IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-15-2015


In Norman Rockwell’s 1965 painting “Grissom and Young,” the suit technician Joe Schmitt, far left, is depicted assisting the astronaut John Young while another technician, Alan M. Rochford, tends to Gus Grissom as they prepare for a Gemini mission space flight. Credit The Norman Rockwell Family Agency

Joseph W. Schmitt, who as one of NASA’s earliest “suit techs” was often the last person to have face-to-face contact with astronauts before they shot skyward on their historic missions, died on Sept. 25 in Friendswood, Tex. He was 101.

His granddaughter, Susan Alexander, confirmed the death.

Mr. Schmitt put Alan Shepard into his Freedom 7 capsule for America’s first spaceflight in May 1961, and he was still suiting up astronauts more than 20 years later, making sure everything was sealed and connected properly. Before any flight, he would spend long hours in the testing laboratory with the astronauts, getting them accustomed to their suits and troubleshooting problems.

He wrangled suits through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and into the space shuttle era, a span during which spacesuits went from being, essentially, modified military gear to being high-tech creations that could protect an astronaut on a spacewalk or on a stroll on the moon.

His longevity and roots from the very start of the space program were occasion for some ribbing by colleagues.

“Joe suited up Orville and Wilbur,” Alan M. Rochford, a suit tech who worked with him beginning in 1960, said in a telephone interview.

Joseph Schmitt, second from left, in 1965 with the astronauts James A. McDivitt, right, and Edward H. White II as they prepare for the Gemini 4 mission. Second from right is another suit technician, Clyde Teague. Credit NASA

Joseph William Schmitt was born on Jan. 2, 1916, in O’Fallon, Ill. His father, Benjamin, was a city marshal who was killed in the line of duty only a few weeks after Joseph’s birth. His mother, the former Apollonia Berkel, raised him and his siblings with the help of extended family.

In the 1930s, his high school principal, knowing Joe was mechanically inclined, suggested he join the Army Air Corps. He first studied aircraft engines but, with World War II still in the future, found himself looking for more to do.

“It was kind of a slow period,” Mr. Schmitt said in an oral history. “I asked if I could go back to take a parachute riggers course and also an aircraft clothing repair course.”

That proved pivotal when, after leaving the service in 1939, he found his way into the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a forerunner of NASA. He started as an airplane mechanic, working on the 1947 flight in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, but was later put into its Space Task Group as the agency began thinking about manned spaceflights and what astronauts would need to wear.

As an equipment specialist, or a suit tech, Mr. Schmitt would accompany astronauts to the spacecraft and hook up the various connections that would keep them alive, monitor their health and enable them to communicate during flight. It was a job that above all required a high level of attentiveness.

“Joe was a perfectionist in many respects,” James W. McBarron II, his supervisor, recalled in a telephone interview.

Mr. Schmitt assists the astronaut John Glenn as he prepares to practice for a mission in 1962. Credit NASA

Mr. Schmitt suited up John Glenn for the 1962 flight in which he became the first American to orbit the earth. The many missions he worked also included Apollo 11, the first lunar landing, and other Apollo missions, where a less-heralded part of the job — care of the suit after a flight — took on new significance.

“We vacuumed out all the moon dust,” Mr. Schmitt said in the oral history. “A lot of people at that time, contractors mostly, they would take some of that dust and try and give it to their friends.” Officials eventually clamped down on that practice, he said.

Mr. Schmitt married Elizabeth Ann Rayfield in 1939; she died in 2008. He is survived by a son, Joseph Michael; a daughter, Norma Jean Spencer; six grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Mr. Schmitt accumulated an enviable collection of mementos, including a medal with Mr. Schmitt’s initials on it that Glenn gave him after taking it with him into space.

He also made a game-show appearance: He was a mystery challenger on “What’s My Line?” in May 1963, just days after he had suited up Gordon Cooper for the final Mercury mission. (The celebrity panel surmised that he was part of the space program but failed to guess his role.)

What’s My Line? – Sid Caesar; Martin Gabel [panel] (May 19, 1963) Video by What’s My Line?

He also became an artistic footnote during his NASA career: That’s him kneeling on the left in “Grissom and Young,” a 1965 painting Norman Rockwell made of the Gemini astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young as they’re being suited up. But Mr. Rochford said Mr. Schmitt is actually in the painting one and a half times.

Rockwell took photographs of the astronauts to work from, pictures that Mr. Schmitt posed for in his role as suit tech. Later, Rockwell asked NASA to send him a spacesuit so he could get the details just right. Mr. Schmitt brought a suit to Rockwell’s studio in Massachusetts and, Mr. Rochford said, told the artist that there were actually two suit techs for the Gemini 3 flight: He had dressed Mr. Young, while Mr. Rochford had dressed Mr. Grissom. So Rockwell obtained a photo of Mr. Rochford’s face and put a second suit tech into the painting, on the right.

