Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

April 24, 2005

Dr. Norman D. Newell, 96, an influential paleontologist who challenged opponents of evolutionary theory and helped shape theories explaining the mass extinctions of species, died Monday at his home in Leonia, N.J.

In a wide-ranging career that included scholarship, fieldwork, and popular writing, he taught at Columbia University and spent four decades as a curator of invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

He pursued his interests in the evolution of living and fossil bivalve mollusks, the formation and ecology of coral reefs and the geological history of the Peruvian Andes. His work on mass extinctions began in the 1950s, when he began to look at the disappearance of certain clams and other mollusks from the fossil record in Texas.

Diane Knippers, 53, a religious strategist who helped conservative Christians raise an increasingly loud and unified voice in the traditionally liberal bastions of mainline Protestantism in recent years, died of cancer Monday in Arlington, Va.

Knippers was the longtime president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington. The institute is a resource center for conservative members of the mainline denominations -- primarily the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopal churches -- disaffected by their churches' policies, especially on sexuality.

When the Episcopal Church consecrated its first gay bishop in 2003, Mrs. Knippers, a member of the church's Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, helped lay the groundwork for a rebellion that threatens to split the church.

Her detractors accused her of exploiting and deepening divisions in churches that need healing. But she said she was merely working to give the silent majority its say in church policy.

Johnnie Johnson, 80, a rock 'n' roll pioneer who teamed with Chuck Berry for such hits as "Roll Over Beethoven" and "No Particular Place to Go," died April 13 at his St. Louis home. He had been hospitalized a month ago with pneumonia and was on dialysis for a kidney ailment.

Though he was never a household name, Mr. Johnson helped define early rock 'n' roll. Mr. Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was a tribute to Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson later performed with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley, among others.

In 2000, Mr. Johnson sued Mr. Berry, seeking a share of royalties and credit for what Mr. Johnson said were more than 50 songs the men composed together. A federal judge dismissed the suit in 2002, ruling that too many years had passed since the disputed songs were written.

Dr. James H. Semans, 94, the founding chairman of the North Carolina School of the Arts, died Thursday in Durham, N.C.

A retired Duke University physician, he championed the arts school in Winston-Salem and many other artistic and humanitarian causes. Most often, he did so with his wife, Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, the great-granddaughter of university namesake Washington Duke.

Among national arts organizations he served are the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Institute of Music, the American Council for the Arts and the School of American Ballet.

Bill Mabe, 74, a co-founder of the Baldknobbers, billed as first country music and comedy show in Branson, Mo., died Thursday at his home in Nixa, Mo. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

He co-founded the Baldknobbers Jamboree Show, now in its 46th season, in 1959 with his brothers Bill, Lyle and Bob. He played guitar and sang harmony with the group from the start until he retired from performing in the 1990s. He continued to work with the show as a producer into the current season.

Gene Frankel, 85, who directed the landmark off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's The Blacks, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure in New York City.

Although he directed on Broadway -- most notably a 1969 production of Arthur Kopit's Indians, starring Stacy Keach as Buffalo Bill -- it was off-Broadway where he enjoyed his greatest success. His production of The Blacks, Genet's sardonic drama about role-playing in society, opened in 1961 and ran for more than 1,400 performances. Its original cast included James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Cicely Tyson and Godfrey Cambridge.

Among his other Broadway productions were A Cry of Players (1968); a revival of the Kurt Weill musical Lost in the Stars (1972); and The Night That Made America Famous (1975), a musical revue featuring the songs of Harry Chapin and starring the composer.

Andrea Dworkin, 58, who wrote openly about the experiences as a prostitute, rape victim and battered wife that led her to become a crusader against pornography and violence against women, died April 9 at her home in Washington. She had been ill for several years from ailments including osteoarthritis.

Ms. Dworkin's radical-lesbian brand of feminism brought both attention and discord to the women's rights movement. Some women objected to her crusade against pornography as an infringement on women's choice of how to use their bodies, and civil libertarians opposed it as an assault on the First Amendment.

She devoted her work and more than a dozen books to fighting what she considered the subordination of women, notably in marriage and pornography. Among her best-known books are Pornography: Men Possessing Women (Putnam/Perigee, 1981); Intercourse (Free Press, 1987); and Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (Basic Books, 2002).

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