Saturday, May 13, 2017

A00725 - Dennis Edwards, Judge Who Presided Over Trial of Lennon's Killer

Dennis Edwards Jr., the judge who presided over the trial of Mark David ChapmanJohn Lennon’s killer, in 1981, died on April 13 at his home in Manhattan. He was 95.
The death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Ayanna Behin.
Mr. Edwards had served for more than 15 years as a law secretary to the New York Supreme Court before Mayor Robert F. Wagner appointed him a judge on the criminal court in 1965. He was reappointed by Mayors John V. Lindsay in 1972 and Edward I. Koch in 1981.
At the criminal court, which handles arraignments and misdemeanor crimes, he set bail, heard testimony and pronounced sentences (or dismissed charges) for a long procession of Vietnam War protesters, the restaurateur Toots Shor (accused of assaulting an unruly customer in 1967) and a teenage robbery suspect who charged the bench and hit Judge Edwards over the head with his shoe.
His most famous case came as an acting Supreme Court justice in 1981, when Mr. Chapman, against the advice of his lawyer, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Lennon outside his apartment building, the Dakota, in Manhattan in December 1980. The charge was second-degree murder.
On accepting the plea, Judge Edwards told Mr. Chapman that he would hand down a sentence no longer than 20 years to life, calling the maximum sentence of 25 years to life “inappropriate” because the defendant had voluntarily entered a guilty plea.
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In a highly unusual move, Judge Edwards closed the proceedings to the public and press. A court transcript showed that he had expressed worries that if he chose not to accept the plea deal, his decision, once publicized, might prejudice Mr. Chapman’s trial.
Dennis Edwards Jr., left, being sworn in as a judge.
At sentencing, Judge Edwards recommended that Mr. Chapman receive psychiatric treatment during his confinement. In 1984, a state appeals court upheld his decision to accept Mr. Chapman’s guilty plea. Mr. Chapman’s lawyer had asked that it be voided on the grounds that his client was mentally incompetent at the time.
Mr. Chapman is still serving his sentence at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, N.Y. He was denied parole for the ninth time in August 2016.
Dennis Edwards Jr. was born on Aug. 19, 1921, in Harlem, to immigrants from Barbados. His father ran a real estate company, and his mother, the former Gladys Wilson, was a homemaker.
After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in government in 1941 from Washington Square College, as the Manhattan undergraduate school of New York University was then known.
He had not thought of becoming a lawyer, but to prepare himself for a political science course he joined his local Democratic Party organization, whose members urged him to study law.
He was admitted to Harvard Law School and, after graduating in 1944, took a job in the legal department of the Service Transportation Corporation. In 1948 he was appointed law secretary to the State Supreme Court, where he served under Justices Benjamin F. Schreiber and Henry Clay Greenberg.
In 1983 Gov. Mario M. Cuomo appointed him to the State Court of Claims, where he served until his retirement in 1989.
His wife, the former Dorothy Fairclough, died last year. In addition to his granddaughter, he is survived by two daughters, Lynne Edwards Engelskirchen and Denise Edwards Young; two other grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A00724 - Eddie Williams, Black Think Tank Director


Eddie N. Williams in 1982. In 1972, he was recruited to run what was then called the Joint Center for Political Studies. CreditTeresa Zabala/The New York Times

