Saturday, August 6, 2005

Ruth RoemerPublic Health Advocate

Ruth Roemer, 89, a pioneer in public health law who led efforts to regulate tobacco use and expand women's reproductive rights, died Aug. 1 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles. No cause of death was reported.

Called a modern icon of public health by colleagues, Ms. Roemer was a longtime UCLA professor whose unique background as a lawyer in a field dominated by physicians made her an influential advocate.

A 1939 graduate of Cornell Law School, Ms. Roemer worked as a labor lawyer during the 1940s. She shifted to health law in the 1960s after participating in a landmark study of the laws governing admission to mental hospitals in New York state.

Soon after joining the UCLA School of Public Health in 1962, she helped organize the California Committee on Therapeutic Abortion, which spearheaded abortion law changes in the state. She was prominent in campaigns to add fluoride to public water supplies across the country. She also inspired advocates pursuing a wide range of public health agendas, including eliminating obesity and fighting discrimination against people with AIDS.

In 1993, she teamed with Allyn Taylor of the University of Maryland's law school to produce a document that outlined what became the world's first public health treaty -- the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Its goal was to reduce the adverse economic and health impacts of the tobacco industry through legislation and guidelines controlling advertising, smuggling and taxation, and it was signed by 168 countries and ratified in 2003.

Benjamin Goodman KarimMalcolm X's Aide

Benjamin Goodman Karim, 73, a minister, author and right-hand man to Malcolm X during the civil rights movement, died Aug. 2 after a fall, his son Zaid Karim told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Mr. Karim's life changed in 1957 when curiosity about Malcolm X prompted him to go listen to the charismatic Nation of Islam leader speak about the history of slavery. He joined the Nation of Islam soon after and received the name "Benjamin 2X."

Mr. Karim stood in for Malcolm X at some appearances and introduced him on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, moments before Malcolm X was assassinated. He had left the organization by then but rejoined it after Malcolm X's death, and later received "Karim" as his last name, his son said. Karim traveled the country as a Muslim minister and spoke at universities and elsewhere trying to keep Malcolm X's ideas alive.

He wrote "Remembering Malcolm" in 1992 and was a consultant to Spike Lee's film about the man.

Dick HeywardUNICEF Official

Dick Heyward, 90, UNICEF's senior deputy executive director for more than three decades, died Aug. 3 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Heyward served as the organization's senior deputy executive director from 1949 until his retirement in 1981. UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman called him "truly one of the giants" in the organization's history.

Survivors include his wife, Elisabeth Heyward, a retired interpreter at the United Nations; two sons, CBS News President Andrew Heyward and Peter Heyward, a Washington, D.C., lawyer; and seven grandchildren.

George C. DugginsVietnam Veterans President

George C. Duggins, 61, the first black president of Vietnam Veterans of America Inc., died Aug. 1 in Chesapeake, Va. He had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Mr. Duggins joined the Army in 1965 and spent four years in intelligence. He served in Vietnam from May 1966 to December 1967 and from April 1968 to April 1969. Active in Vietnam Veterans since 1985, Mr. Duggins served as its president from 1997 to 2001.

As head of the organization, he appeared before Congress to seek improved health care for veterans and oppose spending cuts for smoking-related illnesses, noting: "The military did much more than tolerate smoking among its ranks -- it irrefutably encouraged and subsidized smoking."

Mr. Duggins worked to alleviate homelessness among veterans and to recruit more blacks into the mostly white organization.

Lawrence TeeterSirhan Sirhan's Attorney

Lawrence Teeter, 56, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney who for the past decade had tried to overturn the conviction of Sirhan B. Sirhan for the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, died July 31 in Conchitas, Mexico, where he had gone to seek alternative treatment for advanced lymphoma.

Mr. Teeter, who signed on as Sirhan's attorney in 1994, repeatedly petitioned state and federal courts to grant Sirhan a new trial and to hold it in Fresno, Calif., rather than Los Angeles, where Mr. Teeter said his client could never be tried fairly.

The attorney maintained that at the time of the slaying, Sirhan was in the wrong position and too far away to have fired the bullets that killed Kennedy and that, although Sirhan did fire a gun that night, he did so in a hypnotic trance, like the assassin in the fictional film "The Manchurian Candidate," either by the CIA or "the military industrial complex." Mr. Teeter also said the Los Angeles Police Department and others destroyed evidence that would have pointed to the real killer.

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