NOV. 2, 2015

Gus Savage in 1990. Credit Charles Tasnadi/Associated Press       

Gus Savage, a civil rights activist and journalist who represented a district on the South Side of Chicago in Congress for 12 years, died on Saturday at his home in Chicago, a day after celebrating his 90th birthday.
His son, Thomas, confirmed his death.
During Mr. Savage’s time in Washington, Congress passed a measure requiring the Defense Department to set aside military procurement contracts for minority-owned businesses, according to the House of Representatives website.
“He never wavered in the fight for fairness and justice, no matter the foe or the arena,” his son said.
Mr. Savage’s record was marred by an ethics investigation in 1989. He was rebuked by the House Ethics Committee on accusations that he sexually harassed a Peace Corps volunteer while he was on an official visit to Zaire.
Mr. Savage lost the Democratic primary in 1992 to Mel Reynolds and stepped down from Congress the next year.
Augustus Savage was born on Oct. 30, 1925, in Detroit. He moved to Chicago with his family when he was 5. He served in a segregated unit of the Army during World War II.
He founded Citizen Newspapers, which became the largest black-owned chain of weekly community newspapers in the Midwest.
He sold the chain in 1980 and was elected that year to represent Illinois’s Second Congressional District.
Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Emma Savage-Davis, and three grandchildren.

Melissa Mathison in 1995. Credit via Everett Collection

Melissa Mathison, who wrote the screenplay for “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the science-fiction fable that became one of Hollywood’s signature depictions of the anxieties and longings of childhood and cemented the reputation of Steven Spielberg as a leading director of artful, popular movies, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 65.
The cause was complications of neuroendocrine cancer, her brother Dirk said.
Before “E.T.,” which appeared in 1982, Ms. Mathison had written only one feature film, sharing a screenplay credit (with Jeanne Rosenberg and William D. Wittliff) on “The Black Stallion” (1979), an adventure melodrama, based on the novel by Walter Farley, about a boy and the horse whose life he saves. It was a favorite film of Mr. Spielberg’s. Ms. Mathison met him in the Tunisian desert on the set of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which he was directing, and which starred her boyfriend (later her husband), Harrison Ford.
“It was 120 degrees, and everybody was miserable and looking to finish that part of the film,” Mr. Spielberg said in an interview on Thursday. “When I found out she was the one who wrote ‘The Black Stallion,’ I immediately thought she’d be right to write this story I’d been kicking around for years. So between shots we’d take long walks and I’d try to convince her to write ‘E.T.’, and she tried to convince me she wasn’t the right writer for it.”
“E.T.” begins when a spaceship plunks down in the forest outside a suburban California development, and it tells the story of the bond between a 10-year-old boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) and the child-size but sagacious and big-hearted alien who leaves the ship and misses his flight back to the galaxy he came from.
In its variation on the no-place-like-home theme of “The Wizard of Oz” (not to mention Homer’s “Odyssey” and myriad other journey stories), the movie seizes on the grand confusion of an innocent entering the world of experience as Elliott and his two siblings (Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore) do battle with a not entirely unsympathetic phalanx of adults and contrive to help their alien friend make contact with his native planet and return there.
The phrase “E.T., phone home,” became a meme, a message so universal about the tug of familiar surroundings and the balm of love that it pertains not only to humans on earth but to other creatures elsewhere.
“I didn’t write the script; she did, but we wrote the story together,” Mr. Spielberg said. “ ‘Phone home’ — that was her line. We didn’t even talk about it. I just read it in the first draft. I said, ‘Melissa, are you working for me or AT&T?’ and she said, ‘If the movie works, the line is going to stick.’ And she was right.” She received a best screenplay Oscar nomination, but the award went to John Briley for “Gandhi.”


Drew Barrymore and E.T. in the 1982 film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” whose screenplay Steven Spielberg had to talk Ms. Mathison into writing. Credit Universal Pictures

