The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on October 16, 2018 · C9
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · C9

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018
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T U E S D A Y, O C T O B E R 1 6 , 2 0 1 8 T h e B o s t o n G l o b e C9 Obituaries By Richard Goldstein NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK — Jim Taylor, the bruising fullback who played on four NFL champion- ship teams with the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s and be- came the first star in coach Vince Lombardi’s dynasty to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Saturday. He was 83. He died at a hospital in Ba- ton Rouge, La., the Packers said in a statement Saturday. Mr. Taylor ran for more than 1,000 yards in five con- secutive 14-game seasons and was named to the NFL’s all-de- cade team for the ’60s. He also scored the first rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history, running for 14 yards in the second quarter of the inaugural game, when the Packers scored a 35-10 victory over the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs in January 1967. When he wasn’t bowling over would-be tacklers, Mr. Taylor handed out crushing blocks, most famously on the Packers’ signature play, the power sweep, helping clear a path for halfback Paul Hor- nung, his fellow Hall of Famer, to run wide. Mr. Taylor was listed at 6 feet and 214 pounds, not exact- ly menacing at first glance, and he was often overshadowed by Jim Brown, the Cleveland Browns’ great fullback. But he relished contact. “Jim Brown will give you that leg and then take it away from you,” Lombardi was quot- ed by the Hall of Fame. “Jim Taylor will give it to you and then ram it through your chest.” Mr. Taylor ended Brown’s five-year reign as the NFL’s rushing leader in 1962 when he ran for 1,474 yards, led the league in rushing touchdowns with 19, was voted its most valuable player, and helped take Green Bay to the league championship. The Packers faced the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium in the December ’62 NFL title game on a frozen field with temperatures in the teens and winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour. Mr. Taylor engaged in a pri- vate war that day with Sam Huff, the Giants’ middle line- backer and leader of their vaunted defense. “I don’t ever remember be- ing hit so hard,” Mr. Taylor once told The New York Times. “I bled the whole game. My arms bled from hitting that fro- zen dirt and my tongue bled af- ter I bit it in the first half.” After the game, Mr. Taylor accused Huff and some of his teammates of piling on after stopping him. “Taylor likes to crawl,” Huff responded. “The only way to stop Taylor is to make sure that he’s down.” Mr. Taylor carried the ball 31 times for 85 yards on the icy turf that day and scored the Packers’ only touchdown on a 7-yard run in the second quar- ter in their 16-7 victory. Huff was emulating a tactic used by Hall of Fame middle linebacker Chuck Bednarik when the Packers faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960 NFL championship game. Taking a swing pass from quarterback Bart Starr, Mr. Taylor was inside the Eagles’ 10-yard line in the final sec- onds when Bednarik helped stop him and sat atop him un- til time ran out. “You can get up now, Jim, this game is over,” Bednarik ex- u l ted , the Eag les hav ing emerged with a 17-13 victory in what became the Packers’ only playoff-game loss under Lombardi. But not many defenders got the best of Mr. Taylor. “Most people ran away from a tackler. Not Taylor,” Abe Woodson, the San Francisco 49ers’ Pro Bowl defensive back, told Bob Carroll in the oral his- tory “When the Grass Was Real” (1993). “Even if he had a clear path to the goal line, he’d look for a defensive back to run over on the way.” Mr. Taylor played for the Packers’ NFL champions of the 1961, ’62, ’65, and ’66 seasons. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1976. James Charles Taylor was born on Sept. 20, 1935, in Ba- ton Rouge. His father died when he was young and his mother worked in a laundry. He was a football and bas- ketball star in high school, and then concentrated on football at Louisiana State University, playing fullback on offense and linebacker and tackle on de- fense. In his senior season, he led the Southeastern Confer- ence in rushing yards, with 762, and touchdowns, with 12. He was selec ted by the Packers in the second round of the 1958 NFL draft but played sparingly as a rookie on a team that won only one game. Ev- erything began to change when Lombardi arrived in 1959 after leaving his post as the Giants’ offensive coordina- tor. Mr. Taylor went on to amass 8,597 rushing yards and 83 touchdowns on the ground, playing nine seasons for the Packers, then signing as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints in 1967, his final season. He was a Pro Bowl player every year from 1960 to 1964. Details about Mr. Taylor’s survivors were not immediate- ly available. Mr. Taylor owned a ship- yard business in New Orleans after retiring from football. Long after the Packers’ glory years, he reflected on what he called “the jaw-jabbers” of later generations in the pros. “Forget all that talk, I like a c t i o n ,” h e t o l d B o b Mc - Cullough in “My Greatest Day in Football.” “Today’s athletes, they’re just full of so much con- versation instead of keep your mouth shut and just do your job . I don’ t e ven watch a game.” By Katharine Q. Seelye NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK — Betty Gris- som, the widow of astronaut Virgil Grissom, whose death in a launchpad fire in 1967 led her to sue a NASA contractor, died