IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-7-2014

MARTIN LITTON, FIGHTER FOR ENVIRONMENT

Martin Litton at the Grand Canyon in 2004. He helped save the canyon, which he traversed many times as a river guide, from a plan to bookend it with dams in the 1960s. Credit John Blaustein/Sequoia ForestKeeper, via Associated Press

His death was announced by the Sierra Club, which he had served as a director.

During his 70 years on the front lines of the American environmental movement, Mr. Litton was less known than other figures. His open disdain for the compromise and consensus-building paths that were often taken by the movement’s leaders (disastrously, in his view) seemed to relegate him to a different role.

He was the movement’s Jeremiah — the crier in the wilderness who spotted the threats, condemned the desecraters and rallied the leadership to the defining preservation conflicts of the early 1950s through the ’80s.

David Brower, who as the Sierra Club’s seminal leader in the last half of the 20th century was compelled to make some of the compromises Mr. Litton fought, was known to call him “our conscience.”

Mr. Litton’s intransigence was often the first line of defense not only against timber and mining interests, for example, but against a broad postwar public perception that all massive public works projects — roads, bridges and dams — were, by definition, good. He tried to change that view early on as a photojournalist.

In the early 1950s he rallied environmentalists, including Mr. Brower, to fight a planned highway through the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests in California’s Sierra Nevada. At one point he flew Mr. Brower and a newspaper photographer over the site in his small plane to publicize the potential harm the road posed to some of the world’s oldest and tallest trees.

He wrote a series of articles for The Los Angeles Times later in the decade that raised the first wide-scale alarm about government plans to build a dam that would flood parts of the Dinosaur National Monument, at the border of Colorado and Utah, for a hydroelectric plant.

And when the Interior Department announced plans in 1963 to bookend the Grand Canyon with a pair of dams across the Colorado River — a federal official claimed that by filling a part the canyon with water, more people than ever would see its walls from boats — Mr. Litton wrote a trenchant but truculent essay for the Sierra Club Bulletin that set off one of the most important wilderness fights in the history of the national parks.

“Shall we fail to go into battle because it is hard to win?” he wrote. “Could not 22,000 Sierra Club members, without strain, turn out 22,000 letters a day for a week?”

He continued, “There has never been a Congress, a president, a secretary of interior, a governor or a newspaper editor who would not sit up and take notice of that.”

The essay was accompanied by a list of the names and addresses of every officeholder it mentioned, prompting the Internal Revenue Service to suspend the Sierra Club’s tax-exempt status for breaking rules against political lobbying.

But the fight for the Grand Canyon galvanized activists and won wide public support. Taking a cue from Mr. Litton, who joined the board in 1964, the Sierra Club attacked the government plan with full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post. One was headlined: “Should We Also Flood the Sistine Chapel So Tourists Can Get Nearer the Ceiling?”

The government scrapped the plan in 1968. By then, Sierra Club membership had grown to 78,000. Mr. Litton left its board in 1972.

“People always tell me not to be extreme,” he said in a 2010 documentary about his life, “The Good Fight.”

“ ‘Be reasonable!’ they say. But I never felt it did any good to be reasonable about anything in conservation, because what you give away will never come back — ever. When it comes to saving wilderness, we can’t be extreme enough. To compromise is to lose.”

Clyde Martin Litton was born on Feb. 13, 1917, in Los Angeles, the son of Clyde and Elsie Litton. His father was a veterinarian, and his mother worked in the home raising their four children.

Mr. Litton earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1939. During World War II, he flew glider planes in the Army Air Force, transporting troops and equipment behind enemy lines during the European invasion. He became a freelance writer and photographer after the war and was drawn increasingly to environmental subjects.

Mr. Litton is survived by his wife of 72 years, the former Esther Clewette; their sons John and Donald; their daughters Kathleen Litton and Helen Litton; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

From 1971 to 1988, Mr. Litton ran a company operating trips through the canyon in flat-bottomed boats called river dories.

