Categotry Archives: Politicians


In Memoriam: A Look Back At The People We Lost in 2013

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Categories: Actors, Extraordinary People, Government, Hollywood, Media, Politicians, Politics, Writers/Editors

hourglass.jpgSome people view obituaries as morbid stories, but in truth only one line of an obit deals with death. The rest of the story focuses on the amazing lives people lead. In 2013, these 13 obituaries were the stories that most resonated with me:

* Helen Thomas, reporter, columnist and dean of the White House Press Corps

* Abigail Van Buren, advice columnist

* Roger Ebert, movie critic

* Elmore Leonard, author

* Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the first black president of South Africa

* Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain

* Ed Koch, former New York City mayor

* Gary David Goldberg, TV producer

* Ray Harryhausen, special effects pioneer

* Tom Clancy, author

* Peter O’Toole, actor

* James Gandolfini, actor

* Jean Stapleton, actress


Demetrius Newton

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Categories: Government, Law, Politicians

Demetrius NewtonRep. Demetrius C. Newton dedicated his life to improving the human condition, first as a civil rights attorney and later as a politician and public servant. But his efforts were frequently hindered by the nearly implacable obstacle known as racism.

Newton was born in Fairfield, Ala., in 1928. At the time, blacks in America — particularly those living in the South — were forced to live segregated lives. Black children couldn’t attend schools with white children. They were unable to access goods and services, banned from playing professional sports or working in certain professions, denied the right to marry outside their own race, kept from serving on juries and barred from voting unless they passed “literacy tests” or paid poll taxes.

Amidst this environment, Newton knew he would have to leave Alabama to obtain a decent education. He traveled to Ohio to study economics and political science at Wilberforce University, the oldest private African-American university in the United States. When Newton decided to become a lawyer, the state of Alabama paid for him to attend law school out of state so it wouldn’t have to integrate the University of Alabama School of Law or create a separate one for black students.

After earning his Juris Doctor from Boston University in 1952, Newton returned to Birmingham with one goal in mind: to help protect the rights of the downtrodden. He became a civil rights attorney, and started a law firm with U.W. Clemon, who later became Alabama’s first black federal judge, and Oscar Adams, the first black Alabama Supreme Court justice and the first African-American elected to statewide office.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Newton represented icons of the civil rights movement — including Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — but he also aided the foot soldiers of the cause, the people arrested during demonstrations in Birmingham. He filed a number of lawsuits that sought the inclusion of African-Americans on juries and supported the rights of protesters to march in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches. He also represented his friend Carl Baldwin, who was arrested by Birmingham police for trying to sit in the whites-only waiting room at the train station. That lawsuit challenged segregation in interstate and intrastate travel. These efforts were later documented in the film “Preserving Justice.”

Newton knew the law could only go so far, so he decided to delve into politics as well. He became the city attorney for Birmingham, then worked as a judge for the city of Brownville for six years. In 1986, Newton was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, serving the 53rd district (western Birmingham in Jefferson County). He would represent the district as a Democrat in the state house for the next 27 years.

Newton was the first black person to serve as Speaker Pro Tem, the No. 2 position in the House behind the speaker, and held that position from 1998 until 2010. He was also chair of the Legislative Council for both the House and the Senate.

A champion of constitutional reform, Newton firmly believed that Alabama’s constitution, which an all-white, all-male assembly proposed in 1901, was both outdated and racist. He spent much of his lengthly political career pushing for lawmakers and voters to create a new one.

“Our constitution is sick and it is on life support and the time is near and we ought to give it a dignified death,” Newton said in 2006. Alas, his efforts were repeatedly defeated.

Although he often disagreed with Republicans on key issues, Newton was highly regarded by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“Debates in the House often have to compete with noise generated by side conversations and members going about their business, but when Demetrius took to the podium, the Chamber would hush,” House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (R) stated. “That’s evidence of the respect he commanded.”

Another sign of respect was the fact that Newton was allowed to retain his seat in the front row of the Chamber, even when Republicans took over the majority. The seat was normally reserved for members of the Leadership, yet the newly elected Caucus unanimously agreed that Newton should remain.