“He took my head and put it on Joe’s neck,” said Mr. Rochford, who is 20 years Mr. Schmitt’s junior. “He put a young head on an old body.”

Correction: October 7, 2017
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the city where Mr. Schmitt died. It is Friendswood, Tex., not Friedswood. Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a picture caption with this obituary reversed the identification of the spacesuit technicians in the photo of Mr. Schmitt with two astronauts. Mr. Schmitt is on the left and Clyde Teague on the right, not the reverse.




Grady Tate performing at Merkin Hall in Manhattan in 1997. Credit Alan Nahigian

Grady Tate, a jazz drummer who was known for his work with Peggy Lee, Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and many others and whose warm baritone led to a second career as a singer, died on Oct. 8 at his home in Manhattan. He was 85.

His wife, Vivian, confirmed the death and said he had had dementia.

Mr. Tate started drumming professionally in the late 1950s and eventually became one of the busiest sidemen in jazz, recording with stars like Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz, Clark Terry and Billy Taylor.

“Listen to Quincy Jones’s famous recording of ‘Killer Joe,’” Loren Schoenberg, a saxophonist and founding director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, said in a telephone interview. “Listen to Grady’s drums. It’s just phenomenal timing and rhythm that’s almost transparent. He was there to serve the music without the imposition of a defined personality or style.”

The bassist Christian McBride recalled the first time he saw Mr. Tate perform, at the Manhattan nightclub Indigo Blues with the pianist Sir Roland Hanna. “Mr. Tate is one of those rare, unsung heroes of the drums who you rarely kept your eye on when he played because you were busy dancing, moving and grooving,” Mr. McBride said in an email. “Like a truly great rhythm section player, you noticed his absence more than his presence.”

On records, Mr. Tate accompanied a wide range of singers, from Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin to Bette Midler and Paul Simon. He was also heard on the soundtrack to the original “Twin Peaks” series. The All Music website lists more than a thousand recording credits for him.

Peggy Lee, whom he accompanied on tour and on recordings, was a favorite of his. Mr. Tate told one of her biographers, Peter Richmond, that the real shows began after their nightclub gigs had ended, when the band jammed with her in her hotel suite.

“There were some performances you wouldn’t believe,” he was quoted as saying in “Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee” (2006). One night, he recalled, “I heard this voice, and the song that she was singing, whatever it was, she sounded more like Billie Holiday than Billie ever sounded.”

Miss Lee encouraged Mr. Tate’s desire to sing publicly. She had him sing “The Windmills of Your Mind” in 1968 as part of her set at the Copacabana in Manhattan.

“You know, that was not only a great thing Peggy did for me, it was also unprecedented,” Mr. Tate told Downbeat magazine in 1971. “Singers are a funny lot. The stage is all theirs and as a result, quite often they don’t want anything that has the remotest chance of upstaging them. That’s why the music is geared just so, the lights just so. But Peggy is a beautiful lady.”

He released several albums as a vocalist, starting in 1968 with “Windmills of My Mind.” He also sang “I Got Six” and “Naughty Number Nine” on “Schoolhouse Rock,” ABC’s long-running series of short educational cartoons.

“When you’re playing as a drummer, everybody’s playing and nobody cares a thing about you,” he told the pianist Marian McPartland on her NPR show “Piano Jazz” in 2009. “Everybody’s out front and the drummer’s in the back and you don’t get the play you should get.”

Grady Tate singing at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan in 2000. Credit Alan Nahigian

In contrast, he said, singing “is something that gets directly to the person.”

Grady Bernard Tate was born on Jan. 14, 1932, in Durham, N.C. His father, also named Grady, was a stonemason. His mother, Elizabeth, was the dean of women at a local business school. He played drums and sang, but when his voice changed he stopped singing.

At 13, he had an odd if inspiring experience watching the jazz drummer Jo Jones perform at the Durham Armory, he told the website All About Jazz in 2008.

He recalled being mesmerized as Mr. Jones, “the craziest man I’ve ever seen in my life,” played with unalloyed joy. Afterward, Mr. Jones invited him onto the stage and asked if he had brought his drumsticks with him.

“No, sir,” Mr. Tate said, and Mr. Jones offered his own pair but whacked one of his hands with them. “That’s just a tiny bit of the pain that you’re going to get,” Mr. Jones said, “if you’re gonna pick these damn things up and use ’em.”

In the Air Force, Mr. Tate played in a 21-piece stateside band, where he worked with the trumpeter and arranger Bill Berry. After his discharge, he graduated from North Carolina Central University with a bachelor’s degree in English and drama and then moved to Washington, where he briefly taught at a high school and worked in the post office.