The movie, which also starred Dee Wallace as Elliott’s loving if harried and heartbroken mother (her husband has left her) and Peter Coyote as a scientist who yields his desire to use E.T. as a research subject as he absorbs Elliott’s powerful emotions, became one of the biggest Hollywood hits of all time.
“I always thought of E.T. as very, very old, and Steven, I think, always thought of him as young,” Ms. Mathison told The New York Times in 2002. “We were striving to achieve ideas about responsibility, about unconditional love, about the unimportance of appearance and communicating on a deeper level.”
Melissa Marie Mathison was born in Los Angeles on June 3, 1950, to Richard Mathison, a journalist, and the former Margaret Kieffer, known as Pegeen.
Ms. Mathison graduated from Providence High School, a Roman Catholic school in Burbank, Calif., and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, Berkeley. Among her first movie jobs were low-level positions on “The Conversation” and “The Godfather Part II,” both directed by Francis Ford Coppola, whom she had met, her brother said, when she was babysitting for friends of his.
Ms. Mathison’s marriage to Mr. Ford ended in divorce. In addition to her brother, she is survived by another brother, Mark; two sisters, Melinda Johnson and Stephanie Mathison; a son, Malcolm Ford; and a daughter, Georgia Ford.
Ms. Mathison lived in Venice, Calif., and Manhattan. Her other credits include a television movie, “Son of the Morning Star” (1991), based on Evan S. Connell’s book about Gen. George Armstrong Custer and the battle of Little Big Horn, and “Kundun” (1997), Martin Scorsese’s film biography of the 14th Dalai Lama.
At her death she and Mr. Spielberg were completing work on “The BFG,” based on the children’s tale by Roald Dahl, starring Mark Rylance in the title role, the Big Friendly Giant.
“She began working on it five years ago, and we had been working together intensely for the last 24 months,” Mr. Spielberg said. “Not just the script. She was on the set in Vancouver this summer, making changes. It was a fluid process, and that’s the way she liked it. She liked epiphanies. She liked to pitch me something that came to her in her sleep the night before.
“The movie evolved the way ‘E.T.’ did,” he continued. “Melissa was open to spontaneously combustible ideas from everyone. She was an active participant, and she stayed with every project until the very end. She was more than a writer. She was more like a partner.”

Fred Thompson at a rally in Columbia, S.C., in 2008. He failed in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination that year. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Fred D. Thompson, a former United States senator, actor and Republican presidential candidate, died on Sunday in Nashville. He was 73.
The cause was a recurrence of lymphoma, his family said in a statement.
Mr. Thompson had an unusual career, moving back and forth between national politics and mass-market entertainment. He left a regular role on the hit NBC drama “Law & Order” to run for president in 2008.
On television and on movie screens, Mr. Thompson was known for playing authoritative characters, but he was sometimes ambivalent in his political aspirations. While he brought gravitas to his on-screen characters, he often struggled on the campaign trail, especially during his unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Mr. Thompson compiled a solidly conservative voting record in the Senate, though aides said he showed little enthusiasm for divisive battles over abortion and other issues that motivated the religious right. In a 2007 interview, he told The New York Times that he had always felt that the Senate “was never meant to be the place where I would stay for my entire career.”

Mr. Thompson played Arthur Branch, a Manhattan district attorney, on the television series “Law and Order.” Credit Will Hart/NBC

“You are either going to do the right thing, or you’re not,” he said. “If you are politically tacking all the time, it makes life too long and too complicated.”
Mr. Thompson, a lawyer, began his life in public service at the age of 30 with a lucky break when his mentor, Senator Howard H. Baker Jr., chose him over more experienced candidates to serve as Republican counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee.
His questioning of Alexander Butterfield, a former aide to President Richard M. Nixon, led to the public revelation of recording devices in the Oval Office, a turning point in the investigation that ended in the president’s resignation. After the committee concluded its work, Mr. Thompson embarked on a lucrative legal and lobbying career.
He began acting when he was tapped to play himself in the 1985 movie “Marie.” The film, starring Sissy Spacek, was based on the life of Marie Ragghianti, the head of the Tennessee Board of Pardons and Paroles and a whistleblower, who revealed a clemency-selling scandal that brought down the Tennessee governor, Leonard Ray Blanton. Mr. Thompson had been Ms. Ragghianti’s lawyer.
By the time Mr. Baker talked him into running in a 1994 special election to fill the Senate seat from Tennessee vacated by Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Thompson had 18 movie credits, including “No Way Out,” “Days of Thunder” and “In the Line of Fire.”
On Election Day, he swept aside his Democratic opponent, Representative Jim Cooper, with 60 percent of the vote. In 1996, he just as easily won a full six-year term.
Mr. Gore issued a statement Sunday evening in which he praised Mr. Thompson for his dedication to public service.
“At a moment of history’s choosing, Fred’s extraordinary integrity while working with Senator Howard Baker on the Watergate Committee helped our nation find its way,” Mr. Gore said. “I was deeply inspired by his matter-of-fact, no-nonsense moral courage in that crucible. Tennessee and our nation owe a great debt to Fred Thompson.”
Mr. Thompson served eight years in the Senate before leaving his seat in 2002 for a role on “Law & Order.” He played Arthur Branch, a Manhattan district attorney.