Despite his accomplishments, Mr. Litton would speak more of his disappointments when interviewed late in life. And the one that seemed to haunt him most resulted from a compromise.

In exchange for the government’s promise to scrap its planned Dinosaur National Monument dam, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups had agreed in the 1950s not to oppose construction of a dam at Glen Canyon, about 15 miles upriver from the eastern end of Grand Canyon National Park.

Since the late 1960s the dam has provided much of the power and water used in the Southwest. Mr. Litton spent many years involved in an unsuccessful campaign to dismantle the dam, saying it had caused environmental problems downstream, including salinization of the water and a proliferation of invasive plants and animals that threatened native species.

The failure to stop the dam tormented him, he often said, though in a 1997 interview with The Los Angeles Times he said: “Between you and me, I’m not too worried about this canyon. In 100,000 years, there will be no evidence we were here. It will all be washed away.

“What I’m worried about is life. And those things we’re doing to extinguish life.”

SOURCE

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BRUMSIC BRANDON JR., CREATOR OF ‘LUTHER’ COMIC STRIP

Brumsic Brandon Jr.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said Barbara Brandon-Croft, his daughter, who followed her father’s path in 1986 by becoming, by many accounts, the first nationally syndicated female African-American cartoonist.

Mr. Brandon’s gently satirical comic strip, syndicated from 1968 to 1986, chronicled the exploits of Luther, a wide-eyed African-American third grader, and his friends in a ghetto neighborhood not unlike the Benning Road section of northeast Washington, where Mr. Brandon grew up.

It was one of a handful of black-themed comic strips that began appearing in daily newspapers in the United States during the late 1960s, when many publishers began to acknowledge that minority views had been excluded from, among other places, mainstream comics pages.

Like “Wee Pals,” by Morrie Turner, and “Quincy,” by Ted Shearer, which featured multicultural casts in a middle-class milieu, Mr. Brandon’s “Luther” portrayed the racial divide from a child’s perspective.

Photo

“Luther,” syndicated from 1968 to 1986, chronicled the exploits of Luther, a wide-eyed African-American third grader. Credit Brumsic Brandon Jr.

Unlike those strips, “Luther” was about a gang of kids who lived in a poor urban neighborhood. They included streetwise characters like Hardcore (as in the hard-core unemployed, his creator once said) and his female counterpart, Mary Frances, sometimes known by her initials; Oreo, whose name is slang for a kind of obsequious striver said to be black on the outside but white on the inside; and Lily, a white regular in the group.

Luther, named for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the deadpan observer who often gave the comic strip its bite.

“Open housing,” Luther remarked in one strip, starring up at a gaping hole in the ceiling of a run-down apartment.

The same wry perspective informed most of his observations about the perils of growing up black in America — whether the indignities were inflicted by whites, like his never-seen third-grade teacher, “Miss Backlash,” or by fellow blacks, whose most stinging rebuke, by Luther’s account, was to call another black person an Uncle Tom.

Mr. Brandon considered himself less a commentator than a reporter, chronicling a cultural landscape that was largely unfamiliar to white audiences in the early days of “Luther,” before network television started presenting black-themed sitcoms like “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times” in the 1970s.

“My objective, in my comic strip, was to bring to light not only the long-ignored ‘black perspective,’ ” he told Contemporary Authors Online in 2001, “but the many various philosophical postures found therein.”

Some of those perspectives resonate still. In one four-panel strip from the 1970s, Oreo scolds Hardcore for arriving late to school and receiving detention. “You would have been on time if you had run!” she snaps.

“I couldn’t, Oreo, there was a cop standing there,” Hardcore replies, his hands outstretched for sympathy. “And you know what they do when they see us running.”

Mr. Brandon was born in Washington on April 10, 1927, the second of five children of Brumsic Brandon Sr., a porter at Union Station, and Pearl Brooks Brandon, a homemaker. His early interest in art and cartooning was encouraged by his parents and a high school art teacher. He began submitting cartoon ideas to local newspapers as a teenager.