Eddie N. Williams, the son of a hotel housekeeper who as the head of the nation’s leading black think tank for more than three decades marshaled facts and figures to advocate the political and economic advancement of black people, died Monday in Bethesda, Md. He was 84.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his wife, Jearline Williams.
In 1972, Mr. Williams was recruited by two prominent black men, Kenneth B. Clark, the educator and psychologist, and Louis E. Martin, a former White House aide under Lyndon B. Johnson, to run what was then called the Joint Center for Political Studies.
The center had been established in Washington two years earlier to provide political and governmental expertise to the trailblazing black officials who had been elected since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was approved.
“Where white politicians relied on the clubhouse wisdom of their political parties, or the research of universities and venerable think tanks, black politicians found themselves adrift,” the journalist Juan Williams wrote in a 1995 history of the center.
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Well before he retired in 2004, Eddie Williams had transformed a fledgling institution into an unrivaled source of research on the state of black America. Nonpartisan but liberal-leaning, it had also expanded its agenda to include issues like blacks in the military, migration to the suburbs, the state of the black family and the effect of foreign policy on black Americans.
Mr. Williams eventually changed the institution’s name to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, to reflect the important role that education, health care, income inequality and employment, in addition to voting rights, played in its mission.
“The question today is not whether we can ride on the front of the bus, but whether the bus comes to our communities and whether we have bus fare,” Mr. Williams wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 1976. “The issue is no longer whether blacks have an equal opportunity to get a job, but whether there is a job to get.”
Mr. Williams, who broke ground himself during the Kennedy administration as the State Department’s first black protocol officer, was not a flashy presence. He left that to the candidates and elected officials for whom he supplied the statistical foundation to defend affirmative action in college admissions or challenge gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts.
“Eddie led the way from African-American activism to governance — from being outsiders to insiders,” said Spencer Overton, the center’s current president.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said that Mr. Williams’s “research and policy work was the basis for most black political and civil rights gains in the post-King, pre-Obama era.”
Eddie Nathan Williams was born Aug. 18, 1932, in Memphis to Edie Williams, a jazz pianist, who died when he was young, and the former Georgia Lee Barr. He was raised by his mother, a hotel maid.
After graduating in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he had majored in journalism, he worked for The Memphis Star-Times, a black-oriented newspaper; served in the Army and was discharged as a first lieutenant; and became a reporter for another black paper, The Atlanta Daily World.
After working for the State Department, he served on the staffs of three Capitol Hill Democrats, Representative James Roosevelt of California and Senators Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
He became director of the Center for Policy Study at the University of Chicago in 1968 and was later named its vice president for public affairs. He also wrote columns for The Chicago Sun-Times.
In 1988, he was awarded a coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
His first marriage, to Sally E. Smart, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, the former Jearline Franklin, he is survived by a son from his first marriage, Larry Williams; a stepson, Terrence Reddick; and two grandchildren. A daughter from his first marriage, Traci Lynne Williams, died in 2009.
Shortly after he joined the Joint Center for Political Studies in 1972, Mr. Williams told Jet magazine, “There are numerous instances in which minorities and the poor are treated like neglected rear wheels on this nation’s wagons and many occasions on which they have been admonished: ‘Thou shalt not squeak.’”
But their squeak became louder, he said, after the election of Ronald Reagan and other conservatives in 1980.
Black people, he told The Times in 1983, “were being ignored and felt their backs were against the wall.”
“Therefore,” he added, “they felt they had to come out and vote and be politically active. The alternative was to throw bricks.”
By the time Mr. Williams retired, his verdict was that voting had made a difference.
“I look at the glass as being more half-full than half-empty,” he told Crisis magazine in 2004.
By then, according to the center’s regular count, there were more than 10,000 black elected officials in the country, compared with only 500 when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
But as the center’s 2015 survey found, while black people comprised more than 13 percent of the population of the United States, they held about 10 percent of the seats in the House, 2 percent in the Senate about 9 percent in state legislatures and 6 percent on city councils.
Still, it was a very different world from the one in which Mr. Williams accompanied the Nigerian prime minister to Knoxville, Tenn., in 1961 as the State Department protocol officer and wound up on the front lines of integration at the Andrew Johnson Hotel, where a clerk said he would admit the dignitary but not Mr. Williams.
As he recounted the episode to The Washington Post in 2004, he recalled the hotel clerk saying, “‘We don’t take American Negroes in this hotel.’” He added: “They took Africans because it was necessary. They didn’t want to upset foreign relations.”
However, the clerk’s refusal upset Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Mr. Rusk vowed that the hotel would never play host to another guest from the federal government if it refused to accommodate Mr. Williams.
Mr. Williams got his room.

