Burl Ives, 85, a 20th-century minstrel and balladeer who brought new life and popularity to some of America's oldest folk music with songs of children, history, animals, insects and loves won and lost, died of complications related to cancer of the mouth April 14 at his home in Anacortes, Wash.
Mr. Ives also was a noted stage and screen actor who won an Academy Award in 1959 for his role in "The Big Country," one of several movies about the great outdoors in which he appeared. But he probably was best remembered for his electrifying performance as the family patriarch, Big Daddy, in Tennessee Williams's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," live on Broadway and later in the 1958 film co-starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.
As a folk singer, he had virtual proprietary rights to the likes of "Blue Tail Fly," "Big Rock Candy Mountain," "Foggy, Foggy Dew," "Froggie Went a-Courtin'," "The Old Gray Goose" and "Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night." Poet Carl Sandburg described him as "America's mightiest ballad singer."
His voice was reedy, supple and a little scratchy. Mr. Ives once described it as "sort of like no other one, I guess." It was captivating, delightful and enchanting to millions of listeners.
He made hundreds of record albums including Mother Goose songs and dozens of other tunes for children such as "Little White Duck," "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" and the Christmas favorites "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." But his repertoire transcended age barriers, and his music was equally popular with young and old. To many, a Burl Ives concert was an excuse for a family outing, including children, parents and grandparents.
"It's amazing to watch and hear Burl Ives sing folk songs," Washington Post music critic Paul Hume once wrote. "He just stands there with his guitar and sings. Usually he keeps a deadpan, and the songs are almost always a succession of verses telling a story . . . just the same way they have been played and sung for hundreds of years. They require no arranging or new version . . . easy style, no preaching and plenty of fun."
Six feet tall and weighing 270 pounds, Mr. Ives was a commanding presence on stage and screen. He had a large mustache and a goatee, sparkling eyes and a warm, infectious smile. With his guitar, he projected a relaxed and easygoing informality, but he also could be stern and intimidating when the role demanded.
As Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," he was remembered for his ear-splitting bellows of "Mennnnndacity," "Bull" and "Ida, stop that yammering!" He played the sheriff in the 1955 film "East of Eden," Captain Andy in a 1954 Broadway revival of the Jerome Kern musical "Showboat" and the singing blacksmith in the 1948 Walt Disney film "So Dear to My Heart." His Academy Award in "The Big Country" was for best supporting actor in a large-scale western movie about families feuding over water rights.
Additionally, Mr. Ives was a musical anthologist and storyteller and an authority on American folklore. He had published collections of folk ballads and tales, including "The Burl Ives Song Book" (1953), "Tales of America" (1954) and verses for children, "Sailing on a Very Fine Day."
Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was born in Jasper County, Ill., into a tenant farming family that could trace its ancestry through a line of preachers, farmers and riverboat gamblers back to 17th-century America. From his tobacco-chewing, pipe-smoking grandmother he learned scores of Scottish, Irish and English folk ballads that were brought over by her immigrant ancestors, then revised and readapted over the years in this country.
Singing was a large part of his family life in his early years. Beginning at age 4, Mr. Ives earned money by performing in public, sometimes alone and sometimes with his brothers and sisters in a group that came to be known as "those singing Ives." They sang the ballads learned at their grandmother's knee, such as "Barbara Allen," "Jesse James" and "Pearl Brian;" hymns including "Rock of Ages" and "Shall We Gather at the River;" sea and river chants, and songs of the forest, mountain, prairie and mine.
As a teenager, Mr. Ives sang in church choirs and at camp meetings. He played football in high school and entered Eastern Illinois State Teachers College with the intention of becoming a football coach. He "never did take to studies," he said later, and in 1930, during his junior year, he left to ride the rails and hitchhike through the United States, Mexico and Canada.
He took his guitar with him, and he sang for his support along the way. In saloons, parks, village churches, hobo jungles, lumber camps and at prize fights, steel mills, cattle ranches and fishing warfs, he forged the nucleus of a musical constituency that would endure for decades. At the same time, he gathered more songs for his repertoire.
