Other Notable Deaths


December 31, 2005

Col. Lewis Hanson, 81, a pilot for four presidents who helped fly the plane that brought John F. Kennedy's body back from Dallas aboard Air Force One, died Tuesday at a New Hampshire hospital, according to a funeral home spokesman.

Colonel Hanson flew everyone from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the Shah of Iran. His presidential passengers included presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson.

No flight was more heartrending than the one in which he brought President Kennedy's body back to Washington from Dallas. On Nov. 22, 1963, he had watched Kennedy step from the plane at Love Field, then went to visit his mother-in-law. He saw news of the assassination on television.

"My mind rejected the idea, as though it was some kind of bad dream," Colonel Hanson said.

Later that day, he stood in the doorway of Air Force One while President Johnson, with Jackie Kennedy by his side, took the oath of office. "We knew we were witnessing a historic event," he said. "There was a new president. And there was sadness."

Colonel Hanson retired in 1969 to New Hampshire, where he raised cattle and chickens, and produced maple syrup. He became a town selectman in 1970, a position he held for more than 35 years until his death.

William W. Howells, 97, a leading physical anthropologist who focused on the origins of humans and the evolution of races, died Dec. 20 at his home in Kittery Point, Maine.

Dr. Howells, emeritus professor of anthropology at Harvard, made perhaps his most important contribution through his statistical analyses of the physical variations among today's humans. His conclusion, based on skull measurements, was that modern humans are of one species, with little to tell them apart.

He made his lasting anthropological discoveries in the mid-1960s when discord and dispute clouded the debate over racial issues. With his wife, Muriel, as his assistant, Dr. Howells undertook a pioneering study of measurements taken from thousands of skulls at dozens of sites in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

His data came from specimens representing local populations of unusual homogeneity, and his analysis of the measurements he collected indicated to him that the variations within these groups far exceeded the variations distinguishing group from group.

The evidence from his research bolstered the proposition that all modern humans are of one homogeneous species, whereas earlier humans, even very recent relatives such as the Neanderthals, differed from them as distinctly alien species.

Later methods, such as analysis of DNA, further buttressed that finding. Anthropologists still use the raw data of his skull measurements, along with other techniques, in studying relationships among ethnic groups.

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