longest-serving senator.                            More Photos »

The cause was complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his son Shanin said. Mr. Specter had previously fought Hodgkin’s disease and survived a brain tumor and heart bypass surgery.

Hard-edged and tenacious yet ever the centrist, Mr. Specter was a part of American public life for more than four decades. As an ambitious young lawyer for the Warren Commission, he took credit for originating the theory that a single bullet, fired by a lone gunman, struck both President John F. Kennedy and Gov. John B. Connally of Texas. Seconds later, Kennedy was struck by a fatal shot to the head from the same gunman, the commission found.

In the Senate, where he was long regarded as its sharpest legal mind, he led the Judiciary Committee through a tumultuous period that included two Supreme Court confirmations, even while battling Hodgkin’s disease in 2005 and losing his hair to chemotherapy.

Yet he may be remembered best for his quixotic party switch in 2009 and the subsequent campaign that cost him the Senate seat he had held for almost 30 years. After 44 years as a Republican, Mr. Specter, who began his career as a Democrat, changed sides because he feared a challenge from the right. He wound up losing in a Democratic primary; the seat stayed in Republican hands.

“Arlen Specter was always a fighter,” President Obama said in a statement issued Sunday, calling Mr. Specter “fiercely independent” and citing his “toughness and determination” in dealing with his personal health struggles.

One of the few remaining Republican moderates on Capitol Hill at a time when the party had turned sharply to the right, Mr. Specter confounded fellow Republicans at every turn. He unabashedly supported Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, and championed biomedical and embryonic stem cell research long before he received his cancer diagnosis.

When he made a bid for the White House in 1995, he denounced the Christian right as an extremist “fringe” — an unorthodox tactic for a candidate trying to win votes in a Republican primary. The campaign was short-lived; Mr. Specter ended it when he ran out of cash. Years later, he said wryly of the other candidates, “I was the only one of nine people in New Hampshire who wanted to keep the Department of Education.”

He enjoyed a good martini and a fast game of squash, and he was famous for parsing his words to wiggle out of tight spots. During Mr. Clinton’s impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction, Mr. Specter, objecting to what he called a “sham trial” without witnesses, signaled that he would vote to acquit.

But a simple “not guilty” vote would have put him directly at odds with Republicans; instead, citing Scottish law, Mr. Specter voted “not proven,” adding, “therefore not guilty.”

He relished the decades he spent on the Judiciary Committee. He enraged conservatives in 1987 by helping to derail Judge Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court and then delighted them four years later by backing Justice Thomas. The Thomas confirmation nearly cost Mr. Specter his Senate seat; even now, millions of American women remain furious with him for his aggressive questioning of Anita F. Hill, a law professor who had accused Justice Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked together at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If he had any regrets, Mr. Specter rarely admitted them.

“I’ve gone back and looked at every frame of the videos on Professor Hill, and I did not ask her one unprofessional question,” he said in a 2004 interview with The New York Times. Of the Bork and Thomas confirmations, he said, “I may be wrong, but I’m satisfied with what I did in both those cases.”

Brash confidence and outsize ego were characteristic of Mr. Specter, a man so feared by his own aides and so brusque with colleagues that he earned the nickname Snarlin’ Arlen on Capitol Hill. In 1992, when Mr. Specter’s Senate seat was in danger after the Thomas hearings, Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the modern conservative movement, campaigned for him. His rationale was expressed in a statement he made to fellow conservatives, as quoted by the conservative magazine National Review.

“Arlen Specter is a jerk,” he was said to have remarked, “but he’s our jerk.”

Those close to Mr. Specter say there was a softer side to him, but no one denied that as a lawmaker he was all business, with little patience for the false pleasantries of politics.

G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., who followed Mr. Specter’s career, once described how the senator would conduct constituent meetings: “He’ll say, ‘I’m delighted to be here,’ and give his standard 10- or 15-minute opening. Then he’ll say, ‘I’ll take questions now; whoever has a question, put up their hands.’ He will count the hands — 1, 2, 3, 4, to 20. And when 20 is over, he’s out of there.”

Arlen Specter was born on Feb. 12, 1930, in Wichita, Kan., the fourth and youngest child of Harry and Lillian Specter. Harry Specter, a Jewish émigré from the Ukraine, then part of Russia, moved his family back and forth between the East Coast and the Midwest seeking work before settling in Kansas as a peddler. By the time Arlen was 5, he too was peddling, selling cantaloupes door to door by his father’s side.

