THOMAS MIKAL FORD, KNOWN FOR HIS ROLE IN ’90S SITCOM ‘MARTIN’
Thomas Mikal Ford, who played the pragmatic yet charming character Tommy on the 1990s sitcom “Martin,” died on Wednesday. He was 52.
His family confirmed his death in a statement released by the J Pervis Talent Agency but did not give a cause. News accounts said that Mr. Ford had had an abdominal aneurysm and died in a hospital in Atlanta. He had knee replacement surgery last week, according to his Instagram account.
Mr. Ford, whose first and middle names were Tommy Mykal but who used a slightly different stage name, appeared in more than 75 movies and television series in a career that began in the mid-1980s.
He was probably best remembered for his role as Tommy Strawn from 1992 to 1997 on “Martin,” which starred the comedian Martin Lawrence as an often ornery Detroit disc jockey who later became the host of a public-access television talk show. Mr. Ford’s Tommy was often Mr. Lawrence’s straight man and the subject of his jokes.
A running gag on the show was the disconnect between Tommy’s lofty aspirations and his fuzzy employment status, which often played out with other characters reminding him that he had no job.
His performance earned him a nomination for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series at the 1996 N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards.
He was born on Sept. 5, 1964, in Los Angeles. Information on survivors was not immediately available.
On television he played a police lieutenant on the detective drama “New York Undercover” in 1998 and 1999 and Mel Parker, a fun-loving father, in seven episodes of the sitcom “The Parkers” from 1999 to 2001.
Mr. Ford was a regular on four seasons of “Who’s Got Jokes?,” a comedy competition in which he was billed as “the Pope of Comedy,” on the TV One cable channel.
Mr. Ford had turned his attention to directing and producing both dramas and comedies for television, according to his website. He was most recently filming “Reverse the Lynch Curse,” a documentary about curses of distrust and envy.
His website noted that, pursuing a longtime dream, he had also begun writing a series of children’s books intended to promote healthy, spiritual and nonviolent living.
PATRICIA BARRY, ACTRESS ON TV SINCE ITS EARLY DAYS
Patricia Barry, a prolific television actress who appeared in more than 100 series and movies, beginning in the medium’s earliest days, died on Tuesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 93.
Her death was confirmed by her publicist, The Associated Press said.
Ms. Barry’s career began in the 1940s, when she won a Rita Hayworth look-alike contest; the victory led her to Hollywood and a contract with Warner Brothers.
After three uncredited screen roles (as “nurse,” “showgirl” and “music student”), she finally got a character name in “The Beast With Five Fingers,” a 1947 horror film remembered best for scenes in which a dead pianist’s disembodied hand, up to no good, creeps its way around an Italian mansion.
Ms. Barry, then billed as Patricia White, made more than 20 movies over the next four years. In 1950 she discovered the new medium television, and vice versa.
Her first appearance was as a guest on “The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse,” in an episode about Vincent van Gogh. Over the next decade she appeared in series as different as “Playhouse 90” (she was Jordan Baker in a version of “The Great Gatsby”) and “77 Sunset Strip.”
She had a particularly good year in 1964, when she appeared in three feature films: “Send Me No Flowers” (with Rock Hudson and Doris Day), “Kitten With a Whip” (with Ann-Margret) and “Dear Heart” (with Glenn Ford). That fall she was cast as Jack Klugman’s wife in a new sitcom, “Harris Against the World.” When the series was canceled after 13 episodes, she returned to a busy schedule on series television.
Her soap-opera period began in 1972, when she appeared on several episodes of “Days of Our Lives.” She was later on “All My Children” (1981) and “Guiding Light” (1985-87).
She also acted in television movies, among them “First, You Cry” (1978), in which Mary Tyler Moore played a newswoman with breast cancer; “Crowhaven Farm” (1970), a horror tale about a coven of witches; and “Bogie” (1980), about Humphrey Bogart.
Ms. Barry also still did the occasional film, among them “Sea of Love” (1989), with Al Pacino, as a lonely older woman who answers a personals ad.
She had appeared on two episodes of the original “Twilight Zone” series as well, as a genie with a mild-mannered new master and as a glamorous single woman who unwittingly drinks an all-too-effective love potion. Her last film was “Delusional” (2014), a thriller about a mental patient.
Patricia Allen White was born on Nov. 16, 1922, in Davenport, Iowa, the daughter of a physician. She graduated from Stephens College in Missouri, where she studied theater with the actress Maude Adams.
She began her career doing summer theater in New Hampshire and made her Broadway debut in 1945 in a short-lived comedy, “Calico Wedding.” In 1950 she married Philip Barry Jr., a producer, whom she met during a production of his father’s play “Holiday.”
Her survivors include two daughters, Miranda Barry and Stephanie Barry Agnew, and two grandchildren. Mr. Barry died in 1998.