One musician he knew in Washington, the saxophonist Herschel McGinnis, took him to see the organist Wild Bill Davis play. Emboldened, Mr. Tate asked Mr. Davis if he could sit in for one number. It proved to be an epiphany.

“I hadn’t played drums in so long,” Mr. Tate said in a 2005 interview with the newspaper Port Folio Weekly. “I just exploded. When we finished, it was like the cleansing of my life, everything was out.

“The next day the phone rang. My wife said, ‘It’s Wild Bill Davis!’ He said: ‘I was wondering. Would you like to work with my band? We’re opening in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. Are you in?’”

He stayed with Mr. Davis for a few years and then took a detour, moving to New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Ultimately, he said, although he loved acting, he did not pursue it because he felt that the instructors and other actors were insincere.

In 1962 another saxophonist, Jerome Richardson, intervened to bring Mr. Tate back to music; he was with Quincy Jones’s big band, which had lost its drummer as it prepared to go on tour. Would Mr. Tate play with the band for a while? He went to a rehearsal, where Mr. Jones “seemed to call all the tunes that I knew,” he recalled.

Working with Mr. Jones led Mr. Tate to decades of studio work. He was also a member of the “Tonight Show” band for several years before the show moved from New York to California in 1972.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Grady Jr.

In his later years, Mr. Tate sang more and played the drums less.

“I had never thought of singing as a career, which it is for me now,” he said in 2005. “I don’t know how it happened; I just go with the flow. And I find that to be totally acceptable.”



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Ancient Moon Had Atmosphere Made of Volcano Smoke

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Roughly 3.5 billion years ago huge volcanoes released enough gas to cover the Moon with a thin atmosphere that was visible from Earth. Read more…

Asteroid 2012 TC4 To Zip Past Earth This Week

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The close pass of near-Earth asteroid 2012 TC4 this week will give NASA a chance to test planetary defense coordination. Read more…

Surprise! Dwarf Planet Haumea Has a Ring

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When the distant dwarf planet Haumea briefly slipped in front of a star last January, astronomers found more than they expected. Read more…


This Week’s Sky at a Glance, October 13 – 21

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See what’s in the sky for the week of October 13-21. Featuring Algol, Regulus, Vega, and the modest Orionids! Read more…

Busy Skies Ahead: Comets, a Supernova, and a Dramatic Regulus Occultation

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What’s your pleasure when it comes to observing? Comets? Supernovae? Occultations? Get a sample of each (and more!) in the upcoming week. Read more…

Tour October’s Sky: Saturn in the Southwest

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October’s astronomy podcast helps you track down Saturn after sunset and offers a peek at what’s in view before dawn. Read more…

The Vagaries of Crater “Tweens”

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Stellar Splendor: An Extraordinary Encounter

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A deepest, darkest sky offers an extraordinary encounter with the stars. Read more…

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Hatewatch Headlines 10/13/2017

Values Voters an anti-constitutional gathering; Turner Diaries remains a force on the right; sheriff wants ‘good’ prisoners to stay where they’re useful; and more.


Right Wing Watch: Values Voters agenda reveals the religious right’s ongoing hostility to the Constitution and its values.

Media Matters: Alex Jones peddles Dinesh D’Souza’s completely made-up anti-Semitic attack on George Soros.

Think Progress: A look at The Turner Diaries, the book that lies at the heart of white nationalist violence.

Huffington Post: Louisiana sheriff wants ‘good’ black prisoners to stay jailed for their free labor.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: State Justice Department clears ‘constitutionalist’ Grant County sheriff of misbehavior.

CNN: Charlottesville suing to stop private militias from participating in future rallies.

The Intercept: Before Charlottesville was in the news, police arrested their most prominent critic in the middle of the night.

Washington Post: Third white supremacist arrested in Charlottesville garage beating of a black man.

Raw Story: National Guardswoman, verbally assaulted by man who hated seeing black person in uniform, ‘will continue to stand tall.’

Rewire: Immigrant minor held ‘hostage’ in Texas because she wants to obtain abortion care.

KTHV-TV (Little Rock, AR): Nine white supremacists among the 44 people arrested on a major gun-and-drug bust in Russellville.

Capital Gazette (Annapolis, MD): Young man who hung a noose outside a middle school makes a public apology.

Muckrock: CIA’s archives finally reveal the ‘tasteless’ KKK joke deemed too sensitive for the public.

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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day, which is supported by the United Nations (UN), is annually held on October 10 to raise public awareness about mental health issues worldwide. This event promotes open discussions on illnesses, as well as investments in prevention and treatment services.

Depression, including among young people, is a major mental health problem. World Mental Health Day promotes the awareness of such issues.
© O Driscoll

What Do People Do?

