11.13.2008

three passings

On my iGoogle home page, I keep a gadget with obituaries from the New York Times. Today was a rare day that I recognized all three names.

Mitch Mitchell, one of the great rock and roll drummers, died at age 62. Mitchell was best known as the drummer for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. His drumming style was heavily influenced by jazz musicians, and was lighter - swingier - than most drummers in a power trio.
Mr. Mitchell did not expect much from the job. "I'll give it a crack," he later remembered telling Mr. Chandler, who became one of Hendrix's managers. "I'll have a go for two weeks."

But led by Hendrix's explosive and rhapsodic style, the group revolutionized rock music and became an archetypal power trio. Its style was built around Hendrix's improvisations, with Mr. Redding's steady bass lines acting as an anchor and Mr. Mitchell — who was influenced by jazz players like Elvin Jones — playing a lighter, looser counterpoint to the guitar.

The group also developed a signature look that embodied the dandyish flamboyance of the British psychedelic era. The members sought out bell-bottoms and vintage clothes in British shops and teased out their hair. "For Noel, the curly Afro came naturally," wrote Charles R. Cross in his 2005 Hendrix biography, "Room Full of Mirrors." "Mitch had to get a permanent to achieve the same result."

The Jimi Hendrix Experience released three albums: "Are You Experienced" (1967), "Axis: Bold as Love" (1967) and "Electric Ladyland" (1968). Mr. Mitchell continued to play with Hendrix until his death in 1970, and later played in the band Ramatam.

Herb Score, who died at age 75, was a baseball player, a pitcher most famous for a terrifying incident: he was hit in the face with a line drive.
Score was the American League rookie of the year in 1955, when he had a 16-10 record, 2.85 earned run average and 245 strikeouts, tops in the major leagues and a record for a rookie that stood for 29 years. He went 20-9 in 1956 with a 2.53 E.R.A. and was again the strikeout leader with 263.

But on the night of May 7, 1957, Score was felled in a searing and long remembered instant.

Score was pitching against the Yankees at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. The second batter to face him, shortstop Gil McDougald, drilled a low pitch on a line right back at him. The baseball struck Score in the face, knocking him down and sending blood streaming from his right eye, nose and mouth.

Score never lost consciousness but had severe hemorrhaging in the eye and a swollen retina as well as a broken nose. He was carried off the field and spent three weeks in a hospital. His plight brought 10,000 letters with good wishes. People in his hometown, Lake Worth, Fla., sent him a 125-foot-long get-well telegram with 4,000 names, and a California man offered to donate an eye to him.

Score was sidelined for the rest of the season, his vision fuzzy and his depth perception impaired. Although his vision returned, he won only 17 games over the next five years before retiring.

"He would have been probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, left-handed pitchers who ever lived," Feller said Tuesday on the Indians' Web site. Feller, who was near the end of his career when Score arrived, likened him to Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers Hall of Famer.

Finally, there was Abraham Woods, who died at the age of 80. Of these three, I'm guessing Woods is the least known by name, but his work helped changed the world. Here's the entire obit here. I hope you'll read it.
The Rev. Abraham L. Woods Jr., a civil rights campaigner who in the days of crowd-throttling fire-hosings and snarling police dogs led the first lunch-counter sit-ins in Birmingham, Ala., and three decades later played a pivotal role confronting racial discrimination by country clubs, died last Friday in Birmingham, his hometown.He was 80.

The cause was cancer, his son Abraham Woods 3rd said.

Mr. Woods, a Baptist minister who had been friends with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. since their days together at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was one of the civil rights leaders standing behind him when Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Less than a month later, on Sept. 15, Mr. Woods raced from his church in Birmingham, St. Joseph Baptist, to the 16th Street Baptist Church minutes after a dynamite explosion there had killed four young black girls.

"People were searching through the rubble," he told The New York Times in 1997. "They found shoes. Finally they found bodies. You could smell the human flesh."

"Even the Klan, as bad as they are," he continued, "you didn't think they would go as far as to bomb a church on Sunday with little children in Sunday school."

