Friday, June 23, 2017

A00745 - Solly Walker, Trailblazing St. John's Basketball Player






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As a senior, Solly Walker led St. John’s in scoring, with 14 points per game, and rebounding, with 12.2 per game. CreditSt. John's University Athletics

Solly Walker, who as St. John’s University’s first black basketball player broke another racial barrier when in 1951 he played in a game against the University of Kentucky on its home court, died on Friday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 85.
His wife, Minta Walker, said that he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but that she was not certain what caused his death.
Walker was a 6-foot-4 standout at Boys High School in Brooklyn before he earned a scholarship to St. John’s, which was in Brooklyn at the time. (The main campus is now in Queens.) Led by the future Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire, the St. John’s basketball program was becoming a national contender when Walker joined it in 1950, the first black player to do so.
He quickly hit his stride, leading the freshman team to a 17-2 record and averaging 15.1 points per game. He was accepted by his teammates, but his on-campus reception could be frosty, he would say later.
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It was in his sophomore year, during his first varsity season, that Walker faced overt racism, when St. John’s was scheduled to play Kentucky on its home court, Memorial Coliseum, in Lexington.
Kentucky, coached by Adolph Rupp, innovator of the fast-break offense and one of college basketball’s most dominant figures, had won the previous year’s N.C.A.A. championship.
In 1951, the University of Kentucky remained a primarily white bastion, refusing admission to undergraduate blacks. (It had started admitting blacks to its graduate programs in 1949 but would not admit them as undergraduates until 1954. Its basketball team remained all-white until 1970.)
Rupp flatly refused to let Walker play on his home court.
“You can’t bring that boy down here to Lexington,” Rupp said, as quoted by Dave Anderson of The New York Times in a column in 1994.
“Then cancel the game,” McGuire snapped.
Rupp relented, and the game took place, with Walker in the St. John’s lineup, making him by all accounts the first black to play against Kentucky in Lexington.
The game itself was a rout — Kentucky won, 81-40 — and Walker was injured and taken out after hitting six of his first seven shots.
Ms. Walker said her husband had rarely talked about the game. “He didn’t want to relive it,” she said. But he told her in recent months that Coach McGuire and some of his teammates had stayed with him when he was barred from segregated hotels and dining rooms.
“I learned a great deal from my experience with Coach McGuire as to how to treat people,” Walker was quoted as saying in “100 Years of St. John’s Basketball,” a 2008 coffee table book written and compiled by Jim O’Connell and Paul Montella of The Associated Press. “The situation against Kentucky was uncomfortable. After all, I was only 20 years old. My confidence in my coach made me feel very secure.”
St. John’s faced Kentucky again that March, in the 1952 N.C.A.A. tournament’s round of 8. This time, St. John’s won, 64-57, largely thanks to 32 points from center Bob Zawoluk.
St. John’s beat Illinois in the national semifinals, but lost to Kansas, 80-63, in the championship game. Walker, a sophomore, averaged 4.4 points and 3.8 rebounds during the season, in which St. John’s was 25-6.
In the 1952-53 season, Walker helped St. John’s to a 17-6 record. St. John’s said that in his senior year, he led the team in scoring, with 14 points per game, and rebounding, with 12.2 per game. He was drafted by the Knicks but chose not to play at a time when professional basketball players made far less money than they do today. He became a teacher instead.
Solly Walker was born on April 9, 1932, to Zodthous Walker and the former Eva Utsey in South Carolina. (His wife was not certain of the town.) The family moved to Brooklyn when he was young.
He met Minta Gillespie at a church in Brooklyn in 1950. They married three years later.
After college, he began a long career in the New York City educational system, working with special-needs children. He was eventually named principal of P.S. 58 Manhattan High School (now P.S. 35) and retired in 1999.
In addition to his wife, with whom he lived in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, he is survived by a brother, Thomas; two sons, Kevin and Gregory; four daughters, Debra Lesane, Cheryl Davis, Minta R. Walker and Wendy Walker; 15 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
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*Solly Walker, a basketball player who was St. John’s University’s first African American basketball player and who broke another racial barrier when in 1951 he played in a game against the University of Kentucky on its home court, was born in South Carolina (April 9). 
Solly Walker (b. April 9, 1932, South Carolina - d. April 28, 2017, Brooklyn, New York) was born to Zodthous Walker and the former Eva Utsey in South Carolina. (His wife was not certain of the town.) The family moved to Brooklyn when he was young where he later starred at Boys High School in Brooklyn.

