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Obituaries in the News

December 29, 2001

Opal Courtney

GARY, Ind. (AP) _ Opal ``Shagg″ Courtney, believed to be the last surviving original member of the Harlem Globetrotters died Wednesday, his wife said. He was 89.

Courtney earned $55 per week as a Globetrotter, traveling across the country during the winter months beginning in 1932, the Post-Tribune of Merrillville reported Saturday.

Courtney left the team after three seasons in 1936 because he needed to earn more money to support his growing family. He and his wife of 69 years, Shellie Courtney, eventually had seven children.

After leaving the Globetrotters, Courtney took a job as a crane operator at U.S. Steel in Gary, where he stayed until he retired.

Although his time with the team was relatively short, Courtney is credited with creating one of the Globetrotters’ most popular moves: spinning the ball on the index finger, then rolling the ball across the shoulders and into his arms behind his back.

Hovie Lister

ATLANTA (AP) _ Hovie Lister, a Georgia Hall of Fame inductee and goodwill ambassador for the state, died Friday from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was 75.

In 1948, Lister organized the world famous Statesman Quartet which was heard twice daily on WCON radio. Lister later moved the program to WSB radio and television.

Under the leadership of Lister, a Greenville, S.C. native, the Statesmen became the first gospel quartet to be featured on national TV with a national sponsor, Nabisco.

As an accomplished director and producer, Lister directed and produced all of the Nabisco syndicated television shows as well as scripting and starring in the commercials.

Lister received eight Grammy nominations and won one Grammy award during his musical career, which spanned more than six decades.

Lister also served as Ambassador of Good Will for Wyche Fowler, a former U.S. senator from Georgia.

Sam Solon

ST. PAUL (AP) _ Longtime state Sen. Sam Solon, a son of Greek immigrants who worked for three decades to bring state projects and money to his home town of Duluth, died Friday of liver cancer. He was 70.

Solon was the second-most senior member of the Senate and known for his soft-spoken style.

He had been a junior high school social studies teacher before he was elected to the House in 1970. He was elected to the Senate two years later and held the post until his death.

Solon apologized to the Senate in 1996 after he pleaded guilty to telecommunications fraud for letting his ex-wife make $2,430 in taxpayer-paid phone calls on his Senate line. That admission followed an incident three years earlier when Solon let a lobbyist make $3,000 in such calls.

The troubles led to a rare Senate reprimand, but Solon was still re-elected.

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