Other Notable Deaths

Other Notable Deaths

May 24, 2007

FANNIE LEE CHANEY, 84 Mother of slain civil-rights worker

Fannie Lee Chaney, the mother of one of three civil rights workers killed in the "Mississippi Burning" case in 1964, has died, her son said Wednesday. She had lived to see a reputed Klan leader convicted two years ago in the young men's deaths.

Ben Chaney confirmed her death from his mother's home in Willingboro, N.J. He said funeral arrangements were pending, and information would be released later.

James Chaney, his older brother, was killed June 21, 1964, in central Mississippi's Neshoba County, along with fellow civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Mississippi prosecutors revived their investigation of the slayings a few years ago, and Fannie Lee Chaney testified in June 2005 at the Philadelphia, Miss., trial of reputed Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen.

Killen was convicted on three counts of manslaughter on June 21, 2005 -- exactly 41 years after the killings. Now 82, Killen is serving a 60-year prison sentence.

Fannie Lee Chaney, then 82, testified that on the morning of the killings, she made breakfast at her Meridian, Miss., home for Mr. Schwerner, Mr. Goodman and her son, whom she called "J.E." She said her son went to join the other two in delivering books.

"He never came back," she said.

Fannie Lee Chaney said she moved from Mississippi in 1965 after receiving threats, including one from a man who said he would dynamite her house and another caller who told her she would "be put in a hole like James was."

Mr. Chaney, a black man from Mississippi, and Mr. Schwerner and Mr. Goodman, white men from New York, were looking into the torching of a black church and helping register black voters during what was called Freedom Summer.

They had been stopped for speeding, jailed briefly and then released, after which they were ambushed by a gang of Klansmen.

Their bodies were found weeks later buried in an earthen dam. They had been beaten and shot.

Killen was tried along with several others in 1967 on federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights. The all-white jury deadlocked in Killen's case, but seven others were convicted. None served more than six years. Killen was the only person ever indicted on state murder charges in the case.

Mr. Schwerner's widow, Rita Schwerner Bender of Seattle, said yesterday that she and her late husband visited the Chaney home for meals and fellowship in the months before the killings. She said the 2005 trial was the last time she saw Fannie Lee Chaney.

"It sounds trite when you say it; she loved her children dearly. She was devastated by J.E.'s death," Ms. Bender said.

ROY DEFOREST, 77 Artist, professor

Roy DeForest, a nationally renowned artist and professor who was a founding member of what was described as the "California funk" art movement, has died.

Mr. DeForest died Friday at a San Francisco Bay area hospital following a brief illness, according to the university.

Mr. DeForest, whose work was exhibited throughout the United States, disliked the "California funk" term coined by Washington Post art critic Sidney Lawrence, who described it as a Northern California style in which "counterculture thinking fused with an anything-goes, anti-art attitude."

Mr. DeForest was born to a family of farmers in Nebraska during the Depression and grew up in Nebraska, Colorado and Washington.

He studied art at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco before joining the University of California, Davis art faculty as a lecturer in 1965. He became a full professor in 1974 and retired in 1992.

During his early tenure, he became part of a faculty that included Robert Arneson, Manuel Neri, Wayne Thiebaud and William Wiley, who helped the university develop a national reputation in fine arts. Primarily a canvas painter, he created whimsical scenes in vivid colors that often included fantastical creatures and dogs inspired by his cattle dogs.

BEN WEISMAN, 85 Pianist, song writer

Ben Weisman, a classically trained pianist who helped write nearly 60 songs for Elvis Presley, including many for his movies, died Sunday at a long-term care hospital in Los Angeles, said Barbara Gleicher of New York, who is married to Mr. Weisman's nephew.

He died of complications from a stroke and pneumonia, said his niece, Joy Auerbach, in Santa Monica.

Mr. Weisman, whom Mr. Presley dubbed "the mad professor," wrote or co-wrote a string of gold- and platinum-selling songs for Presley, including "Follow That Dream" and "Fame and Fortune." His songs include "Wooden Heart" for the movie G.I. Blues, "Rock-a-Hula Baby" for Blue Hawaii and "Crawfish" for King Creole.

He also wrote songs recorded by other pop stars, including Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Bobby Vee and the Beatles.

Born in Providence, R.I., Mr. Weisman was raised in Brooklyn. He studied classical piano as a teenager and at the Juilliard School of Music. He began writing for Mr. Presley in 1956 at the request of his music publisher, Jean Aberbach.

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