A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending Aug. 24
Thomas B. Hofeller, 75, a political consultant whose mastery of redistricting strategy helped propel the Republican Party from underdog to the dominant force in state legislatures and the House of Representatives, died on Thursday at his home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
For most of his 48-year career, Hofeller was little known outside the small band of government clerks and data buffs who surfaced, cicada-like, after every decennial census to draw new political maps. But after Republicans swept many state legislative elections in 2010, giving them control over the political maps that would be drawn after that year’s census, Hofeller gained an almost mythic reputation as an architect of the party’s comeback.
Ed King, 68, a former guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd who helped write several of the group’s hits, including “Sweet Home Alabama,” died of cancer Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. He joined the band in 1972 and was part of its first three albums with its distinct three-guitar sound. He is credited on several of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s songs, including “Saturday Night Special” and “Workin’ for MCA,” and his voice can be heard providing the opening count on “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Barbara Harris, 83, the Tony Award-winning actress whose comic-neurotic charms lit up the Broadway stage and helped her steal films including “Nashville,” “Freaky Friday” and “A Thousand Clowns,” died early Tuesday of lung cancer in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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She was one of the performers in the historic first cast of Chicago’s Second City improvisational theater, which opened its doors in late 1959 and turned to be a proving ground for dozens of now-famous actors and comedians. But it was Robert Altman’s 1975 “Nashville” that would become her best-known film with her memorable performance of “It Don’t Worry Me” in front of a shell-shocked crowd after the violent climax.
Otávio Frias Filho, 61, who as editor-in-chief helped turn a mid-sized, family-owned newspaper into Brazil’s most read daily, died Tuesday at a São Paulo hospital. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.
Frias Filho began to work at his family’s Folha de S. Paulo as a teenager and led it as editor for 34 years. In that span, he focused on bolstering investigations, giving voice to a wide variety of views in the op-ed section and demanding accountability of reporters. The newspaper’s influence goes beyond its print circulation thanks to its popular website UOL.
Hanna Mina, 94, an eminent Syrian writer who chronicled the lives of the poor and oppressed in dozens of books as one of the first Arab novelists to employ social realism, died on Tuesday in Damascus.
Ray Emory, 97, a Pearl Harbor survivor who pushed to identify buried unknown remains from the 1941 attack, died Monday in a hospital in Boise, Idaho. In 2012, the Navy and National Park Service recognized Emory for his work with the military and Department of Veterans Affairs to honor and remember Pearl Harbor’s dead.
Uri Avnery, 94, a trailblazing Israeli journalist and peace activist and one of the first to openly advocate for a Palestinian state, died Monday at a Tel Aviv hospital after suffering a stroke. For decades, he was a symbol of the Israeli peace camp, easily recognized by his thick white beard and white hair. A member of Israel’s founding generation, Avnery challenged successive Israeli governments in arguing that a Palestinian state was the only way to secure peace for a democratic Israel with a Jewish majority.
María Isabel Chorobik de Mariani, 94, who stood up to Argentina’s military junta during the 1970s in the search for abducted children as a founder of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, died Monday in La Plata, near Buenos Aires. She never found the granddaughter she lost.
Mariani, who went by the nickname “Chicha,” was one of the most emblematic figures of a movement formed by women who were searching for hundreds of babies stolen from their parents under the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
Khaira Arby, 58, a Malian singer and songwriter with an international presence who remained outspoken at a time of civil war and harsh oppression by Islamist militants, died last Sunday in Bamako, Mali’s capital. She had been treated for heart problems.
Kofi Annan, 80, whose popular and influential reign as secretary general of the United Nations was marred by White House anger at his opposition to the American invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s, died Aug. 18 in Bern, Switzerland.
Current U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called Annan “a guiding force for good,” and added: “He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.”
Kofi Annan, the soft-spoken Ghanaian diplomat who served as the first United Nations secretary-general from sub-Saharan Africa, devoted almost his entire working life to the UN, navigating through multiple wars in the Middle East, the Balkan breakup, African genocides and a raft of other crises over a career that spanned more than five decades.
He was the co-recipient, along with the UN, of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, to recognize “work for a better organized and more peaceful world.” His opposition to the Iraq War in 2003 endeared him to antiwar groups and drew sharp criticism from U.S. conservatives, including John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN who became national security adviser to President Donald Trump.
John Calder, 91, an independent British publisher who built a prestigious list of authors like Samuel Beckett and Heinrich Böll and spiritedly defended writers like Henry Miller against censorship, died Aug. 13 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Calder’s refined literary palate — sometimes at odds with his admittedly uneven commercial acumen — led him to bring out books by Eugène Ionesco, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, William S. Burroughs and Nathalie Sarraute in Britain.
He published the works of nearly 20 winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, including Beckett, the Irish playwright whose existential tragicomedy, “Waiting for Godot,” transformed contemporary theater.