In Terre Haute, Ind., he registered at Indiana State Teachers College, found a job singing on the radio and worked in a drugstore. A singing teacher there suggested he seek additional training in New York, and Mr. Ives moved on, settling in a rooming house on Riverside Drive near Columbia University at a weekly rental of $5.
He supported himself with odd jobs and by singing in church choirs while he studied under the vocal coach Ekka Toedt and took music courses at New York University. During the summer of 1938, he made his professional acting debut at a theater in Carmel, N.Y., where he performed character parts in several plays. That fall he appeared on Broadway in a non-singing role in the George Abbott musical comedy "The Boys from Syracuse."
Over the next two years, Mr. Ives played in New York nightclubs and with a touring company in Rodgers and Hart's "I Married an Angel." In 1940, he began singing on the radio, initially on NBC and later on CBS, where he did ballads on the program "Back Where I Come From." Eventually he got his own show on CBS, "The Wayfarin' Stranger."
During World War II, he served briefly in the Army but then received a medical discharge. Later in the war, he entertained military personnel and made records for the Office of War Information. In 1944, he began a long engagement at Cafe Society Upland, a New York nightclub.
He played again on Broadway in "Sing Out Sweet Land," which was advertised as a "cavalcade of America folk music." The show drew lukewarm reviews, but Mr. Ives won critical acclaim for songs such as "Blue Tail Fly" that later would become associated with him.
In 1945, he made his film debut in a version of the Will James novel "Smokey," and he began appearing as the weekly star of the "Radio Readers Digest." He also had guest appearances on other radio shows, and in 1946, he launched a series of recorded singing shows on the Mutual Broadcasting System. His autobiography, "Wayfaring Stranger," was published by McGraw Hill in 1948.
Over the next four decades, Mr. Ives would have major parts in more than 20 films, including "Green Grass of Wyoming" (1948), "Sierra" (1950), "The Power and the Prize" (1956), "Desire Under the Elms" (1958), "Wind Across the Everglades" (1958), "Our Man in Havana" (1960), "Mediterranean Holiday" (1964), "Baker's Hawk" (1976) and "The White Dog" (1982).
He played in television specials including "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the "Great Easter Bunny" and in the ABC-TV miniseries "Roots."
Until he was well into his eighties, Mr. Ives continued to perform in about 40 concerts a year, in the United States and foreign countries. He gave a private performance for Israeli leader Golda Meir and a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II of England, and he played for U.S. presidents.
Mr. Ives's 25-year marriage to Helen Payne Ehrlich, whom he met when she directed one of his radio folk song programs, ended in divorce in 1971. They had one son, Alexander Ives. Later that year, he married California interior decorator, Dorothy Koster, who, along with Ives's son, survives. HOWARD R. PENNIMAN Professor of Government
Howard R. Penniman, 78, a retired professor of government at Georgetown University who was an authority on political parties and electoral systems, died April 13 at the Rockville Nursing Home. He had Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Penniman, a Rockville resident, was born in Steger, Ill. He graduated from Louisiana State University and received master's and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Minnesota. During World War II, he served in the Army and was stationed in Japan at the end of the conflict.
In the late 1930s, he taught political science at the University of Alabama. In the early 1940s, he joined the faculty of Yale University. Except for his Army service, he taught there until 1948.
Dr. Penniman moved to the Washington area at that time and joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He later worked for the State Department and the U.S. Information Agency. In 1958, he began his career at Georgetown, and he taught there until retiring in 1983.
His publications included his revision of Sait's "American Parties and Elections," a standard text in its field. He also was general editor of "At The Polls," a multivolume series on elections and voting behavior in virtually every democratic country in the world. The series was published first by the American Enterprise Institute and later by the Duke University Press.
In 1967, Dr. Penniman served on a U.S. commission that observed that year's presidential election in South Vietnam. He also studied other Vietnamese elections, and in 1973 published "Elections in South Vietnam." He also was an election consultant to the ABC Television network.
