Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

November 28, 2003

Sylvia Bernstein, 88, a native Washingtonian who championed civil rights and fought to desegregate the city in the 1950s, died of pancreatic cancer at her home there Sunday.

The daughter of Russian immigrants, Mrs. Bernstein worked to desegregate area restaurants, an amusement park and public swimming pools and playgrounds. She advocated home rule for the District of Columbia, protested the Vietnam War and the development of nuclear weapons.

Over the years, she and her husband, Albert, a union activist, made their former home in Silver Spring into a salon of sorts, where thinkers and activists met to debate. Mr. Bernstein died in February.

Members of the Communist Party in the 1940s, the Bernsteins were targets of government scrutiny. Mrs. Bernstein invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid revealing her party ties to Congress but openly campaigned on behalf of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed in 1953.

While she was not rallying against it, Mrs. Bernstein also worked briefly for the federal government. She was a secretary for the War Department in the 1930s and, decades later, volunteered in the White House, answering letters to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Bernstein's lifelong commitment to social causes is chronicled in her son Carl's 1989 memoir, Loyalties. Carl Bernstein is the former Washington Post investigative reporter who, along with Bob Woodward, won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of Watergate break-in stories that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Dorothy Loudon, 70, a Broadway star who won the 1977 Tony Award for her portrayal of the mean-spirited orphanage manager in Annie, died of cancer Nov. 15 in New York.

The three-time Tony nominee landed her most famous role as the result of a chance encounter with an old friend, director Mike Nichols, who had taken over as producer of the show. He quickly offered her the role of Miss Hannigan -- the nemesis of the show's orphaned star. She was an instant success, winning the Tony, a Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics' Circle Award.

Before her success in Annie, she was repeatedly noted as a shining star in a series of Broadway flops, including The Fig Leaves Are Falling, a musical comedy that closed after just four performances in 1969. She received rave reviews for her 1983 performance as a washed-up television comedienne in Noises Off.

Ed Schempp, 95, whose lawsuit against compulsory Bible reading in public schools preceded a landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision declaring the practice unconstitutional, died Nov. 8 in Hayward, Calif.

Mr. Schempp, a Unitarian and a self-taught electrical engineer from Philadelphia, filed the suit in 1956 after a school reprimanded his 16-year-old son for reading from the Quran instead of the Bible during daily reading sessions.

Ellery Schempp planned the reading in protest of a 1949 Pennsylvania law requiring students to read 10 Bible verses each day, followed by a recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

"I picked the Quran because it was another holy book that happened to be handy at the time," the son, now 63, said. "I wanted to indicate that Christ and the Bible were not the only holy scriptures of the world."

Three years after his father sued, a panel of three judges in Philadelphia ruled the law unconstitutional. The school appealed to the Supreme Court. On June 17, 1963, the court decided 8-1 to outlaw required Bible reading in public schools.

Mr. Schempp attracted much less attention in the legal fight than Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an outspoken atheist who had filed a similar suit in Baltimore and who gained widespread notoriety.

Florence Curl Jones, 95, a Native American healer and spiritual leader of the Winnemem band of Wintu Indians, died Saturday in Redding, Calif.

She was revered among many tribes for her healing abilities using native plants and her strict adherence to traditional ways. She also fought for the protection of sacred Indian land, working to get the Winnemem band returned to the Bureau of Indian Affairs' list of officially recognized tribes.

She was also the most fluent speaker of the tribe's endangered language and helped foster its revival.

Ms. Jones' mother was 60 years old when she gave birth to her along the banks of the McCloud River, south of Mount Shasta. "They immediately decided she was special," said Toby McLeod, a filmmaker who depicted Ms. Jones' life in the 2001 documentary In the Light of Reverence.

William Butts Macomber Jr., 82, a former government official and diplomat who in 1978 became the first full-time president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, died Nov. 19 at his home in Nantucket, Mass., of complications from Parkinson's disease.

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