“He was a fine gentleman, and we had a strong mutual respect for each other. He will be greatly missed, not only by his own constituents — but also by the entire state of Alabama,” Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said.

Newton was a member of the Alabama, National and American Bar Associations, the American Judicature Society, the NAACP, 101 Black Men and the Vulcan Gold Club. He was the former national president of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and the Wilberforce University Alumni Association, and past president and chief executive officer of the Birmingham Urban League. Outside of the office, Newton enjoyed traveling, golf, attending the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Birmingham and spending time with his two children from a past marriage.

Newton died on Sept. 11. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.


Margaret Thatcher

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Categories: Politicians

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to become prime minister of Britain and one of the most divisive political figures of the 20th century, died on April 8 after suffering a stroke. She was 87.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on Oct. 13, 1925, in the small town of Grantham. She came from humble beginnings; her mother, Beatrice, worked as a dressmaker, and her father, Alfred, was a grocer, a lay preacher and a local politician. She had one older sister, Muriel.

Thatcher studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford. After training under Dorothy Hodgkin, a pioneer of X-ray crystallography who won a Nobel Prize in 1964, Thatcher spent four years working as a research chemist. But her first love was politics.

Thatcher gave her first political speech when she was just 20 years old, and served as president of the student Conservative Association at Oxford. In her mid-20s, she ran for a seat in Parliament as a Conservative candidate in 1950 and 1951. Even though she lost both times, Thatcher received national publicity for being the youngest woman candidate in the country.

For most of the 1950s, Thatcher focused on raising a family. She married Denis Thatcher, a local businessman who ran his family’s firm, in 1951; the couple had twins, Mark and Carol, two years later. In her spare time, she studied to become a lawyer, and when she was admitted to the bar, Thatcher specialized in tax law.

In 1959, Thatcher was elected to Parliament representing Finchley, a north London constituency. It was the beginning of a meteoric rise.

Thatcher spent the next decade working a succession of jobs within Parliament, and in 1970, she achieved the rank of Education Secretary. Her right-wing platform did not sit well with students or academics, and it was during this time period that Thatcher developed a thick skin. When she decided to cancel a free school milk program for children over the age of 7, the tabloids described her as “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher” and “the most unpopular woman in Britain.”

Despite all the bad publicity, Conservative party members viewed Thatcher as strong, outspoken and ambitious. She engaged in an aggressive campaign against all male contenders, and in 1975, the party elected Thatcher their leader. Although she once said “I don’t think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime,” Thatcher made history in 1979 when she won the nation’s top job. She would serve three terms, and became one of Britain’s most influential leaders.

Domestically, Thatcher was a controversial figure. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” in 1976, a moniker she adored, Thatcher worked hard to cultivate a reputation as a staunch conservative with an unwillingness to change her mind once it was made up. Throughout her political career, she strongly advocated for austerity measures, free-market democracies and smaller government.

“What we need now is a far greater degree of personal responsibility and decision, far more independence from the government, and a comparative reduction in the role of government,” she noted in her famous “What’s Wrong With Politics?” speech.

With this mindset, Thatcher reduced or eliminated many government subsidies to ailing businesses and tightened monetary policies. In the midst of an economic downturnn, these efforts forced a record 10,000 businesses to go bankrupt. Unemployment topped 3 million. And violent riots broke out in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and many other areas.

The Thatcher administration also instituted union reforms in 1980 and 1982, which inspired the miner’s union to launch a brutal and long-lasting strike. Thatcher remained steadfast, as was her wont, and eventually defeated the union.

During her second and third terms in office, Thatcher reformed the country’s educational system by introducing a national curriculum, and opened up the National Health Service to a measure of competition. These moves were not always popular, but their effects proved enduring.

“I am not a consensus politician,” Thatcher said. “I am a conviction politician.”

British relations with Northern Ireland were particularly contentious during this time. Hunger strikes and terrorist attacks ensued, and in 1984, Thatcher became the target of an Irish Republican Army assassination attempt. The IRA bombing at the Conservative Conference in Brighton did not harm her, but the explosion killed four people and wounded more than 30 others. Undaunted, Thatcher insisted that the conference continue, and even gave her speech as scheduled.

