Cornelia Wallace


Categories: Government

Cornelia Wallace was a beauty queen, a singer, a mother and a socially-active governor’s wife, but Southerners will always remember her for a split second decision she made in 1972. For when her husband was shot at a political rally, Cornelia threw herself over his fallen form in an effort to comfort and protect him from additional bullets.
Before she became the first lady of Alabama, Cornelia Ellis was simply known as “C’nelia.” Born in Elba, Ala., she studied voice and piano at Methodist Huntingdon College and Rollins College, and placed in the semifinals of the Miss Alabama contest. As a young woman, Cornelia performed with country singer Roy Acuff, recorded two songs (“It’s No Summer Love” and “Baby With the Barefoot Feet”) for MGM and starred in a water ski show in Cypress Gardens, Fla., but a full-time career in the entertainment field remained just out of reach. While the dark-haired beauty did catch the eye of millionaire John Snively III, whom she married and bore two sons before their divorce in 1969, Cornelia’s place in history actually began at a party when she was only 8 years old.
The event was held at the governor’s mansion, where her uncle, Gov. James E. “Big Jim” Folsom, held court. There she encountered George Corley Wallace Jr., a hard-line segregationist and state legislator 19 years her senior. At the time, Wallace was married to his first wife, Lurleen, who became Alabama’s first and only female governor in 1967. But when Lurleen died of cancer a year and half into her term, Lt. Gov. Albert Brewer took over. Despite political pressure from President Richard M. Nixon to opt out of the race, Wallace challenged Brewer for the job and won it in 1971. Two weeks before the gubernatorial inauguration, he wed Cornelia, a move that did not endear the public to her.
While Cornelia was totally committed to Wallace and his career, most of the state’s residents preferred his first wife. Public opinion of Cornelia changed in 1972 when Wallace decided to run for president on the Democratic ticket. On May 15, 1972, at a campaign stop in Laurel, Md., would-be assassin Arthur Bremer shot Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Cornelia’s instinctive decision to protect him — and her loyalty to him during his long recovery — showed the true measure of her devotion.
After the assassination attempt, Cornelia vowed to carry on his presidential campaign until he was well enough to do so. Taped conversations between Wallace and another woman tempered this effort, as did his depressed and angry outbursts. The couple divorced in 1978, and Wallace died 20 years later. In 1997, their story served as the focus of the TV movie, “George Wallace,” starring Gary Sinise and Angelina Jolie. Although the role earned Jolie a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, Cornelia was reportedly dissatisfied with the way she was portrayed.
Cornelia entered the Democratic primary for governor in 1978, but she put on a weak campaign and finished last among 13 candidates. After the election, she retired to central Florida to spend more time with her children.
Wallace died on Jan. 8 of cancer. She was 69.


A Look Back

Categories: Site News

hourglass.jpgSome people believe writing obituaries is a morbid job, but in truth, only one line deals with death. The rest of the story focuses on the amazing lives people lead.
Whenever I hear about a death, I ask myself, “Did they live with passion? Did they accomplish great things? Did they touch other people’s lives in a positive or negative way? Did they contribute something to the world that was previously missing?” Then, I simply try to tell a good story using the facts at my disposal.
This year, The Blog of Death chronicled the lives of celebrities, criminals, artists, heroes and ordinary people who did extraordinary things. These 10 obituaries were my personal favorites:
* Gemina, the beloved crooked-necked giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
* Lazare Ponticelli, the last French veteran of World War I.
* Vicki Van Meter, a record-setting young pilot.
* Pippa Bacca, an Italian performance artist.
* Dianne Odell, a children’s book author and polio sufferer.
* Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who gave an inspiring final lecture.
* Sandy Allen, the tallest woman in the world.
* Maudie Hopkins, one of the last known widows of a Confederate soldier.
* Dave Freeman, co-author of “100 Things to Do Before You Die: Travel Events You Just Can’t Miss.”
* Gus, the ugliest dog in the world.
Rest in peace.


George M. Docherty

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Categories: Religious Leaders

George MacPherson Docherty, a Presbyterian pastor who used the pulpit to get the phrase “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance, died on Nov. 27. He was 97.
Born in Scotland, Docherty graduated from Glasgow University and completed a three-year pastorate at Aberdeen’s North Kirk before immigrating to the United States in 1950. He spent the next 26 years working as a pastor at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C.
In 1952, Docherty’s 7-year-old son came home from school and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy. Although Docherty wasn’t a U.S. citizen, he took offense that God was not acknowledged in the pledge and vowed to do something about it. That year, he gave a sermon at his church, which was located just blocks from the White House, and used the fear of “godless communists” to encourage a change in the pledge’s phrasing.
“I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity,” Docherty once said.
Docherty repeated the sermon on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning President Dwight D. Eisenhower planned to attend his service. The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase “under God” to the pledge. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Homer Ferguson, R-Mich. In the midst of the McCarthy era, both pieces of legislation passed and Eisenhower signed the bill on June 14. In the five decades since the religious update, numerous lawsuits have claimed the altered pledge violates the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.
Docherty hosted a religious TV program in Washington, D.C., for 22 years, and penned a book of sermons entitled “One Way of Living.” His autobiography, “I’ve Seen the Day,” was published in 1984. Docherty also used his position at the church to rail against the Vietnam War and to promote racial equality. He invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to preach from his pulpit and even joined King on the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
Docherty and his family moved back to Scotland in 1976, but returned to America 13 years later. In his final years, he gave guest sermons in Huntington, Pa., and enjoyed playing golf and the violin.