When scrap metal became salable during World War II, the Specters moved to the small Kansas town of Russell, coincidentally the hometown of another person who would become a prominent Republican senator, Bob Dole. There, the elder Specter opened a junkyard; when tornadoes blew through, he sent his son into the oil fields with a torch to cut up the toppled derricks.

Carl Feldbaum, a friend and a former chief of staff to the senator, traced Mr. Specter’s gruffness to those days.

“There’s a hard-bitten quality that came out of being an immigrant,” Mr. Feldbaum said, “of being the only Jewish family in a small Midwestern town and living through the Depression, war era.”

The Specters later moved to Philadelphia — “so my sister could meet and marry a nice Jewish boy,” Mr. Specter explained — where he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1951, served in the Air Force and then earned a law degree from Yale in 1956. By 1959, he was an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, prosecuting union racketeers and attracting the attention of some leaders in Washington.

His parents were Democrats, and so was he, until he tried to run for Philadelphia district attorney in 1965. As Mr. Specter recalled, the local Democratic chairman told him that the party did not want a “young Tom Dewey as D.A.,” a reference to the former New York governor and racket-buster Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican. So Mr. Specter ran on the Republican ticket as a Democrat. He switched his party registration after he won.

Thus began what Mr. Specter liked to call “the continuing effort I have made to pull the Republican Party to the center.”

He won his first election to the Senate in 1980 and, as he recounted in his 2000 autobiography, “Passion for Truth,” immediately began courting Senator Strom Thurmond, the deeply conservative South Carolina Republican who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seeking a seat on the panel.

In the Senate, Mr. Specter, putting his prosecutor’s skills to use, was a relentless interrogator in judicial confirmations. Tom Korologos, a former ambassador and a lobbyist who was often called upon by Republican presidents to shepherd their nominees through the Senate, said that no matter how much information a nominee provided, Mr. Specter wanted more — “the Ph.D. treatment,” in Mr. Korologos’s words.

Never was that more true than during the Bork hearings.

“Bork, I have said many times, was the Einstein of the law,” Mr. Korologos said, “and Specter was the Einstein of the Senate, and they used to talk past each other like two trains. Specter would ask these long, convoluted questions, and Bork would give these long, convoluted answers.”

The Senate rejected the nomination, and conservatives never forgave Mr. Specter. Judge Bork, in an interview with The Times in 2004, called him “generally a bit shifty.” Likewise, women’s groups, who had considered Mr. Specter an ally, never forgave him for accusing Ms. Hill of perjury. Ultimately, Mr. Specter expressed contrition, saying he had come to understand why Ms. Hill’s complaint of sexual harassment had “touched a raw nerve among so many women.”

But the remark, coming in 1992 when Mr. Specter was facing a tough re-election campaign, rang hollow with his critics and even some admirers, who said it was another example of how he did whatever it took to save his political career.

“He would always seem to walk up to the edge, the abyss politically, and find a way to extricate himself from the problem,” Professor Madonna said. “He could pull the rabbits out of more hats.”

But the rabbit-pulling came to an abrupt end in 2010 for Mr. Specter, the longest-serving senator in Pennsylvania history. The year before, as the Tea Party gained strength, Mr. Specter candidly declared his Republican-to-Democrat conversion a matter of political survival.

“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate — not prepared to have that record decided by that jury,” he said.

Republicans were knocked off stride; many had no warning from Mr. Specter. At first, it seemed that he might have an easy ride to the Democratic nomination. But even with the endorsement of Mr. Obama, he failed to attract support from Democrats. Many were annoyed by the alliance he had forged years earlier with another Pennsylvania senator, the conservative Republican Rick Santorum.

Mr. Specter lost his primary race with just 46 percent of the vote — an outcome that left him looking drained and shocked. In a memoir published last year, “Life Among the Cannibals,” he denounced the partisanship that has enveloped Washington.

“The fringes have displaced tolerance with purity tests,” he wrote.

Besides his son Shanin, Mr. Specter is survived by his wife of 59 years, Joan; a sister, Shirley Kety; another son, Stephen; and four grandchildren.

Though Mr. Specter was known mostly for his contributions to domestic policy — along with Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, he successfully fought to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health for medical research during the Clinton years — he dipped into foreign policy as well. Mr. Feldbaum, Mr. Specter’s former chief of staff, recalled a trip they made to Baghdad in 1990 to meet Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Specter took a camera along — “out of caution, he wanted us to have our own pictures,” Mr. Feldbaum said — but palace guards wrested it out of Mr. Feldbaum’s hands. When Mr. Hussein arrived, the senator demanded his camera back.

