JAMES H. DOUGLAS JR.

Former Air Force Secretary

James H. Douglas Jr., 88, a Chicago lawyer and investment banker who served as secretary of the Air Force from 1957 to 1959 and then spent two years as a deputy secretary of defense, died Feb. 24 at his home in Lake Forest, Ill. The cause of death was not reported.

As Air Force secretary, he presided over planning and construction of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He is credited with persuading the Senate to approve the design of the academy's chapel, which was controversial at the time, but which has since been hailed as an architectural triumph.

Mr. Douglas had held Treasury Department posts under presidents Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt and served in the Army during both world wars. He joined the Eisenhower administration as undersecretary of the Air Force in 1953. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1960.

JOHN BENTON

Medieval Scholar

John Benton, 56, a history professor at the California Institute of Technology since 1970 whose research on love in the Middle Ages earned him a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1985, died Feb. 25 at his home in Pasadena. The cause of death was not reported.

Dr. Benton was recognized for his work with image processing techniques developed for space exploration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The techniques allowed researchers to read ancient, medieval and modern manuscripts in which the writing had been erased or damaged, or had faded.

He shook medieval historians around the world in 1986 by arguing that a famous exchange of love letters between Heloise and Abelard, an ill-fated pair of 12th century lovers, might all have been written by Abelard. He was best known for teaching a course on "Love in the Western World: A History of Love, Marriage and Sexual Relations from Antiquity to Modern Times."

GENE VINCENT de PAUL

Composer and Arranger

Gene Vincent de Paul, 68, a composer, pianist and musical arranger who collaborated on the Academy Award-winning score for the 1954 musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and who had collaborated on music for Walt Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," died Feb. 27 at his home in Los Angeles. He had a brain tumor.

His biggest hit songs included "Star Eyes," "Irresistible," "Cow Cow Boogie," "When You're in Love," "Mr. Five by Five," and "I'll Remember April."

LARRY SHAY

Composer and Musical Coach

Larry Shay, 90, the musical coach of such entertainers as Al Jolson and Jimmy Durante and a composer for more than 40 years whose hit songs included "When You're Smiling," died Feb. 22 in Newport Beach, Calif. The cause of death was not reported.

Mr. Shay's career spanned four decades, from the 1920s through the 1960s. His other hits included "That's Georgia," "Kentucky, Sure as You're Born," "Knee Deep in Daisies" and "Tie Me to Your Apron Strings Again."

MAMDOUH SALEM

Egyptian Prime Minister

Mamdouh Salem, 70, prime minister of Egypt under President Anwar Sadat from 1975 to 1978, died Feb. 24 in London, where he had gone for medical treatment. The cause of death was not reported.

Since 1978, Mr. Salem had held the largely honorific post as assistant to the presidency. A career police officer, he joined the Egyptian cabinet as interior minister in 1971 when he helped Sadat crush a plot to oust him. As prime minister he worked closely with Sadat and helped introduce some democratic reforms.

EDWARD M. KNABUSCH

Founder of La-Z-Boy Chair Co.

Edward M. Knabusch, 88, a founder and board chairman emeritus of La-Z-Boy Chair Co., the nation's largest upholstery manufacturer and the world's largest producer of motion chairs, died Feb. 25 at a hospital in Monroe, Mich. The cause of death was not reported.

The company that became La-Z-Boy was founded in 1928. From 1960 to 1970, when the Reclina-Rocker chair that both rocks and reclines was introduced, sales rose from $1.1 million to $52.7 million. In 1987, sales topped the $420 million mark.