Members of the Senate Watergate committee released their final report in 1974. Left to right: Fred D. Thompson, the Republican committee counsel; Lowell P. Weicker Jr.; Sam J. Ervin Jr., the committee chairman; Samuel Dash, the committee’s chief counsel; Joseph M. Montoya, and Daniel K. Inouye. Credit George Tames/The New York Times

Mr. Thompson believed his biggest role was yet to come, however, and in 2007 he asked the producers of “Law & Order” to release him from his contract so he could explore a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
His supporters hoped that his on-screen charisma and small-town roots could make him into a modern-day Ronald Reagan, another conservative actor turned politician, but it was not to be. Mr. Thompson’s campaign was often languid and failed to attract significant support in the primaries, and he withdrew from the race in January 2008.
“Fred Thompson lived life to the very fullest,” said Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and one of Mr. Thompson’s Republican colleagues in the Senate. “The first in his family to go to college, Fred would go on to become Watergate lawyer, Senate colleague, presidential candidate, radio personality, and icon of silver and small screen alike, who didn’t just take on criminals as an actor but as a real-life prosecutor, too.”
Mr. Thompson was born on Aug. 19, 1942, in Sheffield, Ala., and grew up in the small town of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., where he was a top athlete and his father sold used cars.
He was 17 when he married Sarah Elizabeth Lindsey in September 1959. They each worked to pay for his education — Mr. Thompson graduated in 1964 from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) and received a law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967 — and to raise three children. After finishing law school, he joined the law firm of his wife’s uncle and in 1969 was appointed an assistant United States attorney in Nashville.
The couple divorced in 1985. A daughter from that marriage, Elizabeth (Betsy) Thompson Panici, died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2002.
In 2002, Mr. Thompson married Jeri Kehn, a Republican consultant, and they had two children.
In April 2007, Mr. Thompson disclosed that he had been diagnosed three years earlier with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. He said at the time that the cancer was in remission and that he had no symptoms.
In a statement on Sunday, his family said that growing up in a small town in Tennessee “formed the prism through which he viewed the world and shaped the way he dealt with life” and reinforced for him the values of hard work and a belief in American exceptionalism.
“Fred was the same man on the floor of the Senate, the movie studio, or the town square of Lawrenceburg,” his family said.
Correction: November 6, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary referred imprecisely to Mr. Thompson’s questioning of the former Nixon White House aide Alexander Butterfield when Mr. Thompson was Republican counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee. While Mr. Butterfield did acknowledge the existence of recording devices in the Oval Office in response to Mr. Thompson’s questioning at a hearing, it was not the case that the questioning “led to the revelation” of the recording system; Mr. Butterfield had already made that revelation at a private meeting with members of the committee staff three days earlier.
Carl Hulse contributed reporting.

Luther Burden (14) playing for the Knicks in 1977. His professional career lasted three seasons. Credit Larry C. Morris/The New York Times

Luther Burden, better known as Ticky, a sharpshooting guard who played briefly for the Knicks in the 1970s but whose life took an ignominious turn when he was convicted of robbing a Long Island bank in 1980, died on Thursday in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 62.
His daughter Gracie Mae Burden confirmed the death, saying that her father had numerous health problems and that he had contracted pneumonia in the week before he died. The actual cause of death, she said, was most likely heart failure.
Burden honed his ball-handling and shooting skills on the playgrounds of Albany, where he earned the nickname Ticky from the sound the ball made going through the basket.
He was a prolific scorer in high school there and later at the University of Utah, where he was a first-team all-American (along with the future Hall of Famers Adrian Dantley and David Thompson) for the 1974-75 season, when he averaged 28.7 points per game.
In Burden’s first season as a professional, he scored 19.9 points per game for the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association. The franchise folded in 1976 (the year the league merged with the National Basketball Association), and Burden joined the Knicks. The Knicks hoped he would be part of the next-generation backcourt after the departures of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe, who were nearing the ends of their careers.


Burden in 1974, when he was supervising basketball programs in an Albany park as a college student. Credit Associated Press

Burden was slowed by knee problems, however, and his time in pro ball ended abruptly in 1977 — he was not a favorite of the Knicks’ coach at the time, Willis Reed — after he had played in just two games in his second season with the team.
Burden subsequently had money problems — “I went a little wild with my bread,” he acknowledged in a 2012 interview with The Times Union, the Albany newspaper — and in 1981 he was convicted of taking part in a bank robbery in Hempstead, N.Y., the previous summer, after three other participants in the crime, including one of his oldest friends, testified against him.
Burden, who maintained long afterward that he was an innocent scapegoat, was sentenced to six to 18 years in prison, but he was released after two years when the conviction was overturned by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, which ruled that the arrest of Burden was illegal because the police had searched his home without a warrant.
“You can be good all your life and make one mistake in trusting friends, who are supposed to be friends, with your well-being, and they’ll get you in trouble,” Burden told The Times Union in 2010. “So you have to watch how you do things.”
Luther Dean Burden was born in Haines City, Fla., in the center of the state, on Feb. 28, 1953. His father, Jake, was a bricklayer; his mother, Gracie Mae Allen, died when he was 8. The story about the family’s move to Albany, Gracie Mae Burden said, was that after young Luther was nearly bitten by an alligator, the family immediately packed up and left.
“My dad has never been fond of Florida,” Ms. Burden said.
Burden lived for more than 20 years in Winston-Salem, where he coached youth basketball and had a financial consulting business, his daughter said.
He is also survived by his wife, Cynthia; three brothers, Jake, Curtis and Larry; a sister, Alberta Burden; five children from two previous marriages; five stepchildren; four grandchildren; and nine stepgrandchildren.

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