“It wasn’t the camera; it was the principle,” Mr. Feldbaum said. “It wasn’t only that he was a United States senator and a representative of the United States of America. He was Arlen Specter.”





Published: October 13, 2012

  • Gary Collins, a prolific actor who became a successful host of daytime talk shows and — for almost a decade — master of ceremonies for the Miss America pageant, died on Saturday in Biloxi, Miss. He was 74.

Phil Mccarten/Getty Images

In a performing career that spanned more than four decades, Gary Collins made guest appearances on dozens of television shows, including “Charlie’s Angels” and “JAG.”

Mr. Collins died of natural causes, Brian Switzer, the Harrison County deputy coroner, said.

In a performing career that spanned more than four decades, Mr. Collins made guest appearances on dozens of television shows, including “The Virginian,” “Love, American Style,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “JAG.”

Mr. Collins became a familiar face in American living rooms in the 1980s as the congenial host of the syndicated afternoon talk show “Hour Magazine,” for which he won a daytime Emmy in 1983, and later, as the host of the Miss America Pageant from 1982 to 1990.

From 1989 to 1994, he was the host of another daytime talk show, “The Home Show,” on ABC.

Born in Venice, Calif., on April 30, 1938, Mr. Collins became interested in acting while in the Army, where he performed on the Armed Forces Network.

He had his first break in 1965 with a supporting role on the NBC series “The Wackiest Ship in the Army,” with Jack Warden. He appeared with Dale Robertson in the 1966-68 series “Iron Horse,” and in 1972 he starred in “The Sixth Sense,” a series in which he played a parapsychologist.

In 1974, he starred in a short-lived TV version of “Born Free.”

In 1967, he married Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America of 1959. The couple separated last year.

Besides his wife, survivors include their daughter, Marcy Clancy Collins; and two children from his first marriage, to Susan Peterson, Guy and Melissa Collins.

In recent years, Mr. Collins, a resident of Biloxi, had legal troubles, including convictions for drunken driving and leaving the scene of a traffic accident.

With a cheerful smile and good looks, Mr. Collins was known for his warm, welcoming style.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1989, he said he was unsuited for the tabloid talk-show format that was emerging: “That’s basically not a part of my character.”





Published: October 12, 2012

  • Andrew F. Brimmer, a Louisiana sharecropper’s son who was the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board and who led efforts to to reverse the country’s balance-of-payments deficit, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 86.

William E. Sauro/The New York Times

Andrew F. Brimmer in 1974, shortly after he resigned from the Fed board.

His death, after a long illness, was confirmed by his daughter, Esther Brimmer.

Dr. Brimmer, an economist, held a number of high-ranking posts in Washington and taught at Harvard, but the economic conditions of poor, powerless, uneducated blacks was an abiding concern. He spoke about what he called the “schism” between blacks who were educated and had marketable skills and those who did not. In later years he spoke frequently about how government policies no longer supported programs to help blacks enter the economic mainstream.

Dr. Brimmer was the assistant secretary of commerce for economic affairs when President Lyndon B. Johnson named him to the Fed board in 1966.

At the time, the Federal Reserve was bitterly divided over monetary policy. The chairman, William McChesney Martin Jr., threatened to resign if Mr. Johnson appointed a liberal who would vote in favor of lower interest rates.

At Dr. Brimmer’s swearing-in ceremony, the president said he did not expect Dr. Brimmer to be “an easy money man or a tight money man.” Rather, Mr. Johnson said, “I expect him to be a right money man.”

The Wall Street Journal expressed skepticism, with a front-page article headlined “Desire to Aid Negroes Could Make New ‘Fed’ Member More Liberal.” It quoted an anonymous source saying that the appointment was yet another example of Mr. Johnson’s political foxiness. “The president has Martin in a box,” the source told The Journal. “If Martin resigned now, it would look like it was because he didn’t want a Negro on the board.”

Early in his tenure, Dr. Brimmer followed the lead of Mr. Martin and other “tight money” board members by supporting a gradual increase in interest rates to fight inflation. But when Congress raised taxes in 1968 and cut spending to cut inflation, he was one of the first Fed governors to call for lowering rates.

At the Commerce Department, Dr. Brimmer’s primary responsibility was to reverse the country’s balance-of-payments deficit. He spent a good deal of time persuading American businesses to voluntarily slow their use of dollars in foreign investments. He also encouraged foreign companies to use their own currency to make investments in the United States.

