Notable Deaths Elsewhere

August 14, 2009


Pioneering civil rights lawyer

Pioneering civil rights lawyer Margaret Bush Wilson, a former national chair of the NAACP, died Tuesday in St. Louis of multiple organ failure.

Mrs. Wilson, whose life passion was being a lawyer, had continued practicing law until June. She was the second black woman to pass the Missouri Bar after graduating from the now-defunct Lincoln University School of Law, a "separate but equal" institution that had been created for blacks in Missouri.

Mrs. Wilson was born in 1919, one year before women won the right to vote, and broke barriers in her career.

She and her husband, Robert E. Wilson Jr., started a law firm in St. Louis after World War II.

She joined the legal team on the historic Shelley v. Kramer case, which challenged housing covenants that excluded blacks and Jews from neighborhoods in St. Louis and other cities. The case, which came out of her father's real estate dealings, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1948 that the covenants were unenforceable.

Mrs. Wilson's mother had helped organize the state NAACP and her father had paid the attorney fees in the Shelley v. Kramer case.

After presiding over the city and state NAACP, Mrs. Wilson became the first black woman to head the national NAACP board for nine terms starting in 1975.

She served as U.S. attorney for the Rural Electrification Administration and assistant attorney general in Missouri.



Riccardo Cassin, a mountaineering pioneer credited with 100 first ascents from the Himalayas to Alaska, died Aug. 6 at his home in Piani Resinelli, a hamlet north of Milan at the foot of the Alps, his climbing equipment company said. The cause of death was not announced.

He was born into poverty on Jan. 2, 1909, in the northeast village of San Vito al Tagliamento. As a young man, Mr. Cassin began work as a blacksmith in the town of Lecco on Lake Como. Sunday outings with friends in the nearby mountains sparked his love for climbing over a six-decade career.

He and his companions were known as the Ragni di Lecco, "the Spiders of Lecco." They went on to pioneer daring routes that are still used today to climb some of the world's most treacherous peaks.

The most memorable of Mr. Cassin's first ascents included the 1961 climb up the southern ridge of Alaska's Mt. McKinley, the highest peak of North America at 20,320 feet.

Mr. Cassin and his five companions received a congratulatory telegram from President John F. Kennedy after they conquered McKinley at the cost of severe frostbite. The most daunting McKinley ridge is named after Mr. Cassin.

Mr. Cassin continued to climb until the late 1980s, totaling about 2,500 ascents.

- Associated Press

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