Arthur Shawcross


Categories: Criminals

Arthur John Shawcross, a serial killer who terrorized the Rochester, N.Y., area from 1988 to 1990, died on Nov. 10 of a heart attack. He was 63.

Born in Kittery, Maine, and raised in Watertown, N.Y., Shawcross was an awkward child who frequently fought with other children, a practice that earned him a reputation as a bully. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, and enlisted in the Army, serving a tour of duty in the Vietnam war.

Upon his return to the states, Shawcross moved back to Watertown. In 1972, he lured Jack Owen Blake, 10, into the woods and sexually assaulted and murdered the boy. Four months later, he raped and killed an 8-year-old girl named Karen Ann Hill.

Shawcross later confessed to these slayings, but avoided a life sentence by cutting a deal with the prosecutor. In return for leading police to the bodies and pleading guilty to killing Hill, he would receive a 25-year sentence and no charges for the Blake murder. Shawcross spent 15 years in prison before being released on parole in 1987.

The following year, he settled in Rochester, N.Y., and began a killing spree that would earn him the name: “The Genesee River Killer.”

From 1988 to 1990, Shawcross murdered 11 women: Patricia Ives, Frances Brown, June Cicero, Darlene Trippi, Anna Marie Steffen, Dorothy Blackburn, Kimberly Logan, June Stotts, Marie Welch, Elizabeth Gibson and Dorothy Keller. Most of his victims were strangled and beaten to death; several were also mutilated, their body parts consumed. The press gave Shawcross the ominous moniker because most of the women’s bodies were dumped near the Genesee River.

With the assistance of several FBI profilers and experts, the police set up surveillance on the body of the final victim and caught Shawcross hanging out near the dump site. He confessed to the killing spree while in custody, telling police he was “takin’ care of business,” but later pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

During the 13-week televised trial, the defense offered testimony from psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis that claimed Shawcross suffered from multiple personality disorder, brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder. The jury didn’t buy the argument and found him guilty and sane after only 6 1/2 hours of deliberations. He was sentenced to 250 years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever handed down in New York state.

Shawcross’ crimes were chronicled in the 1992 book “Arthur Shawcross: The Genesee River Killer” by Joel Norris, which included a recording of his confession, and in the 1993 book, “The Misbegotten Son” by Jack Olsen. He was also featured in several programs dealing with serial killers as well as the 2003 HBO documentary, “Cannibal: The Real Hannibal Lecters.”

While behind bars, Shawcross married and later divorced Clara D. Neal. He also reconnected with his only daughter, Margaret Deming of Brooklyn, N.Y., and began painting portraits that were included in an annual inmate art show at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, N.Y. The “Corrections on Canvas” show, which had been staged for 35 years, was discontinued in 2002, after the public protested that Shawcross was profiting from the sale of his pictures.




Categories: Misc.

gus.jpgGus had three legs, one eye, few teeth, little hair and a face only a mother could love. But he caused a worldwide sensation when he won the 20th annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest last summer.
The pink and black Chinese crested was neglected as a pup; his previous owner kept him crate-bound inside a dark garage. When the Teed family of Gulfport, Fla., learned of his living conditions, they adopted him as one of their own.
Chinese crested dogs do not originate from China. The breed actually hails from the Crest Haven Kennel in America. These canines come in two varieties: Hairless and Powderpuff, but hairlessness is the dominant trait.
Gus, however, was no powderpuff. A skin tumor cost him his left hind leg, and a fight with a feline took his left eye. Despite these infirmities, his favorite activities included lounging on the couch, growling at the cat that scratched his eye out and eating pizza and french fries.
Twelve dogs vied for the title of the World’s Ugliest Dog last June, but Gus took the top prize in the contest, a hugely popular event at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif. He won two trophies and $1,600 in prize money, which Jeanenne Teed used to pay for his skin cancer treatment.
“I have never really thought of him as ugly, and even now, looking at the videos, I feel like he must have bamboozled the judges,” Teed said.
Winning the contest put Gus squarely in the public eye. He made numerous media appearances, including “The Early Show” on CBS, “The Today Show” on NBC and “The Howard Stern Show.” Animal Planet plans to air footage of Gus next October.
When the cancer wrapped around Gus’ spine and began pressing against his abdomen, his family knew the end was near. Gus was euthanized on Nov. 10 at the age of 9. The Teeds buried him in their backyard and covered his grave with a Butterfly bush with golden flowers.

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