World Mental Health Day is observed in more than 100 countries on October 10 through local, regional and national World Mental Health Day commemorative events and programs. Activities include:

  • Officials signing the World Mental Health Day proclamation.
  • Public service announcements.
  • Educational lectures and the distribution of research papers on mental health issues.
  • Awards to individuals or organizations who made significant contributions in improving mental health issues.

World Mental Health Day is an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). The World Health Organization (WHO), which is the UN’s directing and coordinating authority for health, supports this event. The Mental Health Foundation is another organization that is proactive in promoting World Mental Health Day.

Public Life

World Mental Health Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.


Mental disorders affect nearly 12 percent of the world’s population – about 450 million or one out of every four people around the world – will experience a mental illness that would benefit from diagnosis and treatment. WHO statistics for 2002 showed that 154 million people globally suffered from depression, which is a form of mental illness. According to WHO, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which people realize their own potential, can cope with normal life stresses, can work productively, and can contribute to their community.

Mental health services lack human and financial resources in many countries, particularly low and middle income countries. More funding is needed to promote mental health to increase people’s awareness of the issue. In response to making mental health a global priority, World Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the WFMH, which has members and contacts in more than 150 countries. Each year the UN, through WHO, actively participates in promoting this event.


The WHO logo or emblem, which was chosen by the first World Health Assembly in 1948, is often associated with the UN’s promotional material for World Mental Health Day. The emblem consists of the UN symbol surmounted by a staff with a snake coiling round it. The staff with the snake has long been a symbol of medicine and the medical profession. It originates from the story of Aesculapius who was revered by the ancient Greeks as a god of healing and whose cult involved the use of snakes.

The UN logo is often associated with marketing and promotional material for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map depicts the area of concern to the UN in achieving its main purpose, peace and security. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.

World Mental Health Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type
Sun Oct 10 2010 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Mon Oct 10 2011 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Wed Oct 10 2012 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Thu Oct 10 2013 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Fri Oct 10 2014 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Sat Oct 10 2015 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Mon Oct 10 2016 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Tue Oct 10 2017 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Wed Oct 10 2018 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Thu Oct 10 2019 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance
Sat Oct 10 2020 World Mental Health Day United Nations observance

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World Post Day

World Post Day marks the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union’s establishment and is annually held on October 9. The union aimed to create and maintain a structure for the free flow of international mail around the world.

World Post Day
World Post Day marks the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union’s establishment.
© Gearhart

What Do People Do?

In many international organizations and countries, high ranking officials or ministers make speeches or issue proclamations on the history or achievements of national or international postal services. Postal services may issue special postage stamps to commemorate the ideals, history or achievements of the national postal service on or around World Post Day. These are prized by stamp collectors and philatelists (people who study stamps). In addition, special lessons on these topics may be arranged for school children and the postal services and their employees may receive extra training or recognition and attention in the media.

The Universal Postal Union in cooperation with UNESCO has, for the past 35 years, organized an international letter-writing competition for young people. Many participating postal services use World Post Day to award prizes to the winners of the competition.

Public Life

World Post Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.


From the earliest times in history, “postal services” existed in the form of messengers who travelled large distances on foot or horseback. In the 1600s and 1700s, many countries set up national postage systems and entered into bilateral agreements for the exchange of mail between countries. By the late 1800s there was a large web of bilateral agreements that made the distribution of international mail complicated, nontransparent and inefficient.

In 1863, Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General in the United States of America, organized a conference of representatives from 15 European and American countries. During this conference, the delegates laid down a number of general principles for mutual agreements on international postal services but did not create an international postal agreement. On September 15, 1874, Heinrich von Stephan, a senior postal official in the North German Confederation (an area that now forms parts of Germany, Poland and Russia), opened a conference in Berne, Switzerland, with delegates from 22 countries. On October 9, 1874, the delegates signed the Treaty of Berne and established the General Postal Union.

The number of countries that were members of the General Postal Union grew rapidly and the union’s name was changed to the Universal Postal Union in 1878. In 1948, the Universal Postal Union became a specialized agency of the United Nations. The 16th Universal Postal Union Congress was held in Tokyo, Japan, from October 1 to November 16, 1969. During this conference the delegates voted to declare October 9 each year as World Post Day.

The work of the Universal Postal Union continues to be very important to global communication and trade, even in the era of digital communication. In areas and communities with a high level of access to digital communication, postal services are important for distributing goods bought in Internet stores. In communities with lower levels of access to digital communication, postal services remain vital for the distribution of information and goods. Post offices and trucks used to deliver mail to outlying areas are also becoming service points to bring digital communication to many more people. Moreover, the union is working on ways to bring electronic money transfer services to rural areas in countries in the Middle East and in north-east Africa.