*Eddie Williams, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES), a think tank focused on African American issues, was born in Memphis, Tennessee (August 18).
Eddie Nash Williams (b. August 18, 1932, Memphis, Tennessee - d. May 8, 2017, Washington, D. C.) served as president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) from 1972 to 2004. Williams was also the founding chairman of the board of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
Williams graduated from the University of Illinois in 1955. After serving in the United States Army, Williams worked as a reporter. He went on to become the first African-American protocol officer at the State Department, and he also worked on the staffs of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.).
In 1968, Williams joined the University of Chicago as director for the Center for Policy Study. Shortly thereafter, he became the vice president for public affairs.
In 1972, Williams was tapped to lead the JCPES. The organization had been founded just two years prior to support the hundreds of newly elected African-American officials who took office in the aftermath of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Over the next three decades, Williams built the JCPES into one of the leading institutions in African-American political thought and research.  He hosted African-American elected officials every four years to assemble policy priorities to share with presidential candidates and transition teams. Under his leadership, the JCPES helped establish several organizations of African-American elected officials, built a roster of more than 10,000 Black elected officials, and helped to establish the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. He also created Focus magazine in an effort to bring together Black elected officials, political activists and scholars nationwide.
The JCPES flourished under Williams. It regularly commissioned and published surveys of African Americans when it was not popular, and produced studies, reports, books and events. The JCPES attracted top African-American thinkers such as John Hope Franklin, Mary Frances Berry, Kenneth Clark, Chris Edley and Ron Walters, to name a few, who worked there during Williams’ tenure.
In 1988, Williams was awarded a coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
His first marriage, to Sally E. Smart, ended in divorce. His second marriage was to the former Jearline Franklin. he is survived by a son from his first marriage, Larry Williams; a stepson, Terrence Reddick; and two grandchildren. A daughter from his first marriage, Traci Lynne Williams, died in 2009.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A00723 - Kate O'Beirne, National Review Editor and Conservative Columnist

Kate O’Beirne, Washington editor for National Review, with Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” in February 2008. CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press
Kate O’Beirne, who cogently advanced the conservative agenda in the pages of National Review and unflinchingly defended it on the CNN program “The Capital Gang,” died on Sunday in McLean, Va. She was 67.
April Ponnuru, a friend, said the cause was lung cancer.
“If Irving Kristol was the ‘Godfather’ of neoconservatism, then Kate O’Beirne was the den mother of the modern American right,” Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review, wrote on its website.
Mrs. O’Beirne devoted her life to conservative causes. She served in the Department of Health and Human Services under President Ronald Reagan; was deputy director of domestic policy studies and vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation; and was Washington editor and wrote the “Bread and Circuses” column for National Review under its founding editor, William F. Buckley Jr.
For 11 years she sparred with Robert Novak, Albert Hunt, Mark Shields and Margaret Carlson on “The Capital Gang.” She was also a substitute host on “Crossfire” on CNN and a commentator on “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” on PBS.
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In 2005, after 10 years as National Review’s Washington editor, she became president of the National Review Institute, a research and advocacy organization, a post she held for six years.
“Both her ‘Bread and Circuses’ column for National Review and her television commentary were marked by a rare combination of a deep interest in conservative policy, psychological insight and common sense,” said another colleague at the magazine, Ramesh Ponnuru.
Kate Monica Walsh was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 23, 1949, to Matthew Walsh and the former Catharine Rice. Her father and his brother-in-law owned Jimmy Ryan’s, a jazz nightclub in Manhattan. She was raised in Manhasset.
She was steeped in conservatism from the start. Her father was a charter subscriber to National Review. (“Even though he was an Irish Catholic, he was always Republican in his sympathies because he was a small-business man,” Mrs. O’Beirne told the St. John’s University alumni magazine in 2002.)
Her only venture into electoral politics was a successful campaign for senior class president at St. Mary’s High School on Long Island. She studied at Good Counsel College in White Plains (later the College of White Plains, which merged with Pace University), where she earned a degree in English and journalism.
She worked in Washington for Senator James L. Buckley (a brother of William), who was elected from New York in 1970 on the Conservative Party line, then returned to New York to get a degree from St. John’s University School of Law.
In 1976 she married James O’Beirne, an Army officer who became a White House liaison with the Pentagon. He survives her, as do their two sons, Phil and John; her sisters, Mary Ann, Virginia and Rosemary; and several grandchildren.
In 1986, after traveling for a decade with her husband while he was in the Army, Mrs. O’Beirne moved to Washington with her family and became deputy assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“When you worked for Reagan, you just knew what to do,” she once said. “Nobody had to tell you what to do. You didn’t wait for orders. You got up in the morning, went to your job, and did what you knew Reagan wanted done because you were a conservative.”
She was the author of “Women Who Make the World Worse and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military and Sports” (2005), which cited Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Smeal, the former president of the National Organization for Women, as among the worst offenders.
In addition to promoting the conservative cause, Mrs. O’Beirne was considered a mentor to fellow journalists. “I doubt I would have become editor of National Review or survived the daunting task of working for Bill Buckley at the helm of his beloved magazine if it hadn’t been for Kate’s friendship, counsel and wisdom,” the magazine’s current editor, Rich Lowry, wrote on the magazine’s website. “She was funny, warm, creative, generous, and might have been the most persuasive person I’ve ever known.”
She once said that she agreed with the adage that “New York is a tough town, but Washington is a mean town,” yet contended that she had a home edge.

