Robert L. Rabe, 62, a retired assistant chief of the D.C. police department and an authority on hostage and barricade situations and how to resolve them peacefully, died of cancer Nov. 15 at his home in Derwood.
Known as "The Golden Voice" because of his skill in negotiating in what police generally regard as nightmares of uncertainty in which steadiness and guile are their main weapons against terror and desperation, Chief Rabe handled perhaps a score of hostage-takings in Washington from 1973 to 1977, and he brought all of them to a close without loss of life.
The most spectacular was the 39-hour siege in 1977 in which 12 Hanafi Muslims, led by Hamaas Abdul Khalis, took 149 hostages at the District Building, the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the Islamic Center. Threatening to kill their prisoners, the Muslims demanded that five people convicted of murdering seven members of Khalis's family in 1973 be turned over to them for revenge.
In the opening minutes of the siege, one person was killed and several were injured, including D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, then a member of the D.C. Council, who was shot in the chest. But there were no deaths after Chief Rabe established telephone contact with Khalis at B'nai B'rith headquarters.
The Hanafis surrendered after Chief Rabe, D.C. Police Chief Maurice Cullinane and the ambassadors of Egypt, Iran and Pakistan met with Khalis. All the Hanafis involved received long prison terms on charges of murder, kidnapping and other offenses.
His sobriquet notwithstanding, Chief Rabe was a blunt, gravel-voiced policeman who was totally devoted to his work. With the rise of terrorism in the 1970s, he made it his business to keep up with hostage situations around the world, and he could talk at length on how his knowledge of each might help him in some future crisis.
He was proud of the fact that he always managed to "execute the problem," as he said, rather than the suspects executing their victims. But given the fact that his job was to persuade armed and desperate people to surrender, he considered it inevitable that sooner or later he would find himself in a situation in which life would be lost. That was one of the reasons he worked so hard.
His great ally, he said, was time. "You can buy time, you can't buy lives," he used to say. "By gaining time, you're wearing them down. You force them to make the decisions. Whatever they're going to do, they're probably going to do it in the first hour. Once you make contact and get by that first hour, you're almost always successful in getting everybody out alive."
Chief Rabe was born in Queens, N.Y. He served in the Navy in 1946 and 1947, and moved to Washington in 1951 to join the D.C. police department. A stocky, barrel-chested man with bristly, iron-gray hair, he spent most of his career as a uniformed police officer and administrator.
While working at his profession, he also studied it. He received an associate degree in law enforcement from American University, and he was a graduate of numerous special courses in subjects including civil disorders, organization of bomb-disposal squads, police administration, data processing, human relations and terrorism.
He was a captain in the Youth Division, commander of the 7th Police District in Southeast Washington and then deputy chief for planning and development before being given command of the Special Operations Division in 1973. It was in that post that he acted as the negotiator in barricade situations. He also was the police official directly responsible for security during the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976 and President Carter's inauguration in 1977.
In 1977 he was promoted to assistant chief in charge of inspectional services, including internal affairs, discipline and intelligence. He retired in 1979.
Chief Rabe was a member of the working group of the President's Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism and a member of the U.S. delegation that helped arrange security for the 1979 Pan-American Games in Puerto Rico.
After he retired, he founded a security consulting firm, Crisis Management Associates Ltd. He ran that business until 1982, and he continued as a private consultant for some time after that. He lectured at the FBI Academy and elsewhere.
Chief Rabe was a member of the Metropolitan Police Officials Association, the American Society for Industrial Security, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Association of the District of Columbia.
Survivors include his wife, the former Martha Patricia Fetty, whom he married in 1949, of Derwood; two sons, Gregory R. Rabe of Lake Ridge, Va., and Robert P. Rabe of Alexandria; three sisters, Elizabeth Lazio of Huntington, N.Y., Doris Steffens of Northport, N.Y., and Marilyn Burk of Singapore; and five grandchildren.
Civil Rights Commission Official
Herbert Wheeless, 64, retired chief of complaints for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and a former human rights commissioner in Howard County, died of cancer Nov. 14 at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore. He lived in Columbia.
Mr. Wheeless worked at the Civil Rights Commission from 1969 until his retirement in 1984 and was chief of complaints for about a decade. Earlier, he worked as a community relations specialist in the commission's office of community programs, as a liaison with state and local human rights agencies and private organizations.
He began a 32-year career with the federal government at the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1952, after completing a bachelor's degree in history at the former North Carolina Central College. He was a legislative researcher at the Securities and Exchange Commission before he moved to the Civil Rights Commission.
After he retired, he was appointed to the Human Rights Commission of Howard County, where he served until 1988.
