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Obituaries

Monday, July 16, 2007

Madeline MurphyCivil Rights Activist

Madeline Wheeler Murphy, 84, a prominent civil rights activist whose family was active in Baltimore politics, died of a heart attack July 8 at her home in the city's Roland Park area.

Mrs. Murphy, who was born in Boston and raised in Wilmington, Del., ran for City Council three times, was a longtime columnist for the Afro-American newspaper and appeared often on local television and radio shows, most notably "Square Off" on WJZ-TV.

"She was an activist type who was more prone to action than simply words," said Robert M. Bell, chief judge of Baltimore's Court of Appeals, who served on the bench with her husband, District Judge William H. Murphy Sr. "She wanted to get everybody inspired and to act in the best interests of this city. And she was not timid. She was a woman who did not fear to get into the male-dominated sectors."

Her husband died in 2003.

Survivors include five children, whose jobs include being a former Circuit Court judge, a political consultant, a former Washington director of the American Civil Liberties Union, a computer engineer, and a curator and former executive director of the Chicago Office of Fine Arts.

Ed MirvishColorful Toronto Businessman

"Honest Ed" Mirvish, 92, a colorful Toronto character who restored theaters, produced musicals and ran a brash and cavernous discount store, died July 11 in Toronto. No cause of death was reported.

Known outside of his adopted home town for restoring London's Old Vic Theatre, Mr. Mirvish had a much more eclectic reputation in Canada, where he was universally known as "Honest Ed." The son of a Russian couple who immigrated to the United States, he moved with his parents to Canada in 1923. He later worked stacking shelves in the family's Toronto food store.

By 1948, he had opened a discount store that started with clothing and grew to include thin aluminum pans, colorful artificial flowers and cheap groceries, often sold in bulk. His first ad read: "Our building is a dump, our service is rotten, our fixtures are orange crates. But our prices are the lowest in town. Serve yourself and save a lot of money." The block-long store, with 22,000 flashing light bulbs outside, stands out on a street now better known for hipster bars and yuppie stores.

He bought Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1962 and then spent more than twice the purchase price restoring the building to its turn-of-the-century splendor. Thinking no one would come until the neighborhood improved, he bought nearby warehouses and turned them into restaurants, sparking the development of what is today Toronto's main entertainment district.

Jim MitchellPornographer

Jim Mitchell, 63, a pioneering pornographer who was convicted of killing the brother with whom he built the Mitchell Brothers skinflick empire in San Francisco, died July 12 of an apparent heart attack at his home in western Sonoma County, Calif.

Mr. Mitchell, who along with his younger brother, Artie, produced "Behind the Green Door" and other adult films during the 1970s, died at the ranch near Petaluma where he lived quietly since his release from San Quentin State Prison in 1997.

In 1969, the Mitchells opened an adult movie theater, the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre, in San Francisco's rough Tenderloin area. The pair, who faced multiple arrests on obscenity charges, ultimately produced hundreds of films.

Their glory days came to an abrupt end in 1991, when Mr. Mitchell shot his 45-year-old brother at Artie Mitchell's Marin County home. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1992 and spent five years at San Quentin before being paroled in 1997.

"They were a part of the counterculture," former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Warren Hinckle said of the Mitchell brothers. "Jimmy was a pioneer, a champion and one of the funniest guys you will meet. He was one of the great guys in the great tradition of tough old San Francisco. Maybe the last one of them."

-- From News Services

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