He was a past president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, and of the National Capital Area Political Science Association. He was a delegate to the Maryland constitutional convention in 1967 and a director of the American Peace Society and the Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation. He was a trustee of Montgomery College.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Morgia Anderson Penniman of Rockville; two sons, William H. Penniman of McLean and Matthew F. Penniman of Dayton, Md.; three daughters, Barbara J. Cayelli of Rockville, Ruth M. Martin of Baltimore and Catherine C. Hellerman of Silver Spring; a sister, Clara Penniman of Madison, Wis.; and 19 grandchildren. HELEN N. SHAFFER Government Employee Helen Nebel Shaffer, 82, a retired State Department secretary and administrative assistant, died of cancer April 8 at the Manor Care Fernwood nursing home in Bethesda. She lived in Washington.
Mrs. Shaffer, a Chicago native, moved here when she worked for the State Department the first time, from 1938 to 1943. She worked there a second time from 1968 until retiring in 1978. From the 1950s to 1968, she had been an administrative aide here for such organizations as the BBC and the Wheaton Clinic.
Her hobbies included travel. She had studied in the World Campus Afloat program and had done white water rafting.
Her husband, Marshall A. Shaffer, died in 1955. Survivors include a son, Thomas L., of Bethesda; a siser, Margaret Nebel of Chicago; three brothers, Frederick Nebel of Florida, and Robert and Victor Nebel, both of Chicago; and four grandchildren. MILTON ALBERT SMITH Chamber of Commerce Counsel
Milton Albert Smith, 84, former general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, died April 2 at Suburban Hospital after a heart attack.
Mr. Smith, a resident of Chevy Chase, was a third-generation Washingtonian. He graduated from Eastern High School and what is now American University's Washington College of Law.
From 1940 to 1945, he was assistant general counsel for the National Lumber Manufacturers Association. For the next three decades, he worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and he was general counsel there from 1964 until retiring in 1975. His work included specialization in laws related to business and professional organizations. He had written articles and testified before Congress on that specialty.
During his years with the Chamber, and afterward until his death, Mr. Smith also had a private law practice in Washington. He taught evenings at the Washington College of Law.
During the 1950s, he was chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Zoning Appeals.
Survivors include his wife, Dorothy Davidson Smith of Chevy Chase; a son, Dr. M. Blaine Smith of Damascus; and two grandsons. FAYE McINTYRE Public Relations Official
Faye McIntyre, 63, the widow of an ambassador who had been a vice president of American International Communication Inc., a Washington public relations concern, for the last five years, died of cancer April 7 at Holy Cross Hospital. She lived in Silver Spring.
She had been married to Victor McIntyre, who served in Washington as the ambassador of Trinidad from 1974 to 1984, for 25 years until his death in 1987.
Mrs. McIntyre, who had lived in the Washington area since 1974, was born in Jamaica. A graduate of the University of Cologne in Germany, she received a master's degree in economics from New York University.
Over the years, she had taught economics and German at universities in Britain, Africa and the West Indies and had worked for New York University, the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, and banks in Germany. She had accompanied her husband to diplomatic posts in Europe, Africa and the West Indies.
Mrs. McIntyre was a past chief of the Commonwealth Women's Organization in Washington.
She leaves no immediate survivors. ROBERT BENJAMIN DAILEY Personnel Specialist Robert Benjamin Dailey, 46, a supervisory personnel management specialist at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, died April 14 at his home in Alexandria. He had AIDS.
Mr. Dailey was born in Suffolk, Va. He moved to the Washington area after his graduation in 1970 from the University of Virginia.
He began his career in the early 1970s with what is now the Office of Personnel Management. Later, he was a personnel official with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce Department. He joined the Merit Systems Protection Board in 1990.
Survivors include his parents, Kathryn and Philip Dailey, and a brother, Michael, all of Suffolk; and two sisters, Ellen Wood of Richmond and Lona McKinley of Suffolk.