“We New Yorkers have some advantage because we can say a lot in a sound bite,” she said. “We can talk fast.”

A00722 - Robert Pirsig, Author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

Robert M. Pirsig in 1975.CreditWilliam Morrow, via Associated Press
Robert M. Pirsig, whose “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” a dense and discursive novel of ideas, became an unlikely publishing phenomenon in the mid-1970s and a touchstone in the waning days of the counterculture, died on Monday at his home in South Berwick, Me. He was 88.
His publisher, William Morrow, announced his death, saying his health had been failing. He had been living in Maine for the last 30 years.
Mr. Pirsig was a college writing instructor and freelance technical writer when the novel — its full title was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values” — was published in 1974 to critical acclaim and explosive popularity, selling a million copies in its first year and several million more since. (A first novel, it would be followed by only one more, the less successful “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals,” a kind of sequel, in 1991.)
The novel, with its peculiar but intriguing title, ranged widely in its concerns, contemplating the relationship of humans and machines, madness and the roots of culture.
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Todd Gitlin, a sociologist and the author of books about the counterculture, said that “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” in seeking to reconcile humanism with technological progress, had been perfectly timed for a generation weary of the ’60s revolt against a soulless high-tech world dominated by a corporate and military-industrial order.
Mr. Pirsig’s dense novel remained near the top of the best-seller lists for a decade.CreditWilliam Morrow & Company
“There is such a thing as a zeitgeist, and I believe the book was popular because there were a lot of people who wanted a reconciliation — even if they didn’t know what they were looking for,” Mr. Gitlin said in 2013 in an interview for this obituary. “Pirsig provided a kind of soft landing from the euphoric stratosphere of the late ’60s into the real world of adult life.”
Mr. Pirsig’s plunge into the grand philosophical questions of Western culture remained near the top of the best-seller lists for a decade and helped define the post-hippie 1970s landscape as resoundingly, some critics have said, as Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan” helped define the 1960s.
Where “Don Juan” pursued enlightenment in hallucinogenic experience, “Zen” argued for its equal availability in the brain-racking rigors of Reason with a capital R. Years after its publication, it continues to be invoked by famous people when asked to name a book that affected them most deeply — among them the former professional basketball player Phil Jackson, the actors William Shatner and Tim Allen, and the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel laureate.
Part road-trip novel, part treatise, part open letter to a younger generation, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” unfolds as a fictionalized account of a cross-country motorcycle trip that Mr. Pirsig took in 1968 with his 11-year-old son, Christopher, and two friends.
The narrative alternates between travelogue-like accounts of their 17 days on the road, from the Pirsigs’ home in Minnesota to the Pacific Coast, and long interior monologues that he calls his “Chautauquas,” after the open-air educational meetings at Lake Chautauqua, N.Y., popular with self-improvers since the 19th century.
Mr. Pirsig’s narrator (his barely disguised stand-in) focuses on what he sees as two profound schisms. The first lay in the 1960s culture war, in which the “hippies” rejected industrialization and the technological values that had been embraced by the “straight” mainstream society.
The second schism is in the narrator’s own mind, as he struggles in his hyperrational way to understand his recent mental breakdown. Mr. Pirsig, who was told he had schizophrenia in the early 1960s, said that writing the book was partly an effort to make peace with himself after two years of hospital treatments, including electric shock therapy, and the turmoil that he, his wife and children suffered as a result.
Describing both breakdowns, cultural and personal, Mr. Pirsig’s narrator invokes the Civil War: “Two worlds growingly alienated and hateful toward each other, with everyone wondering if it will always be this way, a house divided against itself.”
He adds: “What I’m trying to do here is put it all together. It’s so big. That’s why I seem to wander sometimes.”
(Mr. Pirsig’s son Chris was later also found to be mentally ill and institutionalized. He died in 1979 after being stabbed in a mugging outside the San Francisco Zen center where he had been living.)
In a foreword to the book, Mr. Pirsig told readers that despite its title, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” should “in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice.”
