Notable deaths: Christopher Chataway;William McKinley Branch

January 21
Christopher Chataway
Olympian, politician

Christopher Chataway, a former 5,000-meter world-record holder who helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile, died Jan. 19 in London. He was 82.

The cause was cancer, his son Mark Chataway said.

The middle-distance runner competed at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, and he acted as a pacemaker to help Bannister become the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier in 1954.

Also in 1954, Mr. Chataway won the three-mile race at the Commonwealth Games. And, two weeks after taking silver in the 5,000, behind Vladimir Kuts, at the European Championships in Berne, Mr. Chataway defeated the Russian on the way to breaking the world record for the distance.

Mr. Chataway retired from international athletics after the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, where he finished 11th in the 5,000.

Mr. Chataway had begun a career on television as a newscaster with Independent Television News in 1955, and in 1959, he won election to the House of Commons as a member of the Conservative Party.

He was knighted for his services to the aviation industry in 1995, having been chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

William McKinley Branch
minister, probate judge

William McKinley Branch, a Baptist minister who became the country’s first elected black probate judge, died Jan. 13 in Birmingham, Ala. He was 95.

The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama reported the death but did not report the cause.

Rev. Branch spent more than 60 years as pastor of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in his native Forkland, Ala., and he participated in the civil rights movement as a founder of the NAACP’s chapter in Greene County, Ala. He drove the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to an Alabama voting rights march weeks before King’s assassination in 1968.

Rev. Branch, who was the child of sharecroppers, received a theology degree from Selma University in Alabama and a bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University. He studied law at the University of Illinois.

In 1970, he became a probate judge in Greene County and served in that position until 1988.

— from staff and wire reports