In a speech in December 1965, he reported that his efforts had resulted in a drop in direct American investments overseas, to $515 million in the third quarter of that year from $1.12 billion in the first quarter.

That work built on his interest in foreign affairs, which started when he went to India with the Fulbright Program and wrote papers on the Indian economy.

As a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the late 1950s, he was part of a team that visited Sudan to explore the feasibility of a central bank there. He later wrote an article on banking and finance in Sudan for The South African Journal of Economics. He became known as the international monetary policy expert on the Federal Reserve Board.

Dr. Brimmer served a little more than eight years of his 14-year term, leaving the board in 1974 to join the faculty of the Harvard Business School and start a consulting firm, Brimmer & Company. His academic career also included study in India at the Delhi School of Economics and the University of Bombay.

In 1995, he was chosen to head a five-member financial control board to help the District of Columbia deal with a financial crisis. He stepped down after a contentious three years in the job.

Andrew Felton Brimmer Jr. was born on Sept. 13, 1926, in Newellton, La. After graduating from high school he went to Washington State, where one of his sisters lived. He joined the Army near the end of World War II and attained the rank of staff sergeant, remaining in the United States.

Besides his daughter, who is the assistant secretary for international organization affairs at the State Department, he is survived by his wife, Doris Scott Brimmer.

Dr. Brimmer attended the University of Washington in Seattle on the G.I. Bill of Rights, earning an undergraduate degree in economics in 1950 and a master’s degree the next year.

He then went to India before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, where he earned a doctorate. In 1965, Dr. Brimmer was part of a federal delegation sent to Los Angeles after rioting in the Watts neighborhood left 34 people dead and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. He commissioned a Census Bureau study that found that the purchasing power of the average family in Watts had declined by $400 in the five years before the riots while incomes had risen in the rest of America.

“I do feel that the economic plight of blacks is a serious matter,” he told The New York Times in 1973. “So I bring the same economist’s tool kit to that subject as other economists bring to examine other national economic problems.”





Published: October 10, 2012

  • Barbara Blum, a former high-ranking social services official who found homes for hundreds of mentally disabled people after their mistreatment at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island became a national scandal in the 1970s, died on Saturday in Albany. She was 82.

Vic DeLucia/The New York Times

Barbara Blum

The cause was congestive heart failure, her son Thomas said.

Ms. Blum was New York State’s social services commissioner from 1977 to 1982, and she earlier worked for Mayor John V. Lindsay’s administration, leading a task force on mental health and retardation and overseeing services for disadvantaged children. But perhaps her most visible impact was made in rescuing abused Willowbrook residents by finding them safe places to live in group homes.

The deplorable conditions at Willowbrook, a state-run institution, seized the nation’s attention in 1972, when Geraldo Rivera, then a reporter for WABC-TV in New York, put a spotlight on them, showing children lying naked on the floor, their bodies contorted, their feces spread on walls. His reports were broadcast nationally. More than 5,400 people lived on the Willowbrook campus, making it the biggest state-run institution for mentally disabled people in the United States.

Willowbrook residents and their parents, aided by civil libertarians and mental health advocates, sued New York State to prevent further deterioration and to establish that residents had a constitutional right to treatment. The state settled with the plaintiffs and signed a court decree in April 1975 promising to improve conditions at Willowbrook and to transfer residents to new homes.

Ms. Blum, a state social services official at the time, was placed in charge of the Metropolitan Placement Unit, set up to find homes for the residents in what would be, at the time, the largest placement of mentally disabled people in the nation’s history. The decree ordering the “deinstitutionalization,” which had become a national trend, called for all but 250 of the residents to be placed in group homes or foster care by 1981.

The task promised to be daunting. There were no community organizations trained in performing such a transfer, and many established social services groups refused to participate, doubting that the task could be done at all, much less on time.

Others had turned down the job, and Ms. Blum later expressed suspicion that Gov. Hugh L. Carey’s aides had chosen her to lead the unit, a largely autonomous body, so that she would be the scapegoat if the effort failed.

“There seemed to be a kind of precipitous desire to see that I was there for the court,” she said in an interview for the 1984 book “The Willowbrook Wars,” by David and Sheila Rothman.

