Alan O. Plait


Alan O. Plait, 79, a design and reliability engineer who was the retired technical director at ManTech International Corp., died of lymphoma Sept. 14 at his home in Sarasota, Fla.

While working for the Admiral Corp. in Chicago in 1954, Mr. Plait designed the first practical modular vertical color television set, at a time when color TVs were just becoming available commercially. He developed a mathematical basis for the field of reliability studies and helped electronic systems of many types be made to perform more reliably.

Mr. Plait also designed test equipment and military battlefield surveillance systems. He was involved in computer systems design and military equipment programs, including work on medical devices for the Apollo spacecrafts, food packages for astronauts and automated test systems. He worked for Magnavox in Fort Wayne, Ind., in the late 1950s.

Mr. Plait moved to Springfield in 1962 and worked at Melpar Inc. for five years and then for the Computer Sciences Corp. He joined ManTech International Corp. in Fairfax County in 1978 and retired in 1992.

He was born in Chicago and served in the Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II. He taught electronics at the American Television Labs in Chicago in 1947 while attending the Illinois Institute of Technology, graduating with a degree in math in 1951.

Recalled to active duty, he was sent to the naval air station in Jacksonville, Fla., to work in the electronics lab. After his discharge, Mr. Plait worked for the Admiral Corp. and received a second bachelor's degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in electrical engineering in 1957. He completed a master's degree in systems engineering at Virginia Tech in 1976.

Mr. Plait also taught mathematics and engineering at Illinois Tech, Virginia Tech, George Washington University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School. He received the faculty excellence award from the USDA Graduate School in 1986 and the Leo Schubert Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Washington Academy of Sciences in 1989.

He served as president of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineering's Reliability Society and in 1984 was awarded the society's Centennial Medal. The Reliability and Maintainability Symposium named an award in his honor. He was also a fellow of the American Society for Quality, a fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences and a member of the Naval Cryptographic Veterans Association.

He was a past president of the Kings Park Civic Association in Springfield and was among the founding families of the Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax County.

After moving to Sarasota in 1995, Mr. Plait served on the board of directors of the Sarasota Science and Technology Center and founded its library, which bears his name. He worked as a substitute mathematics teacher for the Sarasota County school system.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Evelyn S. Plait of Sarasota; four children, Sidney R. Plait of Atlanta, Merril E. Plait of Baltimore, Marcia Teece of Baltimore and Philip C. Plait of Rohnert Park, Calif.; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Katherine Kennedy Clark

Congressional Staff Member

Katherine Kennedy Clark, 78, a longtime staff member with the House of Representatives, died Sept. 16 of lung cancer at Capital Hospice in Arlington. She lived in Alexandria.

Ms. Clark, who was known to her friends as "Miss Kitty," came to Washington in 1960 and worked for about five years as congressional liaison with the U.S. Agency for International Development. She later held the same position for the State Department.

Beginning in about 1969, she served as a senior staff member on the old Committee on Education and Labor until her retirement in the late 1980s.

Ms. Clark was born in Grundy, Va., and grew up in Abingdon, Va. After graduating from Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, she became home secretary in Abingdon to Rep. William Pat Jennings (D-Va.).

As an alternate delegate to the 1952 Democratic National Convention, Ms. Clark struck up a lifelong friendship with the sister of presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson and later with Stevenson himself. She attended most Democratic conventions through 1980.

She also participated in local campaigns and other political activities in Alexandria, where she had lived since 1960. Her other interests included reading and art.

Her marriage to William Gibbons ended in divorce.

Survivors include a brother, Blake Clark of Greensboro, N.C.; and three sisters, Margaret Clark Tiffany of Woodside, Calif., Ava Clark Spencer of Davidson, N.C., and Eloise E. Clark of Bowling Green, Ohio.

Harry Lee Thomas


Harry Lee Thomas, 75, a lawyer and longtime Arlington resident, died Sept. 16 of cancer at his home.

Mr. Thomas was a descendant of one of Arlington's oldest families, tracing its history in the area to the mid-1600s. He attended Washington-Lee High School and graduated from Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Va.

After serving in the Navy, Mr. Thomas entered the University of Virginia. He was recalled to active duty in the Navy during the Korean War and then returned to U-Va., from which he graduated in 1955. He was a 1958 graduate of the U-Va. law school.

He entered a general law practice with his father and grandfather. In later years, he specialized in trust and estate law. For the past 10 years, Mr. Thomas was a substitute judge for the juvenile, domestic relations and traffic courts of Arlington and Fairfax counties. He continued to work as a judge until this summer.

He was an accomplished golfer and was a member of Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington. He enjoyed attending his children's and grandchildren's athletic events. He had been a member of the Optimist Club and the Washington-Lee High School booster club.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Lois Thomas of Arlington; four sons, Harry Lee Thomas Jr., William Porter Thomas and Johnathan Scott Thomas, all of McLean, and Richard Clark Thomas of Oakton; his mother, Claudine Clark Thomas of Arlington; two brothers, Homer Rex Thomas of Arlington and Clark Gale Thomas of Upperville; and eight grandchildren.

James Woolls


James Woolls, 72, a lawyer, died of lung cancer Sept. 15 at Inova Alexandria Hospital. He was a lifelong Alexandria resident.

Mr. Woolls was born in Alexandria and graduated from St. Mary's parochial school, St. John's College High School and the Virginia Military Institute. He served two years in the Army at Fort Hood, Tex., then enrolled in George Washington University Law School, graduating in 1958.

He was a law clerk in U.S. District Court in the eastern district of Virginia for nine months, then established a private practice in Alexandria. He represented clients in most civil and criminal courts in Northern Virginia and had worked as a substitute judge of municipal and general district courts since 1968. Mr. Woolls was a member of the U.S. Land Commission for condemnation cases from 1963 to 1972. He had served as a commissioner in the chancery of the Alexandria Circuit Court.

He retired last year.

Mr. Woolls enjoyed making furniture in his home workshop, gardening, listening to bluegrass and reading about history. He loved to play chess with his nieces and nephews, and gave no quarter.

He was a lifelong member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria.

Survivors include three sisters, Ruth Roberts Woolls Jr. of Broad Run, Elizabeth Woolls Akar of Bath, Maine, and Margaret Harmon Woolls of Alexandria.