World Post Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type
Sat Oct 9 2010 World Post Day United Nations observance
Sun Oct 9 2011 World Post Day United Nations observance
Tue Oct 9 2012 World Post Day United Nations observance
Wed Oct 9 2013 World Post Day United Nations observance
Thu Oct 9 2014 World Post Day United Nations observance
Fri Oct 9 2015 World Post Day United Nations observance
Sun Oct 9 2016 World Post Day United Nations observance
Mon Oct 9 2017 World Post Day United Nations observance
Tue Oct 9 2018 World Post Day United Nations observance
Wed Oct 9 2019 World Post Day United Nations observance
Fri Oct 9 2020 World Post Day United Nations observance

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John Thompson at a news conference in New Orleans in 2011, after the Supreme Court overturned a $14 million judgment in his favor. Credit Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

On May 20, 1999, the day before his younger son’s high school graduation, John Thompson was scheduled to be executed in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He had survived six other execution dates, but he was running out of miracles.

Early in 1985, when he was 22, Mr. Thompson had been arrested in New Orleans for a carjacking and for the separate murder of a local hotel executive.

By 1999, he had spent 14 years on death row at the notorious maximum-security prison farm known as Angola, named for the nation from which blacks who worked on a former plantation there had been abducted by slave traders.

Just 30 days before his scheduled execution, a private investigator hired by his lawyers stumbled upon a forgotten microfiche.

The film included images of a laboratory report that had been received by the district attorney two days before Mr. Thompson’s trial was to begin. The report categorically undermined the prosecution’s case, revealing that the blood type of whoever committed the carjacking did not match Mr. Thompson’s.

Moreover, in a deathbed confession, a former assistant prosecutor admitted he had deliberately hidden the blood evidence from Mr. Thompson’s trial lawyers.

After tests confirmed that Mr. Thompson’s blood type and DNA did not match the perpetrator’s, his robbery conviction was overturned. In 2002, the murder verdict was reversed. A year later, he was retried and acquitted after the jury deliberated for 35 minutes.

Mr. Thompson was awarded $14 million in damages by a Louisiana jury in 2007 — $1 million for every year he was isolated for 23 hours a day in a windowless cell, awaiting his execution.

But in 2011, an ideologically split United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Mr. Thompson was not entitled to damages after all.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented, said at least five prosecutors had been complicit in violating Mr. Thompson’s constitutional rights because “they kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense.”

But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said Mr. Thompson had not demonstrated that the office of District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. (father of the singer) had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence, particularly from black defendants, or had not trained his assistants sufficiently.

“The role of a prosecutor,” Justice Thomas wrote, “is to see that justice is done. By their own admission, the prosecutors who tried Thompson’s armed robbery case failed to carry out this responsibility.

“But the only issue before us,” he added, “is whether Connick, as the policy maker for the district attorney’s office, was deliberately indifferent to the need to train the attorneys under his authority.”

Mr. Thompson died of a heart attack on Tuesday in a New Orleans hospital, according to Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans. He was 55.

In the decade since he was exonerated, Mr. Thompson had married, become a churchgoer and established an organization called Resurrection After Exoneration to help and house former inmates in similar predicaments.

“I don’t care about the money,” he wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2011. “I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn’t do and nearly had me killed are not in jail themselves.

“There were no ethics charges against them,” he continued, “no criminal charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can be sued.”

John Thompson in 2011. Credit Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Mr. Thompson was born in New Orleans on Sept. 6, 1962. By the time his mother, Josephine Thompson, gave birth, John’s father, Charles Jackson, was serving a life sentence for murder.

Raised mostly by his grandparents in the Central City neighborhood, he dropped out of high school and fathered two sons by two different girlfriends while still a teenager.

On Jan. 17, 1985, the police kicked in the door of his grandmother’s house while Mr. Thompson was there and as his girlfriend, mother and two sons — John Jr., 4, and Dedric, 6 — huddled in terror.

The carjacking of a vehicle carrying young siblings had occurred a few weeks before, on Dec. 28, 1984. Mr. Thompson was charged with that crime and also, along with a co-defendant, Kevin Freeman, with murdering a local hotel executive, Ray Liuzza Jr., on Dec. 6. Mr. Freeman implicated Mr. Thompson.

“A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun,” Mr. Thompson said of Mr. Freeman in the Op-Ed article. “It turned out that the ring belonged to the victim and the gun was the murder weapon.

“My picture was on the news, and a man called in to report that I looked like someone who had recently tried to rob his children,” Mr. Thompson continued. “Suddenly I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery first. My lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene, and I was convicted based on the victims’ identification.

“After that, my lawyers thought it was best if I didn’t testify at the murder trial. And now that I officially had a history of violent crime because of the robbery conviction, the prosecutors used it to get the death penalty.”

After being sentenced to 49 years in prison for the carjacking that he insisted he did not commit, Mr. Thompson was convicted of murder and received the death penalty.