Walker was a 6-foot-4 standout at Boys High School in Brooklyn before he earned a scholarship to St. John’s, which was in Brooklyn at the time. (The main campus is now in Queens.)  Led by the future Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire, the St. John’s basketball program was becoming a national contender when Walker joined it in 1950, the first black player to do so.

In his first season on the varsity, Walker, on December 17, 1951, became the first black player to compete in a basketball game against Kentucky on the Wildcats' home court. He was injured in that game and spent the remainder of it on the bench after making all but one of his first seven shots.  

St. John's reached the NCAA championship game that season, the first of two Final Four appearances in the school's history. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.8 rebounds during a 25-6 season under Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire.

In 1952-53, the 6-foot-4 swingman helped St. John's advance to the National Invitation Tournament title game by averaging 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. His finest season came as a senior in 1953-54 when he topped the team in scoring (14) and rebounding (12.2).

Walker was drafted by the New York Knicks but chose a career with the New York City Board of Education. After college, he began a long career in the New York City educational system, working with special-needs children. He was eventually named principal of P.S. 58 Manhattan High School (now P.S. 35) and retired in 1999.

In 1993, he was inducted into the St. John's athletic hall of fame.
Walker met Minta Gillespie at a church in Brooklyn in 1950. They married three years later.


A00744 - Ann Sneed, Patron of Jazz in Schools and Concert Halls

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Ann Sneed in an undated photograph.
Ann Sneed, whose love of jazz led her to create an organization that for 35 years promoted jazz concerts and sent top performers into schools to preach the value of music and education, died on April 21 in Las Vegas. She was 87.
Her daughter Kathleen Lukens said the cause was cancer.
Ms. Sneed founded the nonprofit International Art of Jazz out of frustration. She was living in Stony Brook, on Long Island, and was a regular at nightclubs in Manhattan. One night in 1964 at the Embers on East 54th Street, she recalled, she could barely hear the jazz pianist Eddie Heywood playing over the din of customers and waiters.
“And I said, ‘Gosh, I wish that we could hear Eddie in a concert,’ and Eddie came over and said, ‘I’m giving a concert and I’d like you to come,’” she told The New York Times in 1978. The concert, a benefit for Mr. Heywood’s children’s school in White Plains, “absolutely destroyed me because I had never heard jazz in a concert situation before,” she said. “That’s what did it.”
Soon after, she told a friend, “We’ve got to do something like this.”
She began the International Art of Jazz modestly, with winter concerts on Sunday afternoons around Long Island. With the support of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, the organization was bringing music into poor areas by the late 1960s. Eventually, the organization expanded its concerts and educational efforts around the state.
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Among the musicians who played at the concerts were the vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, the trumpeter Clark Terry, the pianists Billy Taylor and Marian McPartland, the saxophonist James Moody and the singer Ruth Brown. Ms. Brown had been an R&B star in the 1950s, but her career had faded and she was living with her sons in Deer Park on Long Island, supporting herself as a domestic worker and a bus driver. In 1968, Ms. Sneed heard about Ms. Brown’s circumstances and urged her to sing again.
“The I.A.J. allowed me to sing during those years,” Ms. Brown told The Times in 1989. “Kept me alive musically and helped pay the bills, making it possible for me to get back home in time for the kids after school.” She had a career resurgence and won a Tony Award in 1989 for best performance by an actress in a musical for “Black and Blue.”
The trumpet player Dave Burns, a veteran of the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, said in 1978 that Ms. Sneed’s group “was the most important thing around for keeping jazz alive, not just because it gives us musicians a chance to work but because by bringing top-shelf music to the people we’re making jazz a part of people’s lives.”
Ann Elizabeth Harris was born in Westport, N.Y., on Lake Champlain, on May 19, 1929. Her father, Harold, was a physician and an expert on undulant fever; her mother, the former Aileen Russell, was a teacher. At home, Dr. Harris played the banjo and the family listened to cowboy music, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Brahms and Duke Ellington on a Capehart record player. One day Paul Robeson visited her family’s house with his friend, the landscape painter Rockwell Kent, who was also friendly with the Harrises. Mr. Robeson sang “Ol’ Man River” on the porch.
Ms. Sneed played the piano, favoring boogie-woogie, and had a lifelong love for Joe Sullivan’s bold and bouncy song “Little Rock Getaway.”
In addition to her daughter Kathleen, she is survived by another daughter, Jan Sneed, and two grandsons. Her marriages to William Sneed and John Evo ended in divorce.
The International Art of Jazz occasionally faced financial problems, including a near-bankruptcy in 1990. Ms. Sneed closed it nine years later, believing that a state requirement that nonprofit arts groups make unemployment insurance payments for all independently contracted musicians would have put the organization out of business.
“That was very sad,” Jan Sneed said in an interview. “We always said the whole point of doing something was to pass it on.”
Her mother later donated recordings of her group’s concerts to the Library of Congress.

