Obituaries in the News

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Monday, January 8, 2007; 5:21 AM

-- Billy Clayton

SPRINGLAKE, Texas (AP) _ Former Texas House Speaker Billy Clayton, who served in the House for 20 years, died Saturday in Lubbock. He was 78.

Clayton had been in ill health for some time, said his daughter, Brenda Herrell of Littlefield.

Michael Phillips, a University of Texas professor who has written about the history of the House speakership, said Clayton was among the first to really use the post of House speaker to wield power.

Clayton served as speaker from 1975 until 1983, which was an unprecedented span then.

During his third term, he was indicted and later acquitted on federal bribery charges filed as part of an FBI sting called "BriLab."

He sponsored legislation in the next legislative session to establish the Public Servant Standards of Conduct Advisory Committee, according to the Handbook of Texas online. The committee's report led to new ethics laws in 1983.

In recent years, Clayton served on the board of "Campaigns for People," a group that lobbied for stricter campaign finance disclosure laws.

During his tenure as a representative, he also focused on water issues.


Frederic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Cardinal Frederic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi, Congo's top Roman Catholic prelate, who warned of what he called international meddling in the country's recent landmark elections, died Saturday. He was 76.

Etsou died in the University Hospital in Leuven, east of Brussels, according to the Scheut Fathers, a Brussels-based missionary order.

He had been staying with the order in the Belgian capital when he was taken to the hospital two weeks ago with pneumonia.

Etsou, who became Archbishop of Kinshasa in 1990 and cardinal in 1991, raised concerns last year about the Congo's first democratic elections in almost 50 years, which supporters hoped would end decades of political violence and dictatorship.

The church is a powerful institution in the vast central African country, which has been afflicted by decades of dictatorship, civil wars and invasions since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

About half of Congo's 63 million people are Catholic, and Catholic schools and clinics have stepped in where the state has faltered.

Etsou took charge of Congo's Catholic Church in the final years of the rule of longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and many said then that he was chosen with Mobutu's support.

After Mobutu was overthrown in 1997, Etsou spoke out against what he described as the strong-arm tactics of the new leader, Laurent Kabila, the father of the current president. Joseph Kabila took power in 2001, following his father's assassination.

Etsou accused several officials with Joseph Kabila's transitional government of stealing from the state treasury and demanded their resignations.

Etsou was born in 1930 in what was then the Belgian Congo. Educated by Catholic missionaries, he entered the priesthood in 1958. He studied sociology and theology in France and Belgium before returning to Congo in the late 1960s.


Bobby Hamilton

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Bobby Hamilton, the longtime NASCAR driver who won the 2001 Talladega 500 and was the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series champion, died Sunday. He was 49.

He died of cancer and was at home with his family, said Liz Allison, a family friend who co-hosted a radio show with Hamilton.

Hamilton was found to have cancer in the head and neck in February. A malignant growth was found when swelling from dental surgery did not go down.

He raced in the season's first three events, with a best finish of 14th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, before turning over the wheel to his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr. The elder Hamilton then started chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

By August, he had returned to work at Bobby Hamilton Racing in Mount Juliet, east of Nashville, and doctors indicated his CAT scans looked good. But cancer cells remained on the right side of his neck.

Hamilton, born in Nashville in 1957, drove in all of NASCAR's top three divisions, making 371 starts and winning four times in what is now the Nextel Cup series. He won 10 truck races and one Busch Series race.

Hamilton's Nextel Cup wins, in addition to Talladega, came at Phoenix, Rockingham and Martinsville. His best season was in 1996, when he finished ninth in the points standings. He won his first Cup race that year, at Phoenix.

Hamilton drove in the top-level NASCAR series from 1989-2005, earning $14.3 million and racing to 20 top-five finishes.

He became a full-time driver-owner in the truck series in 2003.


Terrell Hansen

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) _ Terrell Hansen, who as a heart transplant recipient and friend of author Michael Connelly inspired the best-selling novel "Blood Work," died Tuesday. He was 65.

Hansen died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of complications from a previous stroke, said his wife, Linda.

After heart disease was diagnosed in 1991, Hansen was forced to retire as a mechanical engineer at a heavy construction equipment manufacturing company. He was placed on a waiting list for a heart transplant and became a part-time book dealer.

Hansen met Connelly at a book signing event in 1992 for Connelly's first novel, "The Black Echo," and a friendship developed.

Watching Hansen recover from a heart transplant in 1993, Connelly said he realized Hansen "was hit pretty hard by survivor's guilt, the sense of feeling badly that someone died in order for him to live."

Hansen, who was 51 when he received the transplant, never met the family of his donor but knew she was an 18-year-old killed in an auto accident.

Hansen gave Connelly complete access to his life in researching for his novel, and the writer accompanied him on doctor visits.

"Blood Work," his tale of a retired FBI agent who investigates the death of the young woman whose heart he received in surgery, was published in 1998 and hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Connelly dedicated "Blood Work" to Hansen, naming his main character Terry McCaleb, taking Hansen's first name and that of Connelly's daughter.

"Blood Work" was turned into a 2002 film of the same name, directed and starred in by Clint Eastwood.

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