Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr., the New York City veteran who flew with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, has died at the age of 94.

Brown died Saturday at a hospital in the Bornx after breaking his hip in a recent fall, his granddaughter Lisa Bodine said.

94-Year-Old Tuskegee Airman Battles Rare Condition

[NY] 94-Year-Old Tuskegee Airman Battles Rare Condition

On this Memorial Day, we sat down with a World War II Veteran and Tuskegee Airman who is overcoming a life threatening condition. John Chandler reports. (Published Monday, May 30, 2016)

Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered all flags to fly at half-staff until Saturday in Brown’s honor.

Brown flew 68 combat missions for the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in U.S. history. A nine-time New York City Marathon runner and lifelong Jets and Mets fan, he told NBC 4 New York in May: “Fighter pilots are like athletes. And I was a pretty good pilot.”

In 2007, Brown and five other airmen accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen. President George W. Bush and Congress awarded the airmen with one of the nation’s highest honors for fighting to defend their country even as they faced bigotry at home.

Brown, who held a Ph.D. in education, also served 17 years as president of Bronx Community College. Brown later joined the CUNY Graduate Center as professor and director of the Center for Urban Education Policy. He also hosted “African American Legends,” a public affairs show on CUNY TV.

[NY] Positively Black: Tuskegee Airmen

As World War II raged overseas, the nation’s first black aviation unit was flying high above the color barrier. For all we’ve heard about the Tuskegee Airmen over the years, there are untold stories about their battles. Tracie Strahan heard the tales from Roscoe Brown Jr. in this edition of Positively Black. (Published Monday, Oct. 3, 2011)

Brown fell critically ill over the winter and had a pacemaker installed at Montefiore Medical Center. His physician, Dr. Daniel Sims, told NBC 4 New York in May, “If he wasn’t as healthy and in such great shape, he probably wouldn’t have made it through this.”

“Most 94-year-olds are not this active, but Dr. Brown is just remarkable,” he said.

Brown was trying to ease back into exercise when NBC 4 New York caught up with him in May. 

“As I got older, I tried to do a lot more than my body would accept,” he admitted.

On March 15, 1945, Brown was part of the longest mission flown by the Air Force in World War II. He flew 1,500 miles from southern Italy to Berlin to take on a group of German jets. He shot down one of the German planes and he had a vivid memory of buzzing his home base as he and other pilots celebrated their triumph when they returned.

“I was a kid, 23 years old,” Brown recalled to NBC 4 New York’s Gabe Pressman in 2009, as he prepared to march in the Inauguration Day Parade for President Barack Obama. “And we were, like all pilots, a fun-loving, happy go lucky group.”

Nearly 1,000 fighter pilots trained as a segregated Army Air Corps unit at the Tuskegee, Alabama, air base. Not allowed to practice or fight with their white counterparts, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves by painting the tails of their airplanes red, which led to them becoming known as the “Red Tails.” Their story was told in a 2012 movie of the same name, on which Brown was an adviser.

“Young people don’t totally understand,” Brown told NBC 4 New York’s Tracie Strahan in 2011, noting that The Civil War had only happened about 70 years before World War II. “I didn’t understand the brutality of the Civil War, but when I was a Tuskegee Airman, I knew that I was good, I knew that I had to challenge the system, and I loved to fly.”

“My message to young people is to keep on working,” he continued. “You’ve got to be better, you’ve got to be disclipined, you’ve gotta believe. And if you believe you can overcome, you can overcome. That’s the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.”




  • 9 July 2016
Sydney Schanberg in 1991Image copyright AP  In 1975, Schanberg ignored directives to leave Cambodia and stayed to report on the Khmer Rouge

US journalist Sydney Schanberg, whose reporting inspired the Oscar-winning Hollywood film, The Killing Fields, has died at the age of 82, the New York Times reports.

Schanberg worked for the Times and won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

His colleague, Dith Pran, was unable to leave and his four-year ordeal inspired Schanberg’s work.

Schanberg died in Poughkeepsie after a heart attack earlier in the week.

His death was confirmed by Charles Kaiser, a friend and former Times reporter, the paper said.

In 1980, Schanberg described his Cambodian colleague’s ordeal of torture and starvation at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in a magazine article, and later a book called The Death and Life of Dith Pran.