A00743 - Burton Watson, Influential Translator of Classical Asian Literature




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Burton Watson produced indispensable English versions of Chinese and Japanese literary, historical and philosophical texts. Creditvia Columbia University Press

Burton Watson, whose spare, limpid translations, with erudite introductions, opened up the world of classical Japanese and Chinese literature to generations of English-speaking readers, died on April 1 in Kamagaya, Japan. He was 91.
His death was confirmed by his nephew William Dundon.
For nearly six decades, Mr. Watson was a one-man translation factory, producing indispensable English versions of Chinese and Japanese literary, historical and philosophical texts, dozens of them still in print. Generations of students and teachers relied on collections like “Early Chinese Literature” (1962), “Chinese Lyricism: Shih Poetry From the Second to the Twelfth Century” (1971), “From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry” (1981) and “The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the 13th Century” (1984).
He rendered the poems of such classic Chinese writers as Su Tung-p’o, Po Chu-I and Du Fu and the Japanese poets Ryokan and Masaoka Shiki in a contemporary idiom informed by his wide reading in modern American poetry. In “Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei” (1987), the essayist Eliot Weinberger described Mr. Watson as not only “a prolific and particularly fine translator” but also “the first scholar whose work displays an affinity with the modernist revolution in American poetry: absolute precision, concision, and the use of everyday speech.” His admirers included the poets Gary Snyder and W. S. Merwin.
In 2015, the literary organization PEN awarded Mr. Watson its Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, calling him “the inventor of classical East Asian poetry for our time.”
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Burton DeWitt Watson was born on June 13, 1925, in New Rochelle, N.Y. His father, Arthur, was a hotel manager, and his mother, the former Carolyn Bass, was a homemaker.
His first encounter with Chinese culture came through a neighborhood laundry. “Each year at Christmas the laundry people gave us a box of dried litchi nuts and a container of jasmine tea, and sometimes they threw in a copy of an illustrated magazine in Chinese,” he said in a 2005 interview. “This was my first encounter with written Chinese.”
He dropped out of high school in 1943 to enlist in the Navy. At the end of World War II, his ship was sent to the Yokosuka Naval Base in Tokyo Bay, where he picked up enough spoken Japanese to use during shore leave.
After returning to the United States, he began studying Chinese at Columbia University. He earned a B.A. in 1949 and a master’s degree in 1951. He spent time learning Japanese as a graduate student at Kyoto University before returning to Columbia for his doctorate in Chinese, which was awarded in 1956.
A version of his dissertation, on Sima Qian, a historian of the Han dynasty, was published by Columbia University Press in 1958 as “Ssu-ma Ch’ien, Grand Historian of China.”
By then Grove Press had already published his translations of several kanshi — poems in Chinese written by Japanese poets — in Donald Keene’s “Anthology of Japanese Literature” (1955). He would return to this specialized branch of Japanese literature in “Japanese Literature in Chinese,” a two-volume anthology published in 1975 and 1976, and “Kanshi: The Poetry of Ishikawa Jozan and Other Edo-Period Poets” (1990).
Because of restrictions imposed by China’s Communist government, he could not visit China until 1983, a decade after he had settled permanently in Japan. He was able to support himself with his translation work, but for several years he supplemented his income writing advertising copy and product instruction manuals for an Osaka agency.
He is survived by his longtime companion, Norio Hayashi.
Mr. Watson’s many translations also include “Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the Tang Poet Han-shan” (1962), “Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings” (1964), “The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu” (1968), “Ryokan, Zen Monk-Poet of Japan” (1977) and “The Tso Chuan: Selections From China’s Oldest Narrative History” (1989). In 1995, in a rare excursion into modern literature, he translated Mori Ogai’s “The Wild Goose,” a Japanese novel written between 1911 and 1913.
In 2015, New York Review Books reissued his 1971 book “Chinese Rhyme-Prose,” a collection of 13 fu, or prose poems, a genre popular between the second century B.C. and the sixth century A.D.