Deaths Elsewhere


November 15, 2005

William B. Bryant, 94, the first African-American to serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, died Sunday in Washington.

Friday, President Bush signed legislation to name a new $110 million, nine-courtroom addition to the federal courthouse in Judge Bryant's honor - a measure introduced by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's delegate to the House of Representatives, along with legislation to name a federal building in Detroit for Rosa Parks.

Judge Bryant, who continued hearing cases as a senior judge until recently, was nominated to the federal bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 after distinguishing himself in private practice and as a federal prosecutor in Washington.

"Throughout his long and distinguished career, Judge Bryant sought to achieve equal justice, always careful to preserve the dignity of those who appeared before him," said current Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan. "Judge Bryant was the soul of the court and will be greatly missed."

"District residents revere Judge Bryant as a Washingtonian who spent his life overcoming racial odds to represent residents with such excellence that the bar and the legal establishment itself had to admit him," Ms. Norton said yesterday.

Judge Bryant was known for his dedication to Constitutional law and believed that lawyers could stop injustice.

"Without lawyers, this is just a piece of paper," Bryant said of the Constitution in an interview with The Washington Post last year. "If it weren't for lawyers, I'd still be three-fifths of a man. If it weren't for lawyers, we'd still have signs directing people this way and that, based on the color of their skin."

Vine Deloria Jr., 72, a scholar and Standing Rock Sioux member who galvanized social and institutional change with his 1969 manifesto, Custer Died for Your Sins, died Sunday in Golden, Colo.

His seminal work forced anthropologists and government officials to amend their relationships with tribal people, from returning human remains and artifacts to shifting federal control to tribal officials.

A descendant of Sitting Bull and of legendary Yankton medicine man Saswe, and son of a Christian minister, Mr. Deloria was born in Martin, S.D. He served in the Marines and graduated from Iowa State University and the Lutheran School of Theology.

Mr. Deloria earned a law degree from the University of Colorado, where he was a professor until retiring in 2000.

He was director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1964 to 1967. Under his guidance, an organization hemorrhaging members and influence became a strong presence in Washington. His 1965 editorial "Now Is the Time" helped establish tribal autonomy and installed Mr. Deloria as "our Martin Luther King," in the words of Indian-rights attorney Charles Wilkinson.

He published Custer Died for Your Sins and its 1970 sequel, We Talk, You Listen, at the apex of the Indian-rights movement. Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of Cherokee Nation, called his books the clearest articulation of "the unspoken emotions, dreams and lifeways of our people."

Ernest Crichlow, 91, an artist of the Harlem Renaissance who spent nearly a century painting and drawing black America, died Thursday at a New York hospital.

Mr. Crichlow was part of a community of artists who came of age in 1930s Harlem and honed their craft at an uptown workshop established by the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project during the Great Depression.

Working at a time when many of the country's great black artists went unrecognized, Crichlow exhibited his work at galleries mostly in the Northeast in the 1940s and 1950s. But by the end of his career, he had been honored at the White House by President Jimmy Carter and seen his paintings and lithographs exhibited at some of the nation's top museums.

David Westheimer, 88, a novelist whose works included My Sweet Charlie and Von Ryan's Express, which was turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra, died of heart failure Tuesday in Los Angeles.

During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces as a navigator aboard a B-24 bomber. Shot down by Italian fighter planes, he spent 28 months as a prisoner of war and drew upon his experiences when he wrote Von Ryan's Express, a story about an American soldier leading fellow POWs on a daring escape from the Germans in Italy.

In 1965, he wrote My Sweet Charlie, which dealt with racial tensions in a Texas town and a bond that develops between a black civil-rights activist and a pregnant white teen. It was made into a successful play, produced on Broadway in 1966, and later a television movie that earned an Emmy Award for actress Patty Duke.

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