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Obituaries in the News

March 3, 2006

James Ronald Blackburn

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) _ James Ronald ``Bunkie″ Blackburn, a former NASCAR driver who once won a race at Daytona International Speedway, has died. He was 69.

Blackburn died Tuesday at his home, Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia announced. His cause of death was not available Thursday night.

Blackburn drove in the Grand National and NASCAR circuits from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, driving for teams run by Smokey Yunick and Petty Enterprises.

He had four top fives and 14 top 10s in the Grand National series, The Daily Herald in Columbia reported. Blackburn ran 71 races at 26 different tracks in his career.

His top finish was in 1968, when he won the Permatex 300 at Daytona from the pole. He also won poles at Talladega and Bristol and was inducted into the Pure Darlington Record Club in 1964 after posting a record qualifying time. He finished in the top 10 twice in the Daytona Firecracker 400.

Blackburn grew up surrounded by racing _ his father owned and operated a dirt track in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C.

Blackburn also competed throughout the Middle Tennessee area on dirt tracks and at Nashville Speedway against drivers like Darrell Waltrip, who lives in Franklin, and Coo Coo Marlin, the late father of current Nextel Cup driver Sterling Marlin, also of Columbia.

He retired from racing after an injury and went to work for General Electric in Columbia for 20 years before retiring.


Harry Browne

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) _ Harry Browne, who twice ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate, has died. He was 72.

Browne, an author and investment adviser, died at his home Wednesday night, family friend Jim Babka said. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Browne received 485,134 votes, or 0.5 percent, for president in 1996 and 384,431, or 0.37 percent, in 2000. He never held elective office, Babka said.

He campaigned actively across the country, promoting the value of smaller government.

Browne wrote 12 books that sold more than 2 million copies, the party said in a news release. They included ``Why Government Doesn’t Work,″ ``How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World″ and ``Fail-Safe Investing.″


Robert K. Dwyer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Robert K. Dwyer, a retired state appeals court judge and one of the prosecutors of James Earl Ray, the confessed killer of Martin Luther King Jr., died of kidney failure, a newspaper reported. He was 82.

Dwyer died Wednesday, The Commercial Appeal newspaper reported. Ray, the confessed killer of Martin Luther King Jr., pleaded guilty to murder in 1969, avoiding a trial that could have led to a death sentence. He drew a 99-year sentence and died in prison.

King was shot to death in Memphis in 1968.

Dwyer, then an assistant Shelby County prosecutor, was a member of Ray’s prosecution team.

Dwyer was an appeals court judge for 25 years, retiring in 1994.


Mack Easley

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) _ Mack Easley, who served in all three branches of New Mexico government, died at a senior living center. He was 89.

Easley, a Democrat, died Wednesday. He served as lieutenant governor from 1963 through 1966 under then-Gov. Jack Campbell.

Before then, he served five terms in the New Mexico House, in 1951-52 and from 1955 to 1962. He was speaker of the House in 1959-60. After two terms as lieutenant governor, he served one term in the state Senate, from 1967 to 1970.

In the House, Easley was vice chairman of the education and chairman of the natural resource and oil and gas committees. In the Senate, he was Senate minority whip in 1969-70, and was vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Easley was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1976 and subsequently was elected to the job. Eventually, he became the court’s chief justice.


Henry M. Morris

SANTEE, Calif. (AP) _ Henry M. Morris, whose writings describing what he saw as a divinely created world helped ignite a national debate about the origins of life on Earth, has died. He was 87.

Morris, who coined the term ``creation science,″ had suffered a series of strokes in recent weeks. He died Feb. 25 at a hospital. The cause of death was a stroke, said his son, John Morris.

Trained as a hydraulic engineer, Henry Morris co-authored ``The Genesis Flood,″ a 1961 book that attempted to offer scientific explanation for creationism. A longtime opponent, the late Stephen Jay Gould, acknowledged the book as ``the founding document of the creationist movement.″

Morris went on to found the California-based Institute for Creation Research in the San Diego suburb of Santee in 1970 and built it into a center of the creationist movement. He also helped found what is now San Diego Christian College in El Cajon that year.

Morris was born in 1918 in Dallas. He was teaching civil engineering at Rice University in the 1940s when he concluded that evolution was a major barrier for students in accepting Christ. In 1946, he wrote the first of more than 60 books, ``That You Might Believe.″

Morris’s ideas have been roundly rejected by mainstream scientists, but they continue to hold considerable sway over millions of people around the globe.


Jack Wild

LONDON (AP) _ Jack Wild, who earned an Oscar nomination as a teenager for his role as the Artful Dodger in the 1968 film ``Oliver!″ died of cancer, his agent said. He was 53.

Wild died Wednesday. Born in Royton, northwest England, in 1952, Wild was spotted by a talent agent while playing soccer in a London park and later attended stage school.

He appeared in the London stage production of ``Oliver!″ Lionel Bart’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ``Oliver Twist.″ Wild was cast in the film as cheeky pickpocket the Artful Dodger, a role that earned the 16-year-old an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

Wild also was known to a generation of children as the hero of ``H.R. Pufnstuf,″ a psychedelic TV series about a boy stranded on a fantastical island with a talking flute, a friendly dragon and eerie, chatty trees. A feature film, ``Pufnstuf,″ was released in 1970.

He became a teen music idol, releasing three albums _ ``The Jack Wild Album,″ ``Everything’s Coming up Roses″ and ``Beautiful World.″

But Wild struggled with alcoholism and his adult acting career was fitful, although he had a role in ``Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves″ in 1991.

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