He added, “It’s not very factual on motorcycles either.”
Instead, he wrote later: “The motorcycle is mainly a mental phenomenon. People who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this.”
He added, “A study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself.”
The literary critic George Steiner, writing in The New Yorker, described the book as “a profound, if somewhat clunky, articulation of the postwar American experience” and pronounced it worthy of comparison to “Moby-Dick” as an original American work. In London, The Times Literary Supplement called the book “disturbing, deeply moving, full of insights.”
(Not all reviewers were wowed. Writing in Commentary, Eva Hoffman found Mr. Pirsig’s ruminations obtuse. “Beneath the complexity of disorganization,” she said, “the picture of society which the book presents and the panaceas it offers are distressingly na├»ve.”)
One of Mr. Pirsig’s central ideas is that so-called ordinary experience and so-called transcendent experience are actually one and the same — and that Westerners only imagine them as separate realms because Plato, Aristotle and other early philosophers came to believe that they were.
But Plato and Aristotle were wrong, Mr. Pirsig said. Worse, the mind-body dualism, soldered into Western consciousness by the Greeks, fomented a kind of civil war of the mind — stripping rationality of its spiritual underpinnings and spirituality of its reason, and casting each into false conflict with the other.
In his part gnomic, part mechanic’s style, Mr. Pirsig’s narrator declares that the real world is a seamless continuum of the material and metaphysical.
“The Buddha, the Godhead,” he writes, “resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower.”
Robert Maynard Pirsig was born in Minneapolis on Sept. 6, 1928, to Harriet and Maynard Pirsig. His father was a law professor and dean of the University of Minnesota Law School. As a child, Robert spoke with a stammer and had trouble making friends; though highly intelligent (his I.Q. was said to be 170), he was expelled from the University of Minnesota because of failing grades.
Serving in the Army before the start of the Korean War, he visited Japan on a leave and became interested in Zen Buddhism, and remained an adherent throughout his life. After his Army service, he returned to the university and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism.
He later studied philosophy at the University of Chicago and at Banaras Hindu University in India and taught writing at Montana State University in Bozeman and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also did freelance writing and editing for corporate publications and technical magazines, including the first generation of computer journals.
His first marriage, to Nancy Ann James, ended in divorce. He married Wendy Kimball in 1978. She survives him, as do a son, Ted; a daughter, Nell Peiken; and three grandchildren.
Mr. Pirsig maintained that 121 publishing houses rejected “Zen” before William Morrow accepted it. He was granted a $3,000 advance, but an editor cautioned him against hoping the book would earn a penny more. Within months of its release, it had sold 50,000 copies.
With the book’s success Mr. Pirsig became famous, wealthy and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. He also, he said, became thoroughly unnerved. After enduring a flood of interviews, he began refusing them. He said he had reached the limits of his patience when fans started showing up at his house outside Minneapolis.
His neighbors called them “Pirsig’s Pilgrims.” Most were young people in search of a guru. Mr. Pirsig wanted none of it.
“One morning I just woke up at 3,” he told The Washington Post years later. “I told my wife, ‘I just have to get out of here.’ We had the camper packed in half an hour, and I was on the road.” He stayed away for months at a time, sometimes far out at sea on his boat.
In interviews, he lamented that he was not embraced by academic philosophy departments, and that his books were sometimes lumped with “new age” publications in bookstores.
The near-cult popularity of “Zen,” though, puzzled him for years before he came up with a theory. Writing in an afterword to the 10th-anniversary edition in 1984, he used a Swedish word (it was his mother’s native language) to describe the phenomenon. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” he wrote, was a “kulturbarer,” or culture-bearer.
A culture-bearing book is not necessarily a great book, he said. It does not change the culture. It simply heralds a change already underway. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” an indictment of slavery published before the Civil War, was a culture-bearing book, he said.
“I was just telling my own story,” he said in a short interview posted on his website. He had never intended to make a splash.
“I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts,” he added, “and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else.”