He studied art at New York University for a short time and then was drafted into the Army and served in occupied Germany for two years after World War II before resettling in New York. With a young family, Mr. Brandon worked days in a variety of jobs through most of the 1950s and ’60s, drawing his cartoons at night.

In 1968 Newsday, the Long Island newspaper, introduced “Luther” to its readers, and to subscribers of a small syndication service it owned. In 1970, when Times Mirror bought Newsday, it began syndicating the strip among hundreds of newspapers across the country.

Mr. Brandon published six “Luther” collections from 1969 to 1976. He also appeared on a local children’s television show on WPIX in New York hosted by Joya Sherrill, a former vocalist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, from 1970 to 1972. As “Mr. B. B.,” he basically played himself on the show, standing at an easel and demonstrating drawing techniques. It was shown in reruns until 1982.

“Luther” ended its syndication in 1986. (That same year, The Detroit Free Press began distributing Ms. Brandon-Croft’s comic strip, “Where I’m Coming From,” which ran until 2005.) Mr. Brandon later wrote a column and drew editorial cartoons for Florida Today, a Gannett newspaper.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Brandon is survived by his wife of 64 years, Rita; another daughter, Linda; and a son, Brumsic Brandon III; as well as three grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.

The family was never sure where the name Brumsic came from, Ms. Brandon-Croft said in an interview. According to one account, it was a bastardization of Brunswick, though she said that was never confirmed. “What’s sure is that my brother decided to be the last Brumsic,” she said. “It’s too hard growing up with a name like that.”

Brumsic Brandon III, she said, named his son Niles.

SOURCE

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IAN PLAYER; HELPED SAVE RHINOS

Ian Player in the 1960s. Credit Black Knight Archives

That evening he sat alone by a campfire. “I could think of nothing but the white rhino,” he wrote in his 1972 book, “The White Rhino Saga.” “Never had I been so impressed and at the same time strangely involved with an animal.”

The reserve was established in the 1890s to protect the two dozen or so white rhinos thought to be alive. In an aerial survey in 1953, Mr. Player found that their numbers had grown to 437. But these were being steadily killed by farmers, hunters and poachers, and a disease outbreak could easily have exterminated such a concentrated population.

The young game warden devised a plan to capture rhinos, put them in crates — a task exactly as hard as it sounds — and ship them to other reserves, parks and game farms throughout Africa, as well as to zoos and safari parks around the world. By 1965, international authorities ruled that the white rhino had been “saved.” Today, there are as many as 20,000.

Although a new wave of poaching is killing rhinos at the rate of three a day, Rachel Long wrote in Africa Geographic in 2012, “It is because of Dr. Ian Player that there are still rhinos around for us to save.”

Mr. Player, a high school dropout whose doctorate is honorary, died at 87 on Sunday at his homestead in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, his brother, the golfer Gary Player, announced. The South African Press Association reported that he had a stroke several days before his death.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Player led a successful campaign to designate two wilderness areas in South Africa, the first two on the continent. He started a wilderness school to promote skills for living in the wild that more than 50,000 people have attended. He helped found the World Wilderness Congress, which brings together thousands of scientists, politicians, bankers and others in international meetings every three years. He was a leader in starting foundations in Africa, Britain and the United States.

His efforts have had the practical effect of attracting ecotourists to the South African wild, where their spending generates income for native people, reducing their incentive to kill big game. By selling animals abroad, Mr. Player raised money for conservation and helped start a new business: safari parks, which mimic the African experience. Meanwhile, the genetic base of white rhinos has grown and diversified.

Mr. Player in 1964.

Mr. Player acted from an almost mystical belief that experiencing wilderness returns people to ancient intimations and understandings like those described by the psychiatrist Carl Jung. He helped found the Cape Town Center for Applied Jungian Studies.

“Without wilderness and wildlife, many people could not maintain their sanity,” Mr. Player wrote in the International Journal of Wilderness in 1995.

