Categotry Archives: Politics


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


Gene Allen

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Categories: Politics

Eugene Allen, a former White House butler who worked for eight presidents, died on March 31 of renal failure. He was 90.

Allen was born on July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. His childhood occurred during a time when the state was strictly segregated. Blacks were forced to ride in the back of buses and attended poorly funded “colored” schools. They were not permitted to use public bathrooms or enter retail establishments that were reserved for white patrons. Interracial marriage was illegal and anyone with a trace of non-white blood was required by law to pay a poll tax in order to vote.

Like many blacks, Allen became a service employee, working as a waiter at whites-only resorts and country clubs. In 1952, he landed a job at the White House as a “pantry man.” The position paid him $2,400 a year to wash dishes, stock cabinets and shine silverware, but it also allowed him to witness many historical events of the 20th century.

For 34 years, Allen catered to the needs of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, James Carter, Ronald Reagan and their families. He never missed a day of work, and always performed his duties diligently and discreetly.

As a member of the White House domestic staff, Allen met civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and numerous entertainers, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis Presley. Eisenhower gave him a painting. Nixon took Allen on a trip to Romania aboard Air Force One. Ford celebrated his shared birthday with Allen, and First Lady Nancy Reagan invited him and his wife Helene to attend a state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. After Kennedy was assassinated, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy asked Allen to attend the funeral, but he volunteered to stay at the White House to help with the meal after the service. She later gave him one of the late president’s ties.

By the time he left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1986, Allen had been promoted to the position of maître d’hôtel, which is the most prestigious position among White House butlers. And on Jan. 20, 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s first African-American president, Allen attended the inauguration as a VIP.

“I never would have believed it,” Allen told The Washington Post. “In the 1940s and 1950s, there were so many things in America you just couldn’t do. You wouldn’t even dream that you could dream of a moment like this.”

Although Allen often received offers to write a tell-all book or give speeches about his interactions with American leaders, he always declined. However, a Hollywood picture about his life is currently in the works. Laura Ziskin, the film’s producer, said the movie would act “as a portrait of an extraordinary African-American man who has lived to see the world turn.”

Allen and Helene were married for 65 years; she died the night before the 2008 election. He is survived by his son, Charles, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


Wanda Alston

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Categories: Politics

walston.jpgWanda Renita Alston, the director of the Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs, was murdered in her home on March 16. She was 45.
Born in Newport News, Va., Alston earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Norfolk State University in Virginia and a master’s degree in international management from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C. She overcame an addiction to cocaine and dedicated herself to becoming a feminist and a leader in the LGBT community.
In the early 1990s, Alston served as the executive assistant to Patricia Ireland, the former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and acted as the staff liaison to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition. As NOW’s special projects director, Alston helped organize four national marches on Washington and a Fight the Right March in San Francisco. In 1995, she lead a NOW delegation to the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.
Alston then worked with the Office of Human Rights and the Department of Employment Services. She helped establish sensitivity training for all government agencies and encouraged family court judges in the District of Columbia to create a mentoring program for children in foster care who self-identified as LGBT. Alston received numerous community service awards for her efforts, including the 1994 Welmore Cook Award from Black Pride, Inc., the 1995 National Welfare Rights Union community award, the 1995 D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals community service award and the 2004 Trust Servant Award from the Transgender Health Empowerment organization. In 1997, she established her own political consulting firm, Alston Consulting Services, Inc.
From 2001 to 2004, Alston served as a special assistant to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams on LGBT issues. Last September, the passionate advocate was appointed director of the newly formed Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. Her goal in the Cabinet-level position: “To ensure that the district’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents are fully integrated into the city’s civil and economic life.” In an effort to bridge the diversity gap in queer political culture, Alston recently organized the first citywide LGBT summit, which will be held on April 30.
“Wanda Alston’s contributions to the people of this city were beyond measure. She was a passionate, energetic woman who often spoke for those who were not able to speak for themselves and who cared for those who could not care for themselves. She was someone to admire; she was someone to learn from; and she was someone we loved. This is a huge loss for me personally, but beyond that, this is a huge loss for our city. My heart is broken,” Mayor Williams stated on his Website.
Alston was stabbed to death, allegedly by a neighbor who knocked on her door looking for money to buy crack. William Martin Parrott Jr., 38, was arrested less than 24 hours after Alston’s girlfriend, Stacey Long, found her body. Parrott has been charged with first-degree murder.
[Update – July 30, 2005: William Parrot, 38, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of gay activist Wanda Alston. On July 29, D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin sentenced him to 24 years in prison, the maximum term under sentencing guidelines.]