As it happened, logistical and legal difficulties delayed the emptying of Willowbrook until 1987. But working with Roman Catholic and black community organizations, Ms. Blum found more than 100 homes for more than 1,000 Willowbrook residents despite meeting intense opposition in neighborhoods; in some instances, she was pelted with eggs, and her nose was broken.

To Ms. Blum, the assignment was also a personal mission. Her second son, Jonathan, was profoundly affected by autism.

Barbara Jean Rebecca Bennett was born on Jan. 18, 1930, in Beaver, Pa. She graduated from Vassar College as a mathematics major. In 1951, she married Robert M. Blum, who survives her. In addition to her sons Thomas and Jonathan, she is also survived by her son Stephen; a daughter, Jennifer Weinschenk; and five grandchildren.

Robert Blum, a former Olympic fencer, became an aide to Mr. Lindsay, first in Congress and then at City Hall. Mr. Blum frequently told Mr. Lindsay how hard it was to find help for Jonathan. He and his wife had banded together with other parents to start their own nursery school and an organization to lobby for mentally disabled people. One of the mayor’s first official acts was to appoint Ms. Blum to the New York City Community Mental Health Board.

She went on to a number of city government posts, including as deputy commissioner for mental health and mental retardation services, commissioner for special services to children and director of a council on child welfare that encompassed 50 city agencies.

In 1973, she was named assistant executive director of the state’s social welfare board. In 1975, she was given the additional job of heading the Metropolitan Placement Unit. In 1977, Governor Carey appointed her commissioner of the State Department of Social Services.

In later years, among other positions, she was a senior fellow at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Six years after the last residents left Willowbrook, its buildings became a campus of the College of Staten Island.

Jonathan Blum has lived for years in a group home in Brooklyn, where, his brother Thomas said, he has achieved a regular schedule of walks, exercise and going to the store to buy a soda.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 12, 2012

An earlier version of this obituary mistakenly referred to Robert M. Blum as Robert R. Blum. The article also misstated where Jonathan Blum has lived for years in a group home. It is Brooklyn, not the Bronx.





Micool Brooke/Associated Press

Eric Lomax, left, in 1998 with Nagase Takashi, his chief wartime tormentor. The two met again at the River Kwai, Thailand.


Published: October 9, 2012

  • Eric Lomax, a former British soldier who was tortured by the Japanese while he was a prisoner during World War II and half a century later forgave one of his tormentors — an experience he recounted in a memoir, “The Railway Man” — died on Monday in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his publisher, Vintage Books.

Mr. Lomax, who was born in Scotland, was 19 when he joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 1939. He was one of thousands of British soldiers who surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore in 1942. Many were relocated to Thailand and forced to build the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

The building of the railroad and the brutality involved was portrayed in “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 film directed by David Lean.

Mr. Lomax was repeatedly beaten and interrogated after his captors found a radio receiver he had made from spare parts. Multiple bones were broken and water was poured into his nose and mouth. One of his constant torturers stood out: Nagase Takashi, an interpreter.

“At the end of the war, I would have been happy to murder him,” Mr. Lomax told The New York Times in 1995, shortly after the “The Railway Man” was published and became a best seller.

In the book, Mr. Lomax described having fantasies about meeting Mr. Nagase one day and how he had spent much of the 1980s looking for information about him. He learned that after the war Mr. Nagase had become an interpreter for the Allies and helped locate thousands of graves and mass burial sites along the Burma Railway.

The men finally met in 1993, after Mr. Lomax had read an article about Mr. Nagase’s being devastated by guilt over his treatment of one particular British soldier. Mr. Lomax realized that he was that soldier.

“When we met, Nagase greeted me with a formal bow,” Mr. Lomax said on the Web site of the Forgiveness Project, a British group that seeks to bring together victims and perpetrators of crimes. “I took his hand and said in Japanese, ‘Good morning, Mr. Nagase, how are you?’ He was trembling and crying, and he said over and over again: ‘I am so sorry, so very sorry.’ ”

Mr. Lomax continued: “I had come with no sympathy for this man, and yet Nagase, through his complete humility, turned this around. In the days that followed we spent a lot of time together, talking and laughing.” He added, “We promised to keep in touch and have remained friends ever since.”

Mr. Lomax told The Times said Mr. Nagase’s later life resembled his own. “He has had the same psychological and career problems that I have,” he said.

A film based on “The Railway Man,” starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, is scheduled to be released next year.

