Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

September 12, 2004

Frank Thomas, 92, one of Walt Disney's top artists who animated two dogs romantically nibbling a strand of spaghetti in the 1955 Disney film Lady and the Tramp, died Wednesday at his home in La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

In his 43-year history at Disney, Mr. Thomas, often working with old friend and collaborator Ollie Johnston, also animated the dancing penguins in Mary Poppins and the rabbit Thumper teaching a young deer how to ice-skate in Bambi.

Mr. Thomas, who started working at the Walt Disney Studios in 1934, made animation history as a member of the team that created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated feature. He then directed the animation of the title character in Pinocchio and himself drew the I've Got No Strings musical number. His other credits include the wicked stepmother in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

He and Mr. Johnston retired in 1978 and went on to write several influential books on animation, including Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life and The Disney Villain.

Ernie Ball, 74, a pioneer maker of rock 'n' roll guitar strings used by legions of artists, from the Rolling Stones to Merle Travis, died Thursday at his home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., after an illness.

His strings and instruments were used by music stars over the past four decades, from B.B. King to Metallica. Beginning with a small music shop in the San Fernando Valley, he built a business with annual sales of $40 million and a worldwide reputation.

Born Sherwood Ball, he grew up in Santa Monica and learned how to play the Hawaiian steel guitar from his father when he was 9 years old.

Ernie Ball items are sold in more than 5,000 music stores in the United States and exported to more than 70 countries.

Kirk Fordice, 70, a no-nonsense businessman who became Mississippi's first Republican governor in more than 100 years, died Tuesday of leukemia at a hospital in Jackson, Miss.

A self-made millionaire through his Fordice Construction Co., he upset incumbent Democrat Ray Mabus in 1991 to become Mississippi's first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Mr. Fordice served as governor from 1992-2000, becoming the first Mississippi governor to win re-election. Until 1987, Mississippi governors could serve only one term.

His image as governor was that of a gruff and domineering politician who was successful in pushing for spending restraints, tougher sentencing laws and more prisons.

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