Rest in peace
June 4, 2019

Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall said Monday that a transgender woman was pulled from a local lake on Saturday with "obvious signs of homicidal violence," and with four unsolved homicides of trans women dating back to 2015, Dallas police are seeking federal help. "The Dallas Police Department has reached out to the FBI because as we know, this is the second individual who is transgender, who is deceased in our community," Hall said. "We are concerned, we are actively and aggressively investigating this case."

The discovery of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey's body followed the May fatal shooting of 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker, the October 2018 fatal shooting of 29-year-old Brittany White, and the near-fatal stabbing of another transgender woman in April. All four slain trans women and were black, as is the stabbing victim. Police say they don't yet have evidence linking the crimes. An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau is "committed to investigating all federal crimes and providing assistance to our local partners when asked," and if "information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to assist."

At least 136 transgender people have been killed since 2013, most of them black transgender women, the Human Rights Campaign says, and the actual number is probably much higher due to misreporting of gender or transphobia. Before she was shot dead, Booker gained national attention due to a video of her being brutally beaten by several men in a parking lot, with a cheering crowd egging the attackers on. "This has been a rough week for myself, the transgender community, and also the city of Dallas," Booker said at a press conference in April. "This time, I can stand before you ... whereas in other scenarios, we are at a memorial." Peter Weber

March 6, 2019

Jerry Merryman, one of three men credited with inventing the handheld calculator, died on Feb. 27 from complications of heart and kidney failure, The Associated Press reports. He was 86.

Between 1965 and a final patent application in 1974, Merryman worked with James Van Tassel under the direction of Jack Kilby (pictured, left) at Texas Instruments to develop the first portable calculator. Kilby won a Nobel Prize in 2000 for inventing the integrated circuit in 1958, paving the way for modern computers. The prototype of their calculator is in the Smithsonian.

Merryman joined Texas Instruments in 1963, at age 30, after a few years at Texas A&M University and various jobs, including measuring hurricane winds on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. "Jerry did the circuit design on this thing in three days, and if he was ever around, he'd lean over and say, 'and nights,'" former TI colleague and friend Ed Millis told AP. Another former colleague, Vernon Porter, called Merryman "absolutely, outstandingly brilliant," adding: "I have a Ph.D. in material science, and I've known hundreds of scientists, professors, Nobel prize-winners, and so on. Jerry Merryman was the most brilliant man that I've ever met. Period."

Merryman explained the genesis of their calculator to NPR in 2013: "It was late 1965 and Jack Kilby, my boss, presented the idea of a calculator. He called some people in his office. He says, we'd like to have some sort of computing device, perhaps to replace the slide rule. It would be nice if it were as small as this little book that I have in my hand. ... Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution." He retired from Texas Instruments in 1994. Peter Weber

February 14, 2019

Lyndon LaRouche Jr., a candidate for president every election from 1976 to 2004 — including one run from inside jail, in 1992 — died Tuesday, his political action committee confirmed Wednesday. He was 96. LaRouche was a “philosopher, scientist, poet, statesman," the PAC said in a statement, and "those who knew and loved Lyndon LaRouche know that humanity has suffered a great loss, and today we dedicate ourselves anew to bring to reality the big ideas for which history will honor him."

LaRouche's politics were hard to define — he began as a member of the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1940s and 1950s, ran for president first as a U.S. Labor Party candidate and then an independent or independent Democrat, and he called himself heir to the proto-Republican Whigs in 1986 — but he was best known for his enduring conspiratorial theories.

LaRouche, for exampled, maintained that the queen of England was involved in drug trafficking and the International Monetary Fund was "engaged in mass murder" by spreading AIDS, a disease he promoted other conspiracy theories about. He said the Holocaust was "mythical," The Associated Press notes, and called Zionism "cult nonsense." He claimed that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walt Mondale were Soviet "agents of influence" and more, as in this 1984 campaign ad.

In 1988, LaRouche was convicted of tax fraud and mail fraud, serving about nine years of his 15-year sentence. His followers, who solicited money and passed out leaflets at airports and other public places while he was in prison, were so devoted that loved ones reportedly hired "deprogrammers" to abduct them. Peter Weber

January 18, 2019

Mary Oliver, the beloved and prolific poet whose work reflected her reverence of nature, died Thursday at her home in Florida. She was 83, and the cause of death was lymphoma, according to her literary executor, Bill Reichblum. Oliver made her literary debut in 1963, at age 28, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for her collection American Primitive, then the National Book Award for poetry in 1992 for New and Selected Poems.

Born and raised in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, Oliver escaped what she called an abusive and "dysfunctional" home life by exploring the nearby woods and writing poetry. She met her partner, Molly Malone Cook, at the New York home of the late poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose papers she helped organize after high school. Cook died in 2005.