A fierce anti-communist, Thatcher recognized the West’s eventual victory in the Cold War. She famously invited Mikhail S. Gorbachev to Britain in 1984, three months before he even came into power as the leader of the Soviet Union. At the time, Thatcher declared: “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together.” Her rapport with this new ally and her friendly relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan contributed to these leaders ending the arms race of the 1980s.

Such kinship did not fade in difficult times, either. Thatcher backed Reagan’s decision to bomb Libya in 1986 — even though the mission outraged her own citizenry — and defended him during the IranContra affair that same year. When Reagan died in 2004, Thatcher was in ill health. However, she attended the funeral, and pre-recorded a video that described Reagan as “a great president, a great American, and a great man.”

Thatcher’s foreign policies did not always stand the test of time. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, Thatcher ignored her allies’ calls for diplomacy and responded with overwhelming military force. During the 10-week war, 250 British servicemen and 1,000 Argentines were killed. The sinking of Argentina’s only cruiser, the General Belgrano, which left 323 Argentines dead, was particularly problematic because the attack took place outside of Britain’s declared exclusion zone. This short war cemented Thatcher’s take-no-prisoners reputation and helped her win a landslide victory for a second term in office. But the political ramifications of the conflict continue to be felt to this day.

Thatcher also came down on the wrong side of history after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The prime minister argued against the reunification of East and West Germany, saying the change would destabilize Europe. The two Germanies reunited, to great success, in 1990.

Her final missteps involved railing against European integration, and the introduction of a poll tax on all residents rather than on property. Both actions cost her political capital within the party and led to her resignation in 1990.

Thatcher’s legacy is certainly a complicated one. She was reviled by Britain’s academic and artistic communities for cutting their financing. And progressives hated her for ending socialism, privatizing government industries and replacing compassion with greed as a core value. Yet Thatcher was respected by many, particularly in conservative circles, for leading the country out of a recession and through a war. She was credited with recognizing the dangers of global warming, and strongly encouraging other nations to repair the damaged ozone layer. She was also one of the first Western leaders to call for intervention in Bosnia after the Serb concentration camps were revealed in 1992.

Actress Meryl Streep, who won an Academy Award for portraying Thatcher in the 2011 film “The Iron Lady,” hailed the former prime minister as a pioneer for the role of women in politics.

“To have withstood the special hatred and ridicule, unprecedented in my opinion, leveled in our time at a public figure who was not a mass murderer; and to have managed to keep her convictions attached to fervent ideals and ideas — wrongheaded or misguided as we might see them now — without corruption — I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness, worthy for the argument of history to settle,” Streep said. “To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable.”

Thatcher was named Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven after stepping off the political stage. In 1991, she received the U.S. Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush. Thatcher’s husband of more than 50 years died in 2003. In 2004, her son Mark was arrested for financing an alleged plot by mercenaries to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea in west Africa. He pleaded guilty in 2005 and was given a four-year suspended sentence.

During the final years of her life, Thatcher wrote several books and toured the world as a lecturer. Her speaking career ended in 2002 following a series of small strokes and the onset of dementia. In accordance with the family’s wishes, Thatcher will not be accorded a full state funeral. Instead, she will receive a ceremonial funeral with military honors. A service at St. Paul’s Cathedral will be followed by a private cremation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to his predecessor on Monday morning.

“We’ve lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton,” Cameron said.

Photo by Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Margaret Thatcher: A Life In Pictures



Mason Andrews

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Categories: Government, Medicine, Military, Politicians