Oscar awards

In 1975, Schanberg and Dith Pran ignored directives from Times editors to evacuate and stayed in Cambodia as almost all Western diplomats and journalists fled.

Both were seized by the Khmer Rouge and threatened with death.

Photos of prisoners executed by the Khmer Rouge
Image caption Photos of prisoners executed by the Khmer Rouge

Dith Pran’s pleas saved Schanberg’s life. The pair took refuge in the French Embassy but Dith Pran was forced to leave and was sent into the countryside.

Two weeks later Schanberg was evacuated by truck to Thailand.

Dith Pran eventually managed to escape to Thailand and died in 2008. It was he who coined the term “killing fields”.

The Killing Fields won eight BAFTA Awards and three Academy Awards. Sam Waterston played Schanberg in the movie, with Haing S Ngor, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, in the role of Dith Pran.

The Khmer Rouge was the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, during which it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century. The genocide claimed the lives of more than a million people – some estimates say up to 2.5 million.

Under the Maoist leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tried to take Cambodia back to the Middle Ages, forcing millions of people from the cities to work on communal farms in the countryside.

But the attempt at social engineering had a terrible cost, and whole families died from execution, starvation, disease and overwork.




Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, who leads the bizarre society depicted in Robin Hardy’s film “The Wicker Man.” Credit Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal

Robin Hardy, the director of the horror film “The Wicker Man,” which failed at the box office when it was released in 1973 but went on to attract a large cult following, died on Friday. He was 86.

The University of Malta, where Mr. Hardy had spoken recently, announced on its Facebook page that Victoria Webster, Mr. Hardy’s wife, had informed the school of his death. She did not specify where he died or the cause.

When Mr. Hardy, a television director, decided that he wanted to make a horror film, he found an enthusiastic collaborator in Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the play “Sleuth” and the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film “Frenzy.” Mr. Hardy and Mr. Shaffer, partners in a production company, were avid fans of the horror films made by Hammer Studios. Together they set about making a film that would take the Hammer approach in a new direction.

Mr. Shaffer, using the novel “Ritual” by David Pinner as a basis, came up with the story of a devout Christian policeman, Sgt. Neil Howie, who travels to a Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. In Mr. Hardy’s directorial hands, the island and its inhabitants — led by the priestlike Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee — took on a mystifying aura, with bizarre events unfolding in broad daylight.

Sergeant Howie beholds, with growing horror, a pagan society in which sexual rituals are practiced openly and village schoolchildren are encouraged to talk about phallic symbols and other topics not in the usual curriculum. The sense of dread hanging over the film builds to a startling discovery when Sergeant Howie realizes he has been lured to his doom. In the film’s final scene, he is burned alive inside a giant man made of wicker, sacrificed to appease the local gods and ensure a bountiful apple harvest.

British Lion, the company that produced the film, deemed it unsellable. Mr. Lee, in his autobiography, asserted that the company’s new head, Michael Deeley, called it one of the 10 worst films he had ever seen. Mr. Deeley protested that he had actually called it one of the 10 most unsalable films he had ever seen. In any case, British Lion distributed it halfheartedly on a double bill with Nicholas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now,” and it failed miserably at the box office.

Robin Hardy on the set of “The Wicker Tree,” his 2010 film. Credit Graeme Hunter/Anchor Bay Films

“The Wicker Man” lived on, cherished by horror-movie devotees who argued that it belonged in the front rank of the genre.

In 1977 the magazine Cinefantastique called it “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of horror movies.” The Guardian, in 2010, put it in fourth place on a list of the 24 greatest horror films in history, after “Psycho,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Don’t Look Now” and ahead of “The Shining” and “The Exorcist.”

“It’s stood the test of time because it’s about ideas,” the film historian Jonny Murray, an organizer of the first international “Wicker Man” conference at the University of Glasgow, told the Times Higher Education supplement in 2003. “It engages you on an intellectual level. It’s about paganism: the clash between superstition and modernity; authority and sexuality.”

Robin St. Clair Rimington Hardy was born on Oct 2, 1929. Some sources say he was born in Surrey, others in London. After studying art in Paris he began working for the National Film Board of Canada and made educational television programs in the United States, including episodes of “Esso World Theater” for PBS.

He returned to Britain in the late 1960s and formed a production company with Mr. Shaffer to make television commercials and informational films.

