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Obituaries in the News

August 28, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Willa Player, former president of Bennett College, who supported the civil rights movement and was the first black woman in the nation to head a four-year college, died Wednesday. She was 94.

Player organized a speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958 when no other group in Greensboro would welcome him. King spoke that February before an audience of hundreds in the Pfeiffer Chapel, an event that Player considered one of her crowning achievements, according to ``The Long Walk,″ a book about Player written by her niece, Linda Brown.

The speech planted the seed for many of the protests that followed in the city, Brown wrote.

Two years later, four students from North Carolina A&T State University staged a sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Greensboro. Bennett students had wanted to stage a similar demonstration months earlier, but faculty members dissuaded them, fearing for their safety.

Once the demonstrations began, however, Bennett students and faculty members joined in. At the peak of desegregation protests downtown, as much as 40 percent of Bennett’s student body was under arrest.

Player backed her girls, known as the Bennett Belles, visiting them daily and arranging for professors to hold class and administer exams for students. She persuaded jailers to allow Bennett’s nurse to treat injured students.

The Mississippi native came to Bennett when she was 21 to teach Latin and French. Four years later, Player joined the administration of the private Methodist school for black women, first as the coordinator of instruction. In 1956, she was named president of the school, a position she held for a decade.

During her tenure, Bennett became one of the first black colleges to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

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William Scherle

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Former U.S. Rep. William Scherle, who served southwest Iowa for four terms in Congress, died Wednesday. He was 80 and had been battling prostate cancer.

Scherle, a Republican, was first elected to Congress in 1966. He served in the Iowa Legislature from 1960 to 1966.

Scherle served in the Navy and Coast Guard in World War II. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

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Norman Waitt Sr.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) _ Norman Waitt Sr., the last of four generations of Waitts to make their mark in the cattle business at the Sioux City Stockyards, died Wednesday. He was 72.

Waitt fathered a fifth generation of entrepreneurs, but they did not follow him into the cattle business. Ted Waitt founded Gateway Inc., and Norman Waitt Jr., started Waitt Media and Gold Circle Films.

Cindy Waitt is the director of the Siouxland Chapter of the Waitt Family Foundation and Marcia Waitt, a sociology and psychology teacher at West High School, also owns Uncle John Records.

Waitt grew up in Sioux City and started working in the stockyards as a teenager in 1947, hauling hay and cleaning pens. In 1949, he started selling a few cattle on his own.

Following service during the Korean War, he returned to work for Waitt Cattle Co., in 1953 after his grandfather, commission man Holman Waitt, was injured. It was a job he would do for 40 more years, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, his father, Theodore Waitt, and his great-grandfather, George Waitt, a founder in 1888 of the Sioux City Livestock Exchange and its president.

By the mid 1960s, Waitt said, he was dissatisfied with the way the Stock Yards Company treated brokers and started his own yard nearby. He closed it a decade later, moving his cattle to property east of Sioux City.

Waitt kept his office in a small house on the property. It was on the second floor of the house that Ted Waitt and Mike Hammond started rebuilding computers for sale, the beginning of Gateway 2000.

Waitt turned his efforts to philanthropy and golf after retiring in 1994.

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