Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

February 27, 2003

The Rev. E.V. Hill, 69, longtime pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles who rose from poverty in Texas to become a confidant of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and a power within one of the nation's largest African-American denominations, died of pneumonia Monday.

At 21, Mr. Hill became pastor of Mount Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Houston. While there, he was one of seven black pastors in various Southern cities who joined Dr. King in forming the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was to become central to the civil rights struggle. Mr. Hill nominated Dr. King as president of the conference.

It was to Mr. Hill's church that President George Bush paid a visit in the days immediately after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Mr. Hill also preached on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. His back-to-basics, no-nonsense Christianity holding men accountable for their lives and marriages became a staple at Promise Keepers rallies across the country.

He also was a leader in the 7.5 million-member National Baptist Convention, the nation's largest grouping of black churches, and in 1998, he defended the denomination's disgraced president, the Rev. Henry Lyons, who was found guilty of racketeering. When Mr. Lyons stepped down, Mr. Hill ran unsuccessfully to succeed him.

Edwin "Eddie" Chambers Dodson, 54, a Hollywood shop owner who became one of the most prolific individual bank robbers of the last century, died Friday at a Los Angeles hospital from liver failure related to hepatitis C and cancer.

For a decade, Mr. Dodson hobnobbed with Hollywood celebrities, models and designers in his trendy art and furniture shop on famous Melrose Avenue. But in 1983 he started robbing banks to support a cocaine and heroin addiction.

Retired FBI agent William Rehder said Mr. Dodson robbed more banks than any other individual -- 64 during one crime spree between July 1983 and February 1984 and another eight during a second crime spree in 1999. The first spree netted more than $250,000. He averaged about $8,500 a robbery during the second.

Mr. Rehder said the Shelby, N.C., native also set a record by robbing six banks on a single day -- Nov. 29, 1983.

Mr. Dodson mostly robbed banks in affluent areas, used only an unloaded starter pistol to commit most of his crimes, and was known for his soft-spoken, courteous and friendly manner when holding up tellers.

He pleaded guilty to both robbery sprees, serving a total of about 13 years. He was last released in October.

"He wasn't particularly prepared ahead of time," the retired agent said. "Most of the robberies he did were not well planned. He basically robbed in volume."

Alex Cameron, 65, the pronouncer at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee for more than two decades, was found dead Monday in his apartment near Dayton, Ohio, apparently of natural causes.

An associate professor of English at the University of Dayton, Mr. Cameron enunciated more than 18,000 words to spellers at the annual bee over the past 22 years. Mr. Cameron had been helping Scripps Howard officials build a spelling-bee dictionary.

Louis LaRusso II, 67, a prolific playwright whose characters often relived the tribulations of the working people among whom he lived, died of bladder cancer Saturday in Jersey City, N.J.

Mr. LaRusso -- who lived in his native Hoboken, N.J., in the 1860s rowhouse in which his mother had been born -- wrote scores of plays. About two dozen of them chronicled working-class life in his hometown, starting with Beginnings, which recalled his grandparents' arrival at the house that became his own home.

Among his work was Lamppost Reunion, which won Tony and Drama Desk nominations for best play in 1976. It told of past friends spending the night drinking with a famous singer after a performance at Madison Square Garden.

Other plays produced on Broadway were Wheelbarrow Closers (1976) and Knockout (1979). His off-Broadway work included Marlon Brando Sat Right Here (1980) and Sweatshop (1998), which was presented at the American Theater of Actors and related the tale of 10 struggling women in a coat factory during a heat wave 40 years earlier.

Howie Epstein, 47, a former bass player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, died Sunday in Santa Fe, N.M., of what authorities suspect was a drug overdose. He was 47.

Investigators were told Mr. Epstein had been using heroin, said Maj. Ron Madrid of the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department.

In addition to his work with Mr. Petty, he played on some of Bob Dylan's albums in the 1980s and produced a Grammy-award winning album for folk singer-songwriter John Prine, The Missing Years.

Roberto R. Alvarez, 84, who made millions as an international produce distributor but made history when at age 12 he won a landmark court case to desegregate his grammar school, died of stroke complications Thursday in San Diego.

The young Alvarez was lead plaintiff in a 1931 lawsuit against the school district in Lemon Grove, Calif., near San Diego, which had tried to move Mexican-American students into a separate building at its grammar school.

A court in San Diego County ruled the school could not legally separate the children. The case was the first successful challenge to school segregation, coming 23 years before the U.S. Supreme Court held segregation unconstitutional in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case.

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