Mr. Lomax was born in Edinburgh, graduated from Royal High School and took a job with the city’s postal service at 16, according to The Herald Scotland newspaper. After the war he enlisted in two more years of military service and rose to captain. He later studied personnel management and became a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland, even as his anger and bitterness created problems in his personal life.

Mr. Lomax is survived by his wife, Patti; a daughter from a previous marriage; and four stepchildren.

His search for Mr. Nagase began in earnest after he retired, in 1982. His wife, a nurse he married in the 1980s, wrote the first letter to Mr. Nagase on her husband’s behalf, and she helped arrange the 1993 meeting, which took place at the bridge on the Kwai.

“I haven’t forgiven Japan as a nation,” Mr. Lomax told The Times, “but I’ve forgiven one man, because he’s experienced such great personal regret.”





Lennox McLendon/Associated Press

Gov. Jerry Brown, left, with Mervyn M. Dymally, then lieutenant governor, in 1978. Mr. Dymally also served 12 years in Congress.


Published: October 9, 2012

  • Mervyn M. Dymally, who broke barriers as a black lawmaker in California and in Congress after moving to the United States from his native Trinidad at age 19, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 86.

He had been in hospice care, his daughter, Lynn V. Dymally, said.

Mr. Dymally became California’s first foreign-born black state assemblyman when he was elected in 1962, its first black state senator four years later and, in 1974, its first black lieutenant governor. In 1980 he became one of the first foreign-born blacks elected to the House of Representatives, where he served six terms representing Compton and other heavily black, low-income areas. He also led the Congressional Black Caucus for a time.

His success in winning office was rooted in his work organizing a new black Democratic base in areas around Los Angeles beginning in the 1950s and 1960s.

“This was a transformational period,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, an expert in racial and ethnic politics in Los Angeles and the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. “Between 1958 and 1962, the Democratic Party really came of age in the African-American community in California,” he said.

The area’s minority population had long been marginalized, but as the political climate changed, it created opportunities for new leaders like Mr. Dymally, Mr. Sonenshein said.

“If you came in from the outside and were able to put things together, it was fertile territory,” he said. “He was a very effective organizational leader.”

Mr. Dymally’s rise partly paralleled that of Tom Bradley, who became the first black mayor of Los Angeles. But Mr. Bradley built a coalition from a rising black economic class and liberal whites; Mr. Dymally, by contrast, galvanized poor and working-class residents and labor unions. He worked to improve health care for the poor and sponsored legislation to lower the state voting age to 18 and to expand civil rights protections for women. As lieutenant governor under Gov. Jerry Brown, Mr. Dymally joined Cesar Chavez in trying to protect farm workers from automation, which was taking away jobs.

Mr. Dymally was often trailed by accusations of corruption, including that he took bribes, but he never faced criminal charges. In 1978, he was defeated while seeking re-election as lieutenant governor after a television news report that he was going to be indicted. The indictment never happened, and two years later Mr. Dymally was elected to Congress after two other candidates had split the white vote in a Democratic primary.

In 2002, a decade after he retired from Congress, he was elected to fill the same Assembly seat he had won in 1962. He served three terms and lost a 2008 bid for State Senate.

Mervyn Malcolm Dymally was born May 12, 1926, in Bonasse Village in Cedros, Trinidad. His father was a Muslim of Indian descent. His mother was a Roman Catholic of mixed racial heritage. He eventually made it to Southern California, where he graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees at other schools. He taught special education in Los Angeles schools before entering politics.

Besides his daughter, Lynn, he is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Alice Gueno; his son, Mark; three sisters, Marjorie, Courtney and Hazel Dymally; two brothers, Bing and Malcolm; and three grandchildren. A marriage to Amentha Isaacs ended in divorce.

Lynn Dymally noted that even as her father embraced the struggles of American blacks, his own racial identity was complicated. She said that his marriage certificate to his first wife lists him as Indian, but that his race is described as “Negro” on her United States birth certificate.

Late in his life, as California became more diverse, he told his daughter, “You know, it’s strange, people are now referring to me as of Asian descent.”

Ms. Dymally added, “He always considered himself black or African-American even though there were distinctive qualities about him that would have made some people think he was Indian.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 10, 2012

An obituary on Tuesday about the California politician Mervyn M. Dymally erroneously attributed a distinction to him. While he was California’s first black state senator and first black lieutenant governor, he was not the state’s first black assemblyman. (Mr. Dymally, who was born in Trinidad, was California’s first foreign-born black state assemblyman, but there had been three other black members of the California Assembly before Mr. Dymally was elected in 1962.)


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