Less than two months after he was released in 2003, after a total of 18 years in prison, he married Laverne Jackson, with whom he had grown up and who attended church with his mother.

He is survived by his wife; his mother, Josephine Casby; two half-brothers, Jermaine and Charles Jackson; a half-sister, Shermaine Jackson; four stepchildren; and 12 grandchildren and stepgrandchildren.

At various points in his appeals and civil suit, Mr. Thompson was represented without fee by, among others, Michael L. Banks and J. Gordon Cooney Jr. of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia and Nicholas Trenticosta of what was then the Loyola Death Penalty Resource Center.

In a 2003 interview on the website, Mr. Banks said, “The initial linchpin to our success was proving that John was not responsible for an unrelated carjacking that effectively prevented him from testifying in his own defense during the murder trial.”

Barry Scheck, director of the Innocence Project, which handled Mr. Thompson’s claim for state compensation, said in a phone interview that initially “his lawyers didn’t necessarily think he was innocent; they were just trying to save his life.” But, he added, “the more they went into it, the whole thing unraveled.”

Similar cases have continued to emerge in New Orleans as recently as this year, Mr. Scheck said.

In the Thompson case, after the blood test results pointed to Mr. Thompson’s innocence, a former prosecutor, Michael Riehlmann, disclosed that several years earlier, an ailing junior assistant, Gerry Deegan, as he was nearing death, had confessed that he gone into an evidence room and removed the pants from which the bloodstains were taken in order to keep them from the defense.

Mr. Connick, the district attorney, did not seek re-election in 2003. His successor, Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., expressed relief when the Supreme Court reversed the civil award. With interest, it would have amounted to nearly $20 million — more than the annual budget of the prosecutor’s office.

Mr. Thompson was stunned.

“If I’d spilled hot coffee on myself, I could have sued the person who served me the coffee,” he said. “But I can’t sue the prosecutors who nearly murdered me.”

Ms. Maw, of the Innocence Project, recalled that Mr. Thompson had maintained his commitment to reforming the judicial system from the moment he was released.

“He was angry, and yet he had astounding strength from the moment he got out and a need to channel his anger to doing good in the world,” she said in a phone interview. “And that is what he did until he died.”

Correction: October 7, 2017
An obituary on Thursday about John Thompson, who was exonerated after spending 14 years on death row in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, referred incorrectly to his scheduled execution in 1999. It was to be by lethal injection, not electrocution. (Louisiana began using lethal injection for its executions in the early 1990s.) The obituary also omitted the name of a lawyer who represented Mr. Thompson without fee. He is Nicholas Trenticosta. And the obituary misstated the role of the Innocence Project in Mr. Thompson’s case. It handled his claim for state compensation; it did not help represent him in his appeals. In addition, the obituary misstated the number of stepchildren who survive Mr. Thompson. There are four, not five. And, finally, the obituary misspelled his mother’s surname. She is Josephine Casby, not Casey.




Jack Good on the set with the Beatles. A former assistant called him “classically trained — and a complete maniac.” Credit Courtesy of Ron Furmanek

Jack Good, who popularized rock ’n’ roll on British television in the 1950s, then followed the British invasion to the United States, where he produced “Shindig,” a prime-time series with a frantic pace, go-go dancers and guests like the Beatles, James Brown and the Rolling Stones, died on Sept. 24 in Oxfordshire, England. He was 86.

The cause was complications of a fall, his daughter Gabriella said.

Mr. Good was an unlikely rock evangelist. He was not a musician, a record executive or a disc jockey; rather, he was an adventurous Oxford-educated actor whose proper style provided counterpoint to rock ’n’ roll’s brashness.

Wearing a bowler hat and a three-piece suit and toting an umbrella, he appeared in a commercial for “Shindig” before its debut on ABC in 1964.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, quickly doffing his hat, “I’m a humble man named Jack Good and I’m also the producer of ‘Shindig.’ I thought it might amuse you to know” — he suddenly shouted and widened his eyes — “the Beatles are coming!”

David Mallet, who was hired at 19 to be Mr. Good’s assistant producer, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Good “was classically trained — and a complete maniac.” He recalled Mr. Good asking him, on his first day of work, to pin “I Dig Shindig” buttons on cardboard cutouts of one of ABC’s stars, Lawrence Welk, the maestro of “Champagne music,” outside the network’s studios in Los Angeles.

The premiere of “Shindig” ended a relatively short professional journey for Mr. Good that began in 1956 when he became transfixed by an audience’s response to the movie “Rock Around the Clock,” with Bill Haley and His Comets. In rock ’n’ roll’s energy and excitement, he recognized music’s future, especially as a fuel for adolescent rebellion.

“It’s easy to call rock ’n’ roll vulgar, but to adolescents it is a release,” he told The New York Times in 1965. “Rock ’n’ roll, if it is anything, is pure joy in sound.

