Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

October 23, 2003

Louise Day Hicks, 87, a former congresswoman and anti-busing activist who became a symbol of Boston's racial divide during the 1970s, died there Tuesday. The cause was not immediately known, but her sister-in-law, Rita Day, said she had been ill for some time.

When the city's busing crisis made national headlines, Mrs. Hicks was already well-known locally for her racially tinged stances during a single term in Congress, several years on the City Council, two bids for mayor and service on the Boston School Committee.

In 1974, U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. ordered city schools integrated by busing in response to a lawsuit from black parents, who claimed the city had created two separate school systems, one for whites and an inferior one for blacks.

Judge Garrity's remedy -- busing students out of their neighborhoods to racially integrate schools in others -- sparked violent racial conflict, particularly in the mostly white neighborhoods. The issue was seized on by Mrs. Hicks.

"If the suburbs are honestly interested in solving the problems of the Negro, why don't they build subsidized housing for them?" she once asked. "Boston schools are a scapegoat for those who have failed to solve the housing, economic, and social problems of the black citizen."

Despite her long-standing opposition to court-ordered busing as a member of the School Committee in the 1960s and on the City Council, Mrs. Hicks maintained she was not racist.

"A large part of my vote probably does come from bigoted people," she once said. "The important thing is that I'm not bigoted. To me, that word means all the dreadful Southern segregationist, Jim Crow business that's always shocked and revolted me."

Opponents, like James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality, called her "the Bull Connor of Boston," a reference to the police commissioner of Birmingham, Ala., who ordered fire hoses turned on civil rights demonstrators.

"She was a tragic figure," said Paul Parks, a former Boston School Committee chairman and vice president of the Boston NAACP. "She became an object of hate -- and she asked for it."

When the controversy over busing died, Mrs. Hicks faded from the public eye, and she lost a bid for re-election to the City Council in 1980. It was her last race for electoral office.

Her father, William J. Day, was a prominent Boston lawyer and much of her early political success had sprung from his popularity. She earned a law degree from Boston University in 1955.

She ran for mayor twice, in 1967 and 1971, the first time coming within 12,000 votes of being elected.

Fred Berry, 52, the bulb-shaped, squeaky-voiced actor famous for playing the red-beret-wearing goofball character Rerun on the 1970s TV sitcom What's Happening!, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles, apparently of natural causes. The county coroner was investigating, but friends said he had been ill because of a recent stroke.

What's Happening!, which ran from 1976 to 1979, focused on three teen-age friends -- Rerun, Raj and Dwayne -- who learn about life, women and trouble while growing up in Los Angeles. Among the more famous episodes was one in which Rerun joined a bizarre cult and another in which he was busted for making bootlegged tapes of a Doobie Brothers concert.

Mr. Berry's success on the show was clouded by his heavy use of marijuana and cocaine. By the time the show had ended, Mr. Berry said he had spent more than $1 million on drugs, cars, homes and an airplane.

By 1986, he had abandoned drugs and started speaking to churches, schools and other groups, finally working as a minister in Madison, Ala. He later made money by calling fans on the telephone, taking part in the service About $30 would earn a fan a 30-second call.

He continued to dabble in show business. He had a cameo role in the recent David Spade comedy film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, and television appearances on shows including MTV's Doggy Fizzle Televizzle with Snoop Dogg.

His six marriages to four women -- two of whom he wed twice -- all ended in divorce.

Jack Elam, a character actor and favorite Western villain who menaced good-guy cowboys with his crazy grin, wild eyes and remorseless gunslinging in films such as Rawhide and Wichita, died Monday in Ashland, Ore. Most biographies list him as 86 years old, but longtime friend Al Hassan said he was actually 84, having lied about his age as a youngster to get work.

Mr. Elam worked as a Hollywood accountant in the 1940s and had bit parts, usually uncredited, in several films. He helped arrange financing for the Robert Preston film The Sundowners in exchange for a larger role, as the husband of actress Cathy Downs. Then came a tough-guy part in 1951's Rawhide, starring Tyrone Power, which helped make him a star.

He continued working into his later years in such films as Suburban Commando (1991) and the TV reunion shows Bonanza: The Return (1993) and Bonanza: Under Fire (1995), his last screen credit.

Bernard Schwartz, 85, who produced Coal Miner's Daughter, the Academy Award-nominated movie on the life of country singer Loretta Lynn, died of stroke complications Friday in Los Angeles.

A one-time Broadway child actor, Mr. Schwartz got into television and film production in the 1950s, working on the popular paranormal suspense show Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond and the hit science fiction film Journey to the Center of the Earth.

His best-known and most lauded production was Coal Miner's Daughter, the 1980 film inspired by Ms. Lynn's song of the same name.

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