Mr. Wheeless was a native of Spring Hope, N.C., and he served in the Army in Germany from 1947 to 1949. He lived in Washington before moving to Columbia 12 years ago.
He was an elder and charter member of the Church of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Washington. He was an early official of an American Federation of Government Employees unit at SEC headquarters here. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
His marriage to Mary Lee Wheeless ended in divorce.
Survivors include two sons, Darrell H. Wheeless of Houston, and Timothy D. Wheeless of Landover; two daughters, Roslyn Y. Wheeless of New Carrollton, and Pamela M. Wheeless of Upper Marlboro; three brothers, Archie Wheeless and Richard Wheeless, both of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Arteria Wheeless of Spring Hope, N.C.; and a grandson.
EDITH W. JOHNSON
Red Cross Volunteer
Edith W. Johnson, 67, a former chairman of volunteers for the American Red Cross for the northeastern United States, died Nov. 14 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She had undergone surgery for a cerebral aneurysm.
Mrs. Johnson, a resident of Alexandria, began her career as a Red Cross volunteer during World War II in Annapolis, where she was a member of the Red Cross Motor Corps. Over the years, she headed Red Cross volunteer programs in Athens, Greece, where her husband was stationed as a Navy pilot, and at Veterans Administration hospitals in this country.
She worked at many disaster sites in this country. In 1972, she coordinated 20,000 volunteers in flood relief work in Pennsylvania in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes, and in 1975 she coordinated volunteer efforts at Indian Town Gap, Pa., in connection with the arrival there of 15,000 Vietnamese refugees.
In addition to being chairman of Red Cross volunteers for the Eastern Area, which runs from Virginia through the New England states and includes Puerto Rico, Mrs. Johnson had been chairman of volunteers' program development and community programs for the Eastern Area.
She also served on the board of the Alexandria chapter of the Red Cross and had been a volunteer in the Arlington Hospital emergency room.
A native of Atlanta, Mrs. Johnson grew up in Norfolk. She moved to the Washington area in 1957.
Survivors include her husband, retired Navy Cmdr. Berendt E. Johnson of Alexandria; three children, Berendt E. Johnson III of Burke, Sheron J. Appleton of Vienna, and Peter V.L. Johnson of Los Angeles; and five grandsons.
Louis Olivier, 77, a retired researcher of parasitic diseases who specialized in schistosomiasis, died Nov. 16 of cancer at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. He had a home in Bethesda from 1946 until the late 1970s.
Dr. Olivier worked for the Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health from 1946 to 1966, doing research on parasitic diseases. His specialty was schistosomiasis, a water-borne disease of the blood system transmitted by snails.
He left the Public Health Service to work for the World Health Organization and its Pan American Health Organization and traveled widely for them as a consultant on tropical diseases.
His assignments included a posting to World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva to head programs on tropical diseases. While with the Public Health Service he had lived in Recife, Brazil, for two years to direct a field research project.
Dr. Olivier was a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., and a graduate of the University of Michigan. He received graduate degrees in zoology from New York University. During World War II he served in the Army Sanitation Corps, mostly in the South Pacific.
He was a past president of the Helminthological Society of Washington and the American Society of Parasitologists. He retired to Cleveland, S.C., in the late 1970s and moved to Chapel Hill a year ago.
Dr. Olivier is survived by his wife, Peggy Olivier of Chapel Hill; three sons, James Olivier of Putney, Vt., Donald Olivier of Boston and Robert Olivier of Ouray, Colo.; and six grandchildren.
RICHARD HOW WATKINS
Richard How Watkins, 65, a Federal Aviation Administration electrician who retired as assistant chief of the electrical and air conditioning branch at National Airport, died of cancer Nov. 13 at Gladys Spellman Nursing Center in Cheverly.
Mr. Watkins, who lived in Hyattsville, was born in Washington. He served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.
He retired from the FAA in 1980 after 32 years with the agency.
Mr. Watkins was a life member and a lieutenant in the Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department.
Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Naomi Hotopp Watkins of Hyattsville; a stepson, Robert L. Adams Sr. of Bowie; two sisters; three brothers; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
LUCINDA L. BABCOCK
Lucinda Louise Babcock, 80, who was a past president of the Women's Group and a past member of the Altar Guild at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Washington, died Oct. 27 at a hospital in La Mesa, Calif. She had diabetes.
Mrs. Babcock moved from Washington to Santee, Calif., in September. She was a native of Iowa and came to this area during World War II.
Her husband, Charles O. Babcock, died in 1973.
Survivors include two children, Florence Hustad of Santee and Ruth E. Park of Burke; a sister, Dorothy Miller of Rogue River, Ore.; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.