Mr. Hardy made only a handful of films. “The Fantasist” (1986) was about a serial killer who seduces his victims over the telephone, and “The Wicker Tree” (2001) was about two Texas evangelists who bring their religious message to a remote Scottish island, with disastrous results. Mr. Hardy said that film, based on his novel “Cowboys for Christ,” was a companion to “The Wicker Man” rather than a sequel. At the time of his death, he was trying to raise money for a third “Wicker Man” film, “The Wrath of the Gods.”

With Mr. Shaffer, Mr. Hardy wrote a novelization of “The Wicker Man,” published in 1978. The film was the subject of two documentaries released in 2001, “The ‘Wicker Man’ Enigma” and “Burnt Offering: The Cult of ‘The Wicker Man.’” The director Neil LaBute remade the film in 2006 with Nicolas Cage as Sergeant Howie and Ellen Burstyn in the Christopher Lee role.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Hardy is survived by several children, including a son, Justin, who is also a filmmaker. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

In 2013 he described the filming of the final scene of “The Wicker Man” to The Guardian. “The wicker man was enormous,” he said. “The stunned look on Howie’s face when he first sees it wasn’t acting. Up until then, Edward had only seen drawings. He clambered in and we set it on fire, filming from the inside.”




As a civil rights lawyer in the South, Donald Jelinek was shot at and was arrested once for practicing law without the permission of the Alabama bar. Credit Jane Scherr

Donald Jelinek, who quit a Wall Street law firm to defend civil rights workers in the South and later inmates accused in the Attica prison revolt and Indians who seized Alcatraz Island to dramatize their grievances against the government, died on June 24 at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was lung disease, his wife, Jane Scherr, said.

Mr. Jelinek was at a law firm in 1965 when he volunteered to work during the summer for the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union, representing mostly workers from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (known as snick).

As a civil rights lawyer in the South, he was shot at and was arrested once for practicing law without the permission of the Alabama bar.

He also directed the Southern Rural Research Project, which documented rural malnutrition and sued the Agriculture Department to distribute surplus commodities to the hungry and to force recalcitrant county officials to participate in the federal food stamp program.

After moving to California, he represented the Native Americans who seized Alcatraz Island in 1969. They claimed title under a 19th-century treaty and aired their other grievances against the federal government during a 19-month occupation.

Mr. Jelinek practically lived on the island, raised money for the protesters and helped persuade prosecutors to level relatively minor charges. (Three demonstrators were convicted of stealing copper piping, a verdict overturned on appeal.)

In 1971, he was recruited to coordinate the defense of 61 inmates charged with nearly 1,300 crimes after the Attica prison riot in western New York, which left 10 corrections officers and civilian employees and 33 prisoners dead. All but one guard and three inmates were killed by the authorities in what a prosecutor branded a wanton State Police “turkey shoot.”

Russell G. Oswald, the New York State corrections commissioner, lower left, negotiating with inmates during an uprising at Attica in 1971. Mr. Jelinek coordinated the defense of 61 inmates charged after the riot. Credit William E. Sauro/The New York Times

Over decades of litigation, the inmates were gradually cleared of additional penalties.

Mr. Jelinek also represented conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War and served three terms on the Berkeley City Council.

Donald Arthur Jelinek was born in the Bronx on Feb. 17, 1934, the son of Jewish immigrants. His father, Eugene, ran a print shop. His mother, the former Adele Schneider, was a secretary.

He met his first wife, the former Estelle Cohen Fine, in the South. Their marriage ended in divorce.

In addition to Ms. Scherr, he is survived by her daughters, Dove and Apollinaire Scherr; two grandchildren; and his brother, Roger.

Inspired by the “Portraits of Grief” articles in The New York Times about the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he told, a website for veterans of the civil rights movement, in 2005 that he and his wife had already discussed his epitaph.

“I told her that if I had been one of them,” he said, “I would want her to write: ‘He had people who he loved and who loved him . . . and he was part of SNCC.’”




Not Forgotten: Louis Armstrong, the Entertainer Who Epitomized Jazz

July 6, 2016

Not Forgotten: Louis Armstrong, the Entertainer Who Epitomized Jazz

Was Louis Armstrong the world’s most beloved entertainer, or was he the single most important musician in the history of jazz? The answer is yes.


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