Oliver's poems mostly centered on animal life and the natural world. "One of her favorite adjectives was 'perfect,' and rarely did she apply it to people," The Associated Press notes. In her 2004 essay collection Long Life, Oliver wrote that outwardly "there's never been a day that my friends haven't been able to say, and at a distance, 'There's Oliver, still standing around in the weeds. There she is, still scribbling in her notebook.' But, at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel."

Oliver's poem "When Death Comes," from New and Selected Poems, ends with some thoughts about her own death:

When it's over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Oliver's final anthology of poems, Devotions, was published in 2017. Peter Weber

January 8, 2019

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said Monday that a man's body had been recovered from the West Hollywood home of Ed Buck, a longtime Democratic donor and prominent figure in local LGBTQ political circles. The deceased man's name has not been released and the cause of death is unknown, but a spokeswoman for the sheriff's department said he was black.

Buck's attorney, Seymour Amster, said his client is cooperating and was not arrested, adding that "from what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment." The sheriff's department said homicide investigators are "conducting a thorough investigation" and working closely with the district attorney's office.

Last summer, prosecutors declined to file charges against Buck for the July 2017 death of Gemmel Moore at his apartment, citing insufficient evidence. Moore, 26 and black, was found dead of a methamphetamine overdose on a mattress in Buck's living room, naked and surrounded by drug paraphernalia, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing a Los Angeles County coroner's report. "Moore had been homeless and had worked as an escort," the Times adds. "Buck, 64, is white." He was present during both deaths, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said Monday.

Buck rose to prominence in the 1980s as a former insurance industry multimillionaire who led an effort to impeach Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham. At the time, he was identified as a conservative Republican, but recently he had given heavily to Democrats, mostly in California. Peter Weber

December 27, 2018

Richard Overton, the oldest U.S. war veteran who was also believed to be the oldest living American male, died Thursday at age 112. Overton, a longtime resident of Austin, Texas, had been hospitalized with pneumonia on Dec. 12, and he was moved from a hospital to a rehabilitation facility on Monday. "They had done all they could," said Shirley Overton, a cousin by marriage.

Overton was born near Austin on May 11, 1906, and he volunteered to serve in the Army in his 30s. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attacked in 1941, bringing the U.S. into World War II. "He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering," former President Barack Obama said in 2013 while honoring Overton during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. "He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, 'I only got out of there by the grace of God.'"

On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he was "deeply honored to have known" the "American icon and Texas legend," adding, "Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans." "He's a damn rock star," his third cousin, Volma Overton, said at his latest birthday in May. "And he knows it. He kind of rides that a little bit."

Overton gained his celebrity late in life. Until he turned 100 in 2006, he lived the life of a regular retiree, sitting on the porch of his Austin house, often smoking a cigar and drinking a whiskey and coke. After Obama honored him, people began stopping by his house and his birthday party became big block parties. He often attributed his long life and good health to the whiskey and 12 daily cigars, but when comedian Steve Harvey asked his secret, he said: "Just keep living, don't die."

Overton outlived his wife, an ex-wife, and his six sisters and three brothers. He never had kids. Peter Weber

December 14, 2018

Nancy Wilson, a vocalist who is best known for singing jazz but preferred to call herself a "song stylist," died Thursday night after a long illness. She was 81. Wilson, who retired from touring in 2011, died at her home in Pioneertown, California, near Joshua Tree National Park.

Wilson was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1937. She started singing at age 4, began performing professionally after a year of college, and started recording hit records soon after moving to New York City in 1959, The Associated Press reports. Her biggest commercial success was in the 1960s, when she recorded eight albums that hit the Billboard Top 20 pop charts. Her repertoire ranged from torch songs to show tunes and pop standards, but she is most associated with jazz. Wilson won two Grammys for jazz records, in 2005 and 2007, but also a Grammy for best R&B performance in 1965. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a "Jazz Masters Fellowship" in 2004, and the NAACP honored her with an Image award in 1998. She also appeared on several TV shows, including Hawaii Five-O and her own eponymous variety show.

Here, Wilson sings "Lush Life," from the 1967 album of the same name.

Wilson, who was married twice and divorced once, is survived by one son, two daughters, two sisters, and five grandchildren. Peter Weber

November 26, 2018

U.S. Army Sgt. Leandro Jasso, 25, of Leavenworth, Washington, was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday after coming under fire, the Defense Department said Sunday.

Jasso joined the Army in August 2012, and was part of the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, serving as team leader for Alpha Company in the regiment's 2nd Battalion, U.S. Special Operations Command said. He was on his third deployment to Afghanistan, and is the 10th U.S. service member killed in the country this year.

The Pentagon said Jasso was wounded by small arms fire while conducting a combat operation in the Khash Rod District of Nimruz Province. He was evacuated to a treatment facility in Helmand Province, where he died. The incident is under investigation. Catherine Garcia

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