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Obituaries in the News

April 13, 2002

John Bittner

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ John Bittner, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and textbook author, died Tuesday. He was 58.

A textbook he wrote, ``Mass Communication,″ has been reprinted five times, translated into Arabic and used around the world.

Bittner was chairman of the department of radio, television and motion pictures from 1982 to 1987. He also was a widely traveled lecturer on Ernest Hemingway.

Roy Gustafson

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Roy Gustafson, a longtime associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, died Friday. He was 87.

Gustafson joined the association in 1959, taking more than 150 trips to the Middle East to teach Christianity. He retired in 1986 but continued to make international trips on behalf of the association.

Gustafson and Graham attended Florida Bible Institute in Tampa, Fla., at the same time.

An ordained Baptist minister, he was a pastor of an Arizona church before becoming an itinerant Bible teacher.

Robert McGruder

DETROIT (AP) _ Robert G. McGruder, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press and a champion of diversity who broke racial barriers, died Friday of cancer. He was 60.

McGruder became the first black reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland in 1963 and the first black executive editor of the Free Press in 1996. In 1995, when he was managing editor of the Free Press, McGruder became the first black president of the Associated Press Managing Editors.

Earlier this year, McGruder received the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, given by Wayne State University to the journalist who best furthers the cause of a diversified media.

McGruder joined the Free Press in 1986 as deputy managing editor. He was named managing editor-news in 1987 and managing editor in 1993. He became executive editor on Jan. 1, 1996, when the newspaper was in the midst of a strike.

McGruder served two years in the Army and returned to the Plain Dealer in 1966, covering city government and politics until 1971 when he became an assistant city editor.

He returned to reporting in 1973. He was named city editor in 1978 and managing editor in 1981. His work in Cleveland included covering the civil rights movement.

He and Plain Dealer reporter Allen Wiggins worked with former Cleveland Mayor Carl B. Stokes to write ``Promises of Power,″ a biography of Stokes, who was the first black mayor of a major U.S. city.

Survivors include his wife, Annette; his mother, a stepdaughter and grandson.

Kondapalli Seetharamaiah

HYDERABAD, India (AP) _ Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, the founder of a Maoist guerrilla group, died Friday. He was 87.

Seetharamaiah, who began the People’s War Group in 1980, had surrendered to police in 1993 after a reported fallout with other leaders of the group, which remains active in southern and central India.

At the time of his death, he had been staying with a relative in Vijayawada, 175 miles east of Hyderabad, capital of southern Andhra Pradesh State.

A school teacher-turned-activist, Seetharamaiah joined the Communist Party during India’s freedom struggle against its British colonial rulers. He left the party after it entered parliamentary politics following independence in 1947.

Seetharamaiah launched an armed struggle with comrades in 1969 and later founded the People’s War Group.

After his surrender in 1993, Seetharamaiah was jailed for two months, before the government freed him because of his poor health. Media reports at the time of his surrender said he had fallen out with other leaders of the rebel group.

The group, which claims to defend the rights of the poor, has been fighting the government to create a communist state. More than 6,000 people have died in rebel attacks in the last two decades.

J. William Stanton

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former Rep. J. William Stanton, who championed world banking and hunger issues for nearly two decades in Congress, died Thursday. He was 78.

He died in Jacksonville, Fla., where he spent winter months. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

The Ohio Republican served in Congress from 1964 to 1983, and then went on to spend a decade as counselor to the president of the World Bank.

In Congress, Stanton was a key member of what was then called the House Banking Committee, where he was the top Republican.

After college and service in the military, Stanton returned to his homestate of Ohio to run the family’s automobile business before getting involved in county politics.

He has said, however, that the most exciting part of his career came after he left Congress and began traveling the world for the Washington-based World Bank, which helps establish credit for poor countries that need schools and hospitals.