Mr. Woods was interviewed 34 years after the church bombing, a seminal civil rights event, because he had played a leading role in spurring the federal government to re-investigate it. Only one man, Robert E. Chambliss, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, had been convicted, in 1977. The new investigation led to the conviction of two other Klansmen, Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry.

In 1990, Mr. Woods, then president of the Birmingham chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led protests against the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club, just outside the city. The club, which had no black members, had been chosen as the site of that year's P.G.A. Championship, and its founder, Hall Thompson, defended it by saying, "We don't discriminate in every other area except the blacks."

The protests prompted major corporations, including I.B.M., to withdraw their advertising from ABC's television coverage of the tournament. In response, the club announced that it would accept black members.

David B. Fay, executive director of the United States Golf Association, said at the time that the events at Shoal Creek had changed the face of golf. "I find it highly unlikely that you will see any championships held at all-white clubs anymore," Mr. Fay said. "The change is inevitable."

Abraham Lincoln Woods Jr. was born in Birmingham on Oct. 7, 1928, one of 11 children of the Rev. Abraham Woods Sr. and the former Maggie Wallace.

Mr. Woods attended Morehouse with Dr. King in the late 1940s. He later received a bachelor's degree in theology from Birmingham Baptist College; a bachelor's in sociology from Miles College, in Birmingham; and a master's in American history from the University of Alabama.

In the 1950s, he helped organize voter registration drives in Alabama. Then, in the spring of 1963, he led the first black demonstration at a whites-only lunch counter, at Newberry's department store in downtown Birmingham. During the demonstrations that followed, Dr. King arrived in the city to confront the tactics of its public safety commissioner, Bull Connor, who had turned dogs and fire hoses on protesters. Dr. King, Mr. Woods, other civil rights leaders and hundreds of additional protesters were arrested.

Responding to appeals from liberal white Southern clergymen to stop the demonstrations, Dr. King wrote his landmark "Letter From Birmingham Jail," in which he said not only that civil disobedience was justified in the face of unjust laws but also that "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

Mr. Woods retired as president of the Birmingham chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2006 but remained pastor of St. Joseph Baptist Church until his death.

Besides his son Abraham, he is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Marian Dowdell-Levette; four brothers, Roy, Calvin, Franklin and Dwight; four sisters, Lottie Hall, Lois Woods, Shirley Patterson and Cathy Gray; another son, John; five daughters, Yvonne Bell, Anita McGhee, Ruth Williams, Sharon Woods-Woodruff and Alice Woods; 18 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

One granddaughter, Marian Bell, said Mr. Woods followed the presidential campaign this year with mounting hopes, 45 years after Birmingham.

On election night last week, in his hospital room, Ms. Bell asked him what he was thinking about the results. He said, "If I could wake up Martin, Coretta, Rosa," along with other leaders of the struggle, "I would tell them that my son Barack made it."

5 comments:

richard said...

Thanks for that, Laura. Every day we lose giants and it's good to be reminded of who they were and why we should care. I hope that when people think "Baptist" they think of the likes of Rev. Abraham Woods and not the odious pseudo-Baptists of the westboro cult.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Richard. For me it's also why religion is not always a destructive force, as many of my fellow atheists feel.

richard said...

The ugly side gets the most press (if it bleeds it leads, right?). I could go on-and-on on this but I won't. It's just good to be reminded that some of us are actually trying to love our neighbours. The Rev. Woods is a fine example of that. (Full disclosure: I am a Christian and a minister).

L-girl said...

The ugly side gets the most press.

The ugly side IS most of the story. In this case, it's not the media's fault. If anything, I believe the media under-reports on religion's ugly side.

I could go on-and-on on this but I won't.

This would definitely be the wrong place to "go on and on" defending religion.

It's just good to be reminded that some of us are actually trying to love our neighbours.

Many of us do that without needing religion to tell us to.

richard said...

Defend "religion"? No way I could do that! It's just too rotten. But that's not what I could (but won't) do.