Other Notable Deaths

November 05, 2007

MARTIN MEEHAN, 62 IRA commander

Martin Meehan, a one-time Irish Republican Army commander who spurred IRA members toward compromise, died of a heart attack Saturday at his Belfast home, the Sinn Fein party said.

Mr. Meehan spent 18 years in prison for a wide range of offenses, but ended his days as a firm advocate of peace and compromise in Northern Ireland.

He was among the first IRA members arrested in August 1969, the month Britain deployed its army as would-be peacekeepers amid Protestant-Catholic rioting.

Mr. Meehan was convicted in 1980 of leading the torture of a 17-year-old Belfast boy suspected of being an informer. Mr. Meehan, insisting he was not involved, pursued a 66-day hunger strike that ended only with intervention from Roman Catholic Church leaders.

Soon after his 1985 parole, he was put behind bars again for kidnapping, torturing and preparing to execute a British soldier.

Paroled again in 1994, Mr. Meehan became a prominent activist for the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party.

When the central goal of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord - a Catholic-Protestant administration that would govern Northern Ireland - repeatedly broke down because of the IRA's refusal to disarm, Mr. Meehan proved pragmatic on the point, suggesting that the IRA would need to renounce violence fully.

RAY S. SMITH JR., 83 Arkansas legislator

Ray S. Smith Jr., a former state legislator who cast the sole vote against a bill that allowed Little Rock high schools to close in 1958 after desegregation efforts the year before, died Thursday in Hot Springs, Ark. The cause of death was not released.

Mr. Smith served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for 28 years as a Democrat and was known by peers as a man who stood by his principles - even in the charged atmosphere of Little Rock after nine black students integrated Central High School in 1957.

In August 1958, then-Gov. Orval Faubus called a special session of the Legislature to pass a law allowing him to close public schools to avoid integration and lease the closed schools for private groups to run.

The next month, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Little Rock schools to continue with desegregation plans. Mr. Faubus ordered Little Rock's four high schools to be closed and city voters overwhelmingly supported the closures.

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