“I willingly embrace vulgarity,” he continued. “I prefer vulgarity, that is, to the excessive refinement that has long stifled British society. Like St. Paul, I’m a convert, but my conversion was to rock ’n’ roll.”

A job as a trainee producer at the BBC led to his first experiment in transforming what he had seen onscreen into a live show. On “Six-Five Special,” which had its premiere in 1957 (it was named for its 6:05 p.m. start-time), he filled the studio floor with young fans bopping to the music. The formula worked: Millions watched. But he chafed at the BBC’s demands that he add sports and comedy segments.

Forced out by the network, Mr. Good resurfaced at its commercial rival, ITV, where he produced “Oh Boy!” with much greater freedom. Performers followed one another quickly, giving the show a breakneck pace. British rock stars like Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury were said to have received their first national exposure there.

“The aim was hypnosis and excitement — blitzkrieg time!” Mr. Good said in “A Good Man … Is Hard to Find,” a 2005 documentary about his life made by Greg Wise. “Jumping up and down, the adrenaline, the wildness. Yes, the danger of it all!”

Nik Cohn, the British rock journalist, wrote that Mr. Good had an understanding of rock music’s importance that was rare at the time.

“Everyone else saw pop as a one-shot craze and rushed to cash in on it fast before sanity returned and everything returned to normal,” Mr. Cohn wrote in “Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock” (1969). “By contrast, Good realized it clearly as a major phenomenon. I suppose he was the first pop intellectual.”

Mr. Good was born in West London on Aug. 7, 1931. His father, Bob, sold pianos at Harrods, where his mother, Amy, was a secretary. After serving in the Royal Air Force, Mr. Good graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied philology and was president of the drama society.

“Six-Five Special,” “Oh Boy!” and two other music shows in Britain did not end Mr. Good’s dreams of acting. He left for the United States, hoping to succeed in Hollywood. But he landed only a few parts, including one in “Father Goose” (1964), with Cary Grant, and another in “Clambake” (1967), with Elvis Presley.

Jack Good, television producer best known for “Shindig,” in an undated photograph. Credit Courtesy of Ron Furmanek

One day in 1962, soon after moving to the United States, while lazing around in his pajamas, he had an epiphany.

“I saw this so-called special done by a bloke, Dick Clark, and I’d already come to the conclusion that Dick Clark’s shows were hopeless and I could do better,” he said in the documentary. Mr. Clark was, at the time, the host of the long-running “American Bandstand.”

“I said to myself, like the prodigal son in the pigpen, that I’d go back to my father’s house” — referring to Mr. Haley, whom he saw as his muse — “and I devised a show, filmed it, taped it and sent it around to the networks,” he said.

That was the pilot for “Shindig,” which was picked up by ABC, but not until 1964.

“Shindig” was unlike “Bandstand” or “The Ed Sullivan Show.” It had a fast rhythm, like “Oh Boy!,” with rapid cutting and extreme close-ups. The dancers frugged, swam and twisted furiously. The house band featured Glen Campbell, Billy Preston and Leon Russell. And the guests — among them Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Bobby Sherman, the Isley Brothers, Sam Cooke and the Everly Brothers — covered a broad musical range.

The Beatles, taped in Britain, were guests on the show several months after Mr. Good produced a special with them there. The Stones appeared several times, once with the bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, one of their idols.

NBC countered with its own pop music show, “Hullabaloo,” which made its debut a few months after “Shindig.”

Donna Loren, a featured singer on “Shindig,” described Mr. Good as “the Norman Lear of rock ’n’ roll” for his insistence on booking African-American artists, against the objections of at least one executive at ABC. She said Mr. Good had resisted efforts by the network to limit the number of black performers on the pilot.

Mr. Mallet, his former assistant producer, agreed. “He was insulted by it,” he said in a telephone interview, “because at least 50 percent of his favorite people were people like Little Richard.”

Mr. Good said in the documentary that he told ABC that he would limit the number of black artists on the show if the network sent him a memo outlining its rules. (He also threatened to send it if he got it to Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general.) He never got the memo.

He left “Shindig” after a year, exhausted by the demands of producing it but with something else in mind: a rock musical based on “Othello.” It became “Catch My Soul,” with William Marshall in the title role and Jerry Lee Lewis playing an unlikely Iago. When it played at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, Martin Bernheimer of The Los Angeles Times wrote that it was “an utterly brilliant and utterly maddening experience.”

Mr. Good also wrote the screenplay for the 1974 movie version.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Good moved to New Mexico with his family and continued to produce television programming for a few more years. But he had already begun to alter his life dramatically — mostly in service to his Roman Catholic faith.

Inspired by Rubens’s “The Descent From the Cross,” he learned to paint. And, after his divorce from the former Margit Tischer, he built a chapel beside his home in Cordova, N.M., where he lived alone and painted religious murals and icons.