Dr. Mason Andrews’ life may best be described by the political slogan he used in the 1974 Norfolk (Va.) City Council race: “Mason Andrews delivers.”
The son of a Norfolk obstetrician, Andrews earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1940 and attended the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. After completing a tour of duty in the Navy, he went back to Johns Hopkins to finish his residency.
Andrews returned to Norfolk in 1950 to open his own OB/GYN office and launch the first answering service for doctors in the area. In the 1960s, he helped raise $17 million to finance a community medical school (which would eventually become Eastern Virginia Medical School). From 1974 to 1990, Andrews served as the first chair of the school’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 1992, he was elected president of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society.
Andrews delivered approximately 5,000 babies during the course of his half-century in medicine. But his most famous delivery occurred on Dec. 28, 1981, when he helped bring Elizabeth Jordan Carr into the world. At 5 pounds, 12 ounces, Carr was the first U.S. baby conceived by in-vitro fertilization. Now a newspaper reporter in Augusta, Maine, Elizabeth said Andrews always kept in touch with her, sending cards on her birthday and a gift for her wedding.
In the process of establishing an in-vitro fertilization program at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Andrews persuaded Drs. Georgeanna and Howard Jones to become teachers. The couple had planned to retire from medicine, but at Andrews’ urging, decided to build the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine instead. The program is now a leader in scientific advances of infertility treatment.
Andrews’ dedication to public service extended beyond medicine and education. He spent 26 years on the Norfolk City Council, including a two-year term as mayor, and was known for his dedication to the downtown area’s renaissance. Over the course of his political tenure, Andrews helped transform the waterfront area into a bustling retail and entertainment destination. Port Folio Weekly magazine listed him at #84 in its annual collection of “100 Best People, Places and Things in the 7 Cities” for his work as a doctor, councilman and civic activist.
“He was constantly pushing us as a community to realize and reach our potential. Nothing but the best for Norfolk. He had a high standard of excellence. He was tenacious in everything that he did. I don’t know how you remember him in any other way. His legacy was to instill in all of us reaching for the stars in terms of what’s best for the community,” Cathy Coleman, president of the Downtown Norfolk Council, said.
Andrews died on Oct. 13. Cause of death was not released. He was 87.


Jim West

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Categories: Law, Military, Politicians

James Elton West, the former mayor of Spokane, Wash., who was ousted from office amidst a sex scandal, died on July 22 of complications from cancer surgery. He was 55.
Born in Salem, Ore., West attended the University of Nevada at Reno prior to enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division for three years, and earned a certificate of completion in law enforcement at Johnston Technical Institute in N.C.
West’s career in law enforcement, however, was short-lived. Between 1975 and 1978, he worked as a patrolman for the Medical Lake (Wash.) Police Department and as a deputy sheriff for Spokane County. West obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Gonzaga University in Spokane and supervised a camping program for juveniles with minor offenses, then entered the political arena.
A former Boy Scout leader, Spokane city councilman and state senate majority leader, West spent the next two decades championing an anti-gay agenda. The lifelong Republican actively sought to have gays and lesbians barred from working in schools, day care centers and some state agencies, voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, allowed a bill that would’ve banned discrimination against gays and lesbians to die in committee without a hearing and opposed giving benefits to domestic partners of City Hall workers. As such, voters in West’s district were quite surprised when the media revealed he was involved in a sex scandal.
After spending several years investigating West for sexual misconduct and misuse of his political position, The Spokesman-Review published an expose that revealed West frequented chat rooms on and offered autographed sports memorabilia, seats to Seahawks and Mariners games and a City Hall internship to someone he thought was an 18-year-old high school student. The online pen pal was actually a forensic computer consultant working for the newspaper.
Allegations that West sexually molested two youths at a Boy Scout camp during the 1970s and early 1980s and offered city jobs to other gay partners were published in the newspaper as well. West categorically denied these claims and law enforcement officials could not confirm the accounts. Although the FBI launched a 10-month public corruption probe into his activities, West was never charged with a crime.
West did publicly acknowledge that he had had relations with adult men but claimed he hadn’t done anything illegal. He sent city staffers a remorseful e-mail, and refused to resign as mayor of Spokane. In response, the voters held a special election on Dec. 6, 2005, and recalled West on a single charge that he had used his office for personal benefit. He was the first Spokane city official to be recalled from office.
The sex scandal wasn’t the only time West found himself in hot water. In 1998, he threatened building industry lobbyist Tom McCabe over the publication of a newspaper ad. “You son of a bitch, you better get me ’cause if you don’t, you’re dead,” West said in a message recorded on McCabe’s voice mail. West was later charged with two misdemeanors. The court placed West on probation and ordered him to pay a $250 fine, make a $500 donation to charity and apologize.
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