Alpha Robertson, 83, who lost her youngest child in a...

Deaths Elsewhere

August 13, 2002

Alpha Robertson, 83, who lost her youngest child in a church bombing in 1963 and testified decades later against two Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in the blast, died Sunday in Birmingham, Ala.

Mrs. Robertson, who had battled cancer and other illnesses, was hospitalized two weeks ago and had suffered her third stroke.

She was the mother of Carole Robertson, 14, who was among four black girls killed when a bomb went off at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963.

She testified about that Sunday morning during the trial last year of Thomas Blanton Jr. and the case this year against Bobby Frank Cherry, the last two suspects in the bombing.

The two men were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. A third Klansman was convicted in 1977 and died in prison, and a fourth suspect died without being charged.

Special prosecutor Doug Jones called Mrs. Robertson an "amazing lady."

"We referred to her as the moral center of the universe," he said. "She just had that presence and aura that brought you in and cradled you."

Mrs. Robertson, a widow and retired school librarian, was featured in 4 Little Girls, director Spike Lee's documentary.

Michael "Mikey" Houser, 40, guitarist and singer for the rock band Widespread Panic, died of pancreatic cancer Saturday in Athens, Ga. He had released a statement last month explaining his illness and saying he would not participate in the band's summer tour.

In 1982, Mr. Houser began playing with the band's vocalist, John Bell, while both were attending the University of Georgia. The band formed three years later with bass player Dave Schools, percussionist Domingo Ortiz and keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann. Widespread Panic is known for its blues-based music with long, improvisational passages and progressive percussion that attracted fans of "jam" bands such as the Grateful Dead and Phish.

Peter Matz, 73, an Emmy- and Grammy-winning musical director, composer and arranger, died Friday in Los Angeles of lung cancer.

Known for inserting musical jokes into his arrangements, Mr. Matz delighted the singers he worked with and the audiences looking on. He had a long association with Barbra Streisand and conducted most of the material on her first five albums for Columbia Records.

The relationship led to a string of accolades for Mr. Matz: a Grammy for his arrangements on Streisand's 1964 album, People; an Emmy for her 1965 television special, My Name Is Barbra; an Academy Award nomination for best original score for her 1975 film, Funny Lady; and another Grammy nomination in 1986 for arranging, conducting and producing her platinum recording The Broadway Album.

Mr. Matz also won an Emmy for a 1973 segment of The Carol Burnett Show. He was musical director of Ms. Burnett's show for eight years.

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