Other Notable Deaths


August 08, 2006

William Draper Blair Jr., 79, former president of the Nature Conservancy and a State Department spokesman who earlier had been a newspaper reporter, died Saturday from complications of multiple system atrophy, a rare brain disorder, at his summer home in Vinalhaven, Maine.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., and raised in Washington and New York City, Mr. Blair was a 1949 graduate of Princeton University and began his career that year in Baltimore at The Evening Sun. Sent to Korea as one of the Sunpapers' war correspondents, he was shot in the back by a North Korean sniper while covering a Marines operation along the Han River. He was later awarded the Purple Heart.

Mr. Blair later became a roving correspondent in Europe for The Sun before joining Newsweek magazine in 1953. He was the magazine's bureau chief in Bonn and Paris for six years before being named State Department spokesman in 1959. He retired as deputy assistant secretary for public affairs in 1980, and became president of the Nature Conservancy.

A fifth-generation Washington resident, his great-great-grandfather, Francis Preston Blair Jr., was co-publisher of the Washington Globe newspaper and had been a member of Andrew Jackson's Cabinet. His home on Pennsylvania Avenue became Blair House, where visiting White House guests stay, and his Montgomery County summer home near a spring lent its name to Silver Spring.

The Rev. Bernard T. Pagano, 81, a Roman Catholic priest wrongly accused of being the "Gentleman Bandit" who pulled a string of holdups in 1979, died Aug. 1 after suffering a stroke, the Wilmington News Journal reported.

He was suspected of committing nine robberies in Delaware and Pennsylvania in which a polite, middle-aged man pulled a gun on store clerks and demanded money.

During his 1979 trial, a string of witnesses said the priest was responsible for the robberies. But in a surprising turn, Ronald W. Clouser of Philadelphia came forward in the middle of the trial and admitted he was the Gentleman Bandit.

Prosecutors dropped the case against Father Pagano and apologized.

The story was told in a 1980 made-for-TV movie, The Gentleman Bandit.

After the trial, Father Pagano moved to New Jersey, where he was an advocate for people wrongly accused of crimes and a parish priest in New Brunswick. He retired a few years ago and had been living in a mobile home in Wind Gap, Pa.

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