One mural shows a wild-eyed, fanged devil — his head in the shape of a television set — playing an electric guitar.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Good, who lived in Oxfordshire, is survived by another daughter, Andrea; a son, Alexander; 10 grandchildren; and a brother, Robert.

Mr. Good expressed regrets about the direction rock took in the post-“Shindig” years. He wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 1967 that the music had been “ironed into one vast, hairy, paisley-patterned uniformity.”

But Mr. Mallet said that his cheeky former boss remained dedicated to the era he helped to influence.

“His idea of heaven,” he said, “was Jerry Lee or Cliff Richard or Elvis giving it 100 percent.”




Tom Petty, who died on Monday night of cardiac arrest, was a hard-working rock ’n’ roll star who made a career of seeming at ease. Credit Michael Putland/Getty Images

In 1985, Tom Petty the rock star became Tom Petty the music video star with the fantastical clip for the slow groan “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” in which he played a kooky Mad Hatter in an Alice in Wonderland-themed carnival.

The importance of visuals, thanks to the emergence of MTV, was just becoming apparent, and Mr. Petty languorously rose to the occasion for the video, which was far more intriguing than the song itself, one of Mr. Petty’s bigger hits with his band the Heartbreakers.

He wore a goofy burgundy top hat and blazer, and peered out lazily from behind oval sunglasses, turning spacey frivolity into one of music video’s first genuinely strange trips.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Don’t Come Around Here No More” Video by TomPettyVEVO

It wasn’t overly slick, but it did just enough work to show that Mr. Petty, a child of the 1960s and a star of the late 1970s, was prepared for the ways that rock music, and its attendant culture, were about to change.

That was Tom Petty, an unfussy rock ’n’ roll superstar who was always more savvy than he cared to appear. Mr. Petty, who died Monday night of cardiac arrest, at 66, made a career of looking and sounding at ease, or something even more relaxed than that

His songs were concise and thoughtfully distilled, modest in bearing but often a gutpunch in content and sly in delivery. From another singer, his lyrics might have scanned as sneering, but from Mr. Petty they sounded like smoothly polished stones of accrued wisdom. He smeared out his nasal syllables in a way that telegraphed heart and despair, but always under tight control. By taking a mellow approach and keeping flamboyance and ego to a minimum, he made plain overlooked things that had always been there.

Mr. Petty grew up a student of the Beatles and the Byrds, and was also conversant in Southern rock, new wave and punk. That flexibility allowed Mr. Petty, who had first joined bands in his hometown, Gainesville, Fla., before moving to Los Angeles, to calmly float between eras, never owing too much to any one idea.

He first came to prominence in the late 1970s with the Heartbreakers, shining on the nervy and quietly lustrous album “Damn the Torpedoes.” Throughout the 1980s, as rock was getting increasingly glamorous and louche, he remained resolute, culminating in the 1989 masterpiece “Full Moon Fever.” Staying the course made him something of an unlikely darling of MTV in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the middle-aged post-hippie with the wise eyes, sleepy drawl and occasionally psychedelic sense of self-presentation.

But looking like he wasn’t trying very hard at all was part of Mr. Petty’s game; behind the curtain, he was often taking stands, firmly in control. He was particular, even ornery, about his business. When MCA Records wanted to raise the price of his 1981 album “Hard Promises” from $8.98 to $9.98, he pushed back. In 1992, it was revealed that Mr. Petty had secretly signed a $20 million contract with Warner Bros. three years earlier.

He was particular about his art as well. During a mixing session for the 1985 album “Southern Accents,” he punched a wall and broke his left hand. And he often told stories about cutting Jimmy Iovine’s phone cord to get his attention when he was working with the notoriously hyper producer.

Like many great songwriters, Mr. Petty had a catalog that was ruthlessly pilfered over the years, though he seemed to vacillate on just how seriously to take these offenses. He seemed to shrug it off when the Strokes all but Xeroxed the beginning of “American Girl” for their breakthrough hit, “Last Nite.” But he quietly negotiated credit and payment when it seemed — in a perhaps mildly specious claim — that Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” had too much of “I Won’t Back Down” in it.

When it came to politics, though, he dropped the pretense of casualness. In his later years, he disavowed his early use of the confederate flag during the marketing and touring of “Southern Accents,” calling it “downright stupid.” And when it came to politicians trying to align themselves with his songs, he made his desires plain. He asked the George W. Bush presidential campaign to stop using “I Won’t Back Down.” When Michele Bachmann used “American Girl” at a rally, he fired off a cease-and-desist letter.

But when Al Gore conceded the 2000 presidential election, there was Mr. Petty an hour later, serenading him with “I Won’t Back Down,” an easy song about impossibly hard things.


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