He said that he himself had learned the meaning of the African wild from a former safari guide at the reserve, Magqubu Ntombela, who told him of great Zulu kings, taught him to track wild animals and became his best friend. He said it was Mr. Ntombela who had the idea of forming the World Wilderness Congress.

Mr. Ntombela also gave him a rather precious gift. “I was steeped in the racial prejudice of my country,” Mr. Player said in an interview with The Washington Post in 1984. “Magqubu transformed me.”

Ian Cedric Player, the son of a gold miner, was born in Johannesburg on March 15, 1927. He laid the foundation for the famed physical fitness of his brother, Gary, who was eight years younger, by making him climb a rope and lift weights. “He made me promise I would exercise for the rest of my life,” Gary Player told Golf World magazine in 2013.

Ian left school at 16 and joined the South African Army. After his discharge, with jobs scarce, he worked as a gold miner. He hated the lack of sunlight and went on to jobs on the Durban docks, as a fisherman and as an accountant’s clerk.

As a soldier in Italy during World War II, he had the idea of a 75-mile canoe race from the city of Pietermaritzburg to Durban. It materialized in 1951. Of eight entrants, he was the only one who finished the race, despite being bitten by a poisonous snake. Since then, 12,374 people have competed in the annual race, the Dusi Canoe Marathon, according to its sponsors.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Player’s survivors include his wife, Ann; his sons, Kenneth and Amyas; and his sister, Wilma.

Mr. Player’s many conservation activities ranged from fighting a proposed mine near one of his wilderness preserves to helping develop a strategy to protect the tamarau, the Philippines’ largest terrestrial mammal. As a government game official, he once airlifted crocodiles by helicopter from a highly saline part of the immense Lake St. Lucia in South Africa to a fresher part of the lake.

In his 1998 book, “Zulu Wilderness: Shadow and Soul,” Mr. Player wrote of another crocodile experience early in his career. Farmers were complaining that the reptiles were lounging on their doorsteps, a claim Mr. Player knew was false. He was nonetheless assigned to take care of the problem. When he asked how, his boss said only, “You are in charge of the operation.”

“He needed to say no more,” Mr. Player wrote. When a crocodile hunter arrived, he issued him “a leaky boat” and “a totally unreliable rifle.” The hunter “complained that I really did not want him to kill any crocodiles.”

Mr. Player shrugged his shoulders. The hunter soon left.

SOURCE

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

James Baldwin, Eloquent Civil Rights Writer, Dies at 63

(Dec. 1, 1987)

Admiral Mahan, Naval Critic, Dies at 74

(Dec. 1, 1917)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Author of ‘Treasure Island,’ Dies at 44

(Dec. 3, 1894)

William Shawn, New Yorker’s Gentle Despot, Dies at 85

(Dec. 8, 1992)

Ralph Bunche, Nobel Winner, Dies at 67

(Dec. 9, 1971)

Branch Rickey, Dominant Baseball Figure, Dies at 83

(Dec. 9, 1965)

Indomitable Grandma Moses Dies at 101

(Dec. 13, 1961)

Thomas Watson, Manufacturer of First Phone, Dies at 80

(Dec. 13 , 1934)

Roger Maris, Home Run Record-Setter, Dies at 51

(Dec. 14, 1985)

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author, Dies at 57

(Dec. 14, 1953)

Walt Disney, Who Founded an Empire on a Mouse, Dies at 65

(Dec. 15, 1966)

Astronomer Carl Sagan Dies at 62

(Dec. 20, 1996)

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Novelist, Dies at 44

(Dec. 21, 1940)

George Patton, a Brilliant Soldier, Dies at 60

(Dec. 21, 1945)

Melvil Dewey, Inventor of Library Classification System, Dies at 80

(Dec. 26, 1931)

Richard Rodgers, Renowned Composer, Dies at 77

(Dec. 30, 1979)

Star Outfielder Roberto Clemente Dies at 38

(Dec. 31, 1972)

Elliot Richardson, Who Stood Up to Nixon, Dies at 79

(Dec. 31, 1999)

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