Ms. Barry was a founding member and a past president of Women in Film, a nonprofit that promotes gender parity on and off screen. She also ran a business in Southern California, leasing fully furnished houses to visiting stars and directors.
BENJAMIN PAYTON, TRANSFORMATIVE LEADER OF TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY
Benjamin F. Payton, a civil rights advocate who was instrumental in transforming the historically black Tuskegee Institute in Alabama into the more broadly encompassing Tuskegee University over nearly three decades as its president, died on Sept. 28 in Estero, Fla. He was 83.
His death was announced by the university, which was founded in a shanty in Tuskegee, Ala., in 1881 by Booker T. Washington.
Almost 100 years later, overcoming alumni objections and hoping to broaden its appeal, Dr. Payton enlarged the scope and the very identity of Tuskegee by pushing to give it university status.
His plan was adopted in 1985, and soon afterward he established Tuskegee’s first doctoral program, created a College of Business and Information Science, the General Daniel “Chappie” James Center for Aerospace Science and Health Education, and the Continuing Education Program. He oversaw fund-raising campaigns that generated about $240 million.
He also won an apology from the United States, delivered by President Bill Clinton in 1997, for the federal government’s infamous four-decade “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” In the study, beginning in 1932, penicillin and other available treatments were deliberately withheld from more than 600 research subjects with venereal disease: poor black men from Macon County, whose county seat is Tuskegee.
The government, in association with the staff at Tuskegee, had enlisted the men under the guise of providing free health care. Dozens of men died, and many of their families were infected.
“People call it the Tuskegee experiment, but it wasn’t Tuskegee that did it — it was the United States Public Health Service, and it went on for 40 years,” Dr. Payton told The Montgomery Advertiser in 2010. “The apology was long overdue.”
Mr. Clinton also announced a $200,000 grant to start a National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee.
Dr. Payton’s tenure as Tuskegee’s fifth president, from 1981 to 2010, capped a lifelong religious commitment to racial justice. It began in the mid-1960s, when he was the director of the Office of Church and Race of the Protestant Council of the City of New York (now the Council of Churches of the City of New York) and then executive director of the National Council of Churches’ Commission on Religion and Race.
Dr. Payton and other critics argued that focusing on unwed mothers and their children debased blacks and blamed victims. Rather, they said, the government’s agenda should be integration, education and jobs.
Two years later, Dr. Payton urged Congress not to upend the will of Harlem voters by expelling their elected representative, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., over corruption allegations. Powell, he said, was “the one great symbol of power that Negroes have developed so painfully over the years.” Congress did expel Powell, but he was elected again.
Dr. Payton served for five years, until 1972, as president of Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., a Baptist-affiliated black institution. Returning to New York, he became program officer for higher education and research at the Ford Foundation, a position he held for nearly a decade until his appointment at Tuskegee.
When Dr. Payton retired to Florida in 2010, leaving Tuskegee as president emeritus, Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama said he had “fostered innovation and academic excellence, playing a key role in Tuskegee University becoming the outstanding institution of higher learning that it is today.”
Benjamin Franklin Payton was born on Dec. 27, 1932, in Orangeburg, S.C., the second of nine children of the Rev. Leroy Ralph Payton, an impoverished minister, farmer and teacher, and the former Sarah Mack.
Despite their meager circumstances, the family had a passion for education; all of Dr. Payton’s siblings earned college degrees. Dr. Payton received four: a bachelor’s degree in sociology from South Carolina State University in 1955, a bachelor of divinity in philosophical theology from Harvard, a master’s in philosophy from Columbia University and a doctorate in ethics from Yale.
His wife, the former Thelma Plane, died in 2013. He is survived by their children, Mark and Deborah; four grandchildren; three brothers, Cecil Warren Payton, William Mack Payton and Bernard Simpson Payton; and three sisters, Mary Edith Padgett, Annette Dolores Thorpe and Gail Priscilla Floyd.
“You end black colleges, and youngsters will end up as serious social misfits,” he told The New York Times in 1981. “It will cost far more to keep them in prison than to develop their competencies. If the American people understood better what we are talking about, they would see that it is less costly, more humane and contributes more to the welfare of society to educate people than to neglect them.”
Even as integrated colleges became more accessible, he said, “these students no longer want the kind of environment that places the burden of proof on them to demonstrate that they’re not there to meet someone’s affirmative action quota.”
In 1990, he reported progress: “We are beginning to see a collection of institutions, both black and white, that are helping black students understand again that the single most important route out of poverty is education,” he said.
By the time he had retired, Dr. Payton had been president of Tuskegee longer than every one of his predecessors except Booker T. Washington himself. “There was just so much to do,” he told The Montgomery Advertiser, “that I forgot about the time.”