Oct. 6 at her home in Houston. She was 91. Her son Mark confirmed the death. He said neighbors had noticed that Ms. Grissom had picked up her morning newspaper but not her after- noon mail and went to check on her. She had died while sort- ing the laundry, he said, and the cause of death was not known. Virgil Grissom, known as Gus, one of the seven original Mercury astronauts immortal- ized by Tom Wolfe in his book “The Right Stuff,” was the sec- ond American in space, after Alan Shepard. He was also the command pilot of Apollo 1, which was intended to test the Apollo capsule for flights to the moon. But during a routine test at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, an electrical fire swept through the command module, killing all three astronauts aboard — Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee. It was the first fatal accident in the history of the US space program. Grissom was 40. Multiple investigations fol- lowed. While they never pin- pointed the source of the fire, they concluded that several de- sign flaws, including a pure ox- ygen atmosphere inside the cabin, had exacerbated it. In addition, the hatch door was difficult to open, preventing the crew from escaping. NASA subsequently under- took major modifications in design, materials, and proce- dures, including making non- flammable spacesuits. Com- bustible materials in the cabin were replaced with self-extin- guishing versions. Nearly four years after the fire, Grissom’s widow, who was raising two sons on her own, filed a multimillion-dollar wrongful death suit against the Apollo program’s primary con- tractor, North American Rock- well. (The government itself cannot be sued.) The statute of limitations for wrongful death for survi- vors was two years and had ex- pired, said Ronald D. Krist, the Houston lawyer who repre- sented Ms. Grissom. But the general negligence statute was four years and had not expired, allowing her to sue for Gris- som’s pain and suffering. She settled for $350,000, or about $2.2 million in today’s dollars. Her action brought Ms. Grissom considerable grief, with strangers accusing her of being unpatriotic and the close-knit space community shunning her. The experience embittered the family, said Mark Grissom, who was 13 when his father died. “We got the dark side of NASA,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday. “People who were my friends were no longer my friends. A lot of peo- ple turned their back on us, and Mom got a lot of hate mail. They were like, ‘How dare you sue NASA?’ We were no longer part of the NASA family.” Krist said NASA had for- warded her a note from one critic who said Ms. Grissom should not be filing a suit be- cause her husband had as- sumed a certain amount of risk by being an astronaut. But Krist, a product-liability lawyer, said the astronauts had a right to expect that their cap- sule would be properly de- signed and that all prudent precautions would be taken to protect them. “The capsule was anything but fireproof,” he said. In any case, Krist said, the suit made it easier for the fami- lies of the other two astronauts who were killed to receive com- pensation without having to go to court. “Despite the criticism, she never flinched,” Krist said of Ms. Grissom. “She never re- gretted the lawsuit and never hesitated in her commitment to see it through.” Betty Lavonne Moore was born on Aug. 8, 1927, in Mitch- ell, Ind., to Claude and Pauline (Sutherlin) Moore. Her father worked at a cement plant. She grew up in Mitchell and met Grissom in high school. They soon married, and she got a job as a late-night telephone opera- tor for Indiana Bell while he studied mechanical engineer- ing at Purdue University on the GI Bill. In addition to her son Mark, Ms. Grissom leaves another son, Scott; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. In the 1983 movie adapta- tion of “The Right Stuff,” Ms. Grissom was portrayed by Ve- ronica Cartwright and Mr. Grissom by Fred Ward. When she received news of her husband’s death in 1967, Ms. Grissom was at a friend’s house for their weekly poker game. She said at the time that she had “already died 100,000 deaths” being married to an as- tronaut. An early scare came in July 1961 after Grissom, as the sec- ond American in space, had successfully completed a 15- minute suborbital flight under the Mercury program. He near- ly drowned when his capsule landed in the Atlantic Ocean and sank after the hatch blew off prematurely. On Jan. 27, 2017, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo disaster, Ms. Grissom and her family attended a small memo- rial ceremony at Cape Canaver- al on Launch Complex 34, the now-crumbling concrete site where her husband’s capsule had been engulfed in flames. The site was decorated with three red, white, and blue flo- ral wreaths provided by the Grissom family to honor all three men who had perished. She and her family had come annually on the anniversary of the fire, but she said she sensed that this would be her last time. In contrast to the way she had been shunned in earlier days, Ms. Grissom was the cen- ter of attention, according to an account in The New York Times. She told an interviewer that her husband’s sacrifice had helped pave the way for future missions in which other astro- nauts made it to the moon. Still, she said, “I’m pretty sure he got to the moon before they did.” “Of course he didn’t make it,” she added, “but in spirit I think he was already there.” ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 1962 Coach Vince Lombardi congratulated Mr. Taylor in 1962 after he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. Jim Taylor, at 83; Hall of Fame fullback for Green Bay Packers BettyGrissom,at91;husbanddied inApollo fire ASSOCIATED PRESS/POOL/FILE 1965 Betty Grissom and her sons Scott, then 14, and Mark, then 11, reunited with astronaut Virgil (Gus) Grissom after his three-orbit Gemini flight. By Sam Roberts NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK — In the late 1930s, in rural Georgia, a for- mer slave told his grandson a story about a case of racial in- justice that had occurred three decades earlier and gone all the way to the White House. The story began about mid- night on Aug. 13, 1906, when a flurry of gunfire erupted on a street in Brownsville, Texas, leaving a white bartender dead and a white police lieutenant wounded. Soon, the city’s mayor and other white citizens had ac- cused about 20 unidentified black soldiers stationed nearby, at Fort Brown, of having shot up the town. “Dastardly Outrage by Ne- gro Soldiers” read the headline in The Brownsville Herald the next day. The soldiers, members of the segregated First Battalion, 25th Infantry (Colored), as it was known, professed their in- nocence. Their white com- mander said he believed that all the black soldiers were in their barracks at the time of the shooting, and that their rifles did not appear to have been fired. But the white citizens said they had seen black soldiers on the street firing indiscriminate- ly, and they produced spent shells from Army rifles to sup- port their version of events. De- spite evidence that the shells had been planted, investigators accepted that account. P r e s i d e n t T h e o d o r e Roosevelt, as commander in chief, promptly and summarily discharged all 167 members of the unit, asserting that they had engaged in a “conspiracy of si- lence” by refusing to confess or incriminate fellow soldiers. A US Senate inquiry two years lat- er upheld his action. The grandson who heard this account, William Baker, would grow up to become a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and by 1972 he had been as- signed to the Pentagon to work in the newly minted Army Equal Opportunity Program, for which he helped develop a system for black soldiers to ex- press their concerns to the chain of command. While he was there, the Ar- my, prompted by Representa- tive Augustus F. Hawkins, Cali- fornia’s first black member of Congress, agreed to reinvesti- gate the case. Hawkins had been inspired by John D. Weav- er’s book “The Brownsville Raid” (1970), which argued that the discharged soldiers had been innocent. I Hearing about the reopened investigation, and remember- ing the story his grandfather had told him, Colonel Baker asked for and received permis- sion to help. His joining the investigation proved critical. The Army was poised to reaffirm the original 1906 decision again when doc- uments about the case crossed Colonel Baker’s desk. After reviewing the matter, he concurred with the original findings by the post command- er that the troops had been in their barracks when the shoot- ing spree took place. He successfully persuaded the Army to reverse Roosevelt’s 1906 ruling in 1972, and all 167 soldiers were belatedly granted honorable discharges. The Ar- my said their punishment had been a “gross injustice.” A few historians disputed the Army’s new findings, and some Texans criticized them as politically correct revisionism. But in January 1974, President Richard M. Nixon signed legis- lation compensating the survi- vors and widows. Colonel Baker died at 86 on Sept. 24 in a hospice in Mar- tinsburg, W.Va. His wife of 58 years, Dr. Bettye Foster Baker, said the cause was complica- tions of multiple myeloma and a cerebrovascular accident. He had homes in Gettysburg, Pa., and in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. Bettye Baker said that recti- fying an injustice from nearly three decades before he was born had been her husband’s proudest achievement. William Baker was born on Nov. 26, 1931, in Amsterdam, a hamlet in southwestern Geor- g i a , t o Ju l i a n n e L e e a n d Roosevelt Baker. His mother died when Bill was 11 months old, and his fa- ther remarried. He was adopted by his grandparents Angeline and Ned Keaton. Ned Keaton, a farmer, had once been a slave in the Carolinas. Angeline Keaton worked as a maid for local white families. He had heard about the Brownsville incident from his grandfather by chance. Bill Baker was about 6 years old when, one evening during the Depression years, an unfamiliar man came strutting up the dusty red-dirt driveway to his grandparents’ house. “The old man walked with an air of dignity,” Colonel Baker wrote years later in a never- published book about the case. “His steps suggested he had been a soldier, coming with a deliberate, rhythmic, and pre- cise cadence. . . . He wore a quaint, funny-looking wide- brimmed hat, one that I had never seen before.” The man, who was black, was hungry. He gratefully ac- cepted johnnycake from Bill’s grandmother, who refused the few pennies he offered in re- turn. The next day, Bill was in town with his grandparents when a skidding car fatally struck a man and sped away. Bill recognized the man’s hat. It was the funny-looking one he had seen the day before. Years later he remembered a local butcher, who was white, say, “Who’s the dead nigger?” That was when his grandfa- ther, Keaton, told Bill that the old man had been one of the Brownsville soldiers. Then he told Bill the story. Colonel Baker was honored at a White House ceremony in 1973 and given the Army’s Pace Award for meritorious service and its Legion of Merit. Robert F. Froehlke, the secretary of the Army, said Colonel Baker had “brought favorable acclaim to the Army in the field of civil rights.” William Baker, at 86; righted an Army racial wrong

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