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Obituaries in the News

July 26, 2000

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Barney Keep, who spent 35 years as KEX’s morning-drive gab king, died Saturday of complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

Keep was known for making listeners laugh, but also wince and squirm with his acerbic brand of humor.

Keep was a fixture in front of the microphone every weekday morning between 1944 and 1979, when he did his last show before a packed house at Portland Civic Theatre.

He did his first show in 1944 at KEX, and nothing and nobody were safe for the next 35 years _ not even his sponsors.

Olcott Damon Smith

FARMINGTON, Conn. (AP) _ Olcott Damon Smith, the former chairman of Aetna Life & Casualty Co. credited with helping the insurer gain an international foothold, died Monday. He was 93.

He served as Aetna’s chairman from 1963 to 1972. At that time, the company began to broaden its insurance operations outside the United States and moved into financial services.

Under his guidance, Aetna entered the field of mutual funds, real estate development and commercial finance, and became one of the first insurers to list its stock on the New York Stock Exchange.

Smith also was a retired partner at the Hartford law firm, Day Berry & Howard where he specialized in representing utility companies with mergers and rate requests.

Fate Thomas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Former Davidson County Sheriff Fate Thomas, a popular and influential power-broker who served four years in jail for abusing his authority, died Tuesday following heart bypass surgery. He was 73.

Thomas and six others were indicted in 1990 on 54 counts of abusing power, including a charge that the sheriff’s department paid for the spareribs, pork shoulders and chicken used in Thomas’ campaign barbecues. Another charge was that Thomas and others pocketed money allegedly paid to non-existent department employees.

Thomas pleaded in 1990 guilty to theft, mail fraud and tax conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $80,150.

Thomas owned a Nashville barbecue restaurant when he made his first run for office, losing a 1954 race for the state Legislature. He was elected sheriff in 1972 and served 18 years.

He built support for his favorite candidates _ and political allies for himself _ by organizing barbecues and other fund-raisers.

Some of the state’s most prominent politicians, including former Govs. Ned McWherter and Lamar Alexander, contributed to a fund to help Thomas retire a tax debt after he got out of prison.

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