Mississippi 2014 deaths: Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley among state notables who died this year

JacksonMayor-thumb-640xauto-8503JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A former Miss America, a former White House spokesman and a Jackson mayor who had a high-profile legal career before taking office were among the notable Mississippians who died during 2014.

A top state senator also died, as did a U.S. senator’s wife who had dementia and was unknowingly pulled into a bizarre political scandal.

Some Mississippians, and those with Mississippi connections, who died in 2014:

Mary Ann Mobley and Gary Collins in 1971. Courtesy Everett Collection
Mary Ann Mobley and Gary Collins in 1971.
Courtesy Everett Collection

— Mary Ann Mobley Collins, a Mississippi native who was Miss America 1959, died Dec. 9 at her home in Beverly Hills, California. She was 77. She was an actress and singer in movies and television and on Broadway and later became a documentary filmmaker.

— Larry Speakes, who spent six years as acting press secretary for President Ronald Reagan, died Jan. 10 at his home in Cleveland, Mississippi. He was 74. Speakes became Reagan’s acting spokesman after Press Secretary James Brady was wounded during an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981.

— Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba died Feb. 25. He was 66. As an attorney, Lumumba represented Tupac Shakur in cases including one in which the rapper was cleared of aggravated assault in the shootings of two off-duty police officers who were visiting Atlanta. Lumumba became mayor in July 2013.

— Mississippi Senate President Pro Tempore Terry Brown, R-Columbus, died Sept. 4. He was 64. Brown had served in the Senate since 2004. He was in the Mississippi House 1988-2000, and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1999.

— Rose Clayton Cochran, wife of Sen. Thad Cochran, died Dec. 12. She was 73. The bedridden woman became a focal point of her husband’s re-election campaign, when prosecutors said supporters of his opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, were involved in taking unauthorized photos of her in her nursing home, then posting them briefly online in an apparent effort to discredit the six-term U.S. senator.

— Former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry died Nov. 23 in Washington. He was 78. Barry was born into a sharecropper’s family in Itta Bena, Mississippi, and was raised in Memphis, Tennessee.

— Former Justice Department civil-rights attorney John Doar died Nov. 11 in New York. He was 92. In 1962, the Wisconsin native was among the federal officials who escorted James Meredith when Meredith became the first black student to enroll in the University of Mississippi. In 1967, Doar prosecuted several Mississippi residents in the conspiracy to kidnap and kill civil-rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. An all-white jury convicted seven, including a deputy sheriff.

— Dr. Aaron Shirley died Nov. 26. He was 81. He was the first African-American pediatric resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1965. In 1995, he and a group of partners transformed the dilapidated Jackson Mall into the Jackson Medical Mall.

— Former Mississippi first lady Carroll Waller died Oct. 28. She was 87. Mrs. Waller led efforts to restore the Governor’s Mansion when her husband, Bill Waller Sr., was in office from 1972-76.

— Owen Brooks, who moved to Mississippi to work in the civil rights movement in the 1960s through Delta Ministry and other organizations, died July 27. He was 85. He challenged school segregation in Greenville and worked with Fannie Lou Hamer to start a cooperative farming venture in Sunflower County. In 2004, he founded Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.

— Modernist painter Andrew Bucci died Nov. 16 in Ridgeland. He was 92. Bucci’s painting of a magnolia appeared on the 5-cent U.S. postage stamp issued in 1967 for the 150th anniversary of Mississippi statehood. His painting, “Figure in Green,” was the signature image on the commemorative poster for the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson.

— Gerald Wilson, a Shelby, Mississippi, native who was a jazz big band leader, composer and arranger, died Sept. 8 in Los Angeles. He was 96. He played and worked as a composer-arranger with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie.

— Jimmy Ruffin, the Motown singer whose string of hits in the 1960s include “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and “Hold on to My Love,” died Nov. 19 in Las Vegas. He was 78. Ruffin was a native Collinsville, Mississippi.

— Maj. Gen. Catherine S. Lutz, the first female general officer in the history of the Mississippi National Guard, died Jan. 16. She was 58.

— Ret. Air Force Col. George Robert Hall, an American prisoner of war who spent much of his 7-1/2 years in captivity in the Hanoi Hilton, died Feb. 16 in Hattiesburg. He was 83.

— Jack Cristil, Mississippi State University’s iconic radio announcer, died Sept. 7. He was 88. With his catchphrase of “wrap it in maroon and white” proclaiming Bulldog victories, Cristil broadcast more than 1,500 MSU contests.

— Paul MacLeod, owner of an eccentric Elvis Presley tribute museum called Graceland Too, died July 17 of apparent natural causes, two days after police said he shot and killed another local man who tried to force his way into the roadside attraction in Holly Springs. MacLeod was 70.

— James Walter Strobel, president of Mississippi University for Women from 1977-88, died in a car accident Jan. 8 in Florida. He was 80. Strobel was instrumental in the founding of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, a residential program for high school students on the MUW campus.

— Former Alcorn State University President Rudolph Waters died Sept. 14. He was 82. Waters worked at the university for 48 years and was interim president in 1994 and 1995.

— Former state Rep. David Green of Gloster, who championed higher salaries for state employees in a 26-year career in the Mississippi House, died July 25. He was 62. He retired from the House in 2005.

— Former state Sen. Vince Scoper of Laurel died Sept. 14. He was 81. Scoper served the state House 1972-80, and was among the first Republicans elected to that chamber since Reconstruction. He served in the state Senate 1980-84 and 1988-2004.