Eli Wallach: The Good, the Bad and the Brilliant

Eli Wallach is burned into our memories as the “Ugly” in Sergio Leone’s 1966 spaghetti western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. As Tuco Ramí­rez, the malevolent but clownish bandit who tangles with a bounty hunter (Clint Eastwood) and a cold-blooded killer (Lee Van Cleef) over a cache of Confederate gold, Wallach gave a performance that was lauded as “inspired” by critic Roger Ebert, who wrote that “Wallach took this low-rent role seriously and made something evocative out of it.” …

Tony Gwynn, Baseball’s ‘Mr. Padre,’ Dies at 54

In college, Tony Gwynn read Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams’ how-to book, The Science of Hitting. It must have made an impression. The stocky left-handed outfielder, who died on June 16 at age 54 in Poway, Calif., went on to build the sort of baseball career with the San Diego Padres from 1982 to 2001 that little boys dream about. He won eight National League batting championships (tying Honus Wagner’s record), amassed 3,141 hits, had a .338 career batting …

Casey Kasem: America’s DJ

American Top 40 founding host Casey Kasem, who for nearly a half century counted down the hits on nationally syndicated radio and TV shows, invariably signed off with the words, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” See also: Four Ways to Avoid the Casey Kasem Nightmare Kasem, who died in Gig Harbor, Wash., on June 15 at age 82, had none of Wolfman Jack’s histrionics and could be a jarring contrast to the jadedness and rebellion …

Ruby Dee, Actress and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 91

Ruby Dee had impressive versatility as an actress in Broadway dramas, TV soap operas and movies that included Buck and the Preacher (1972) and Do the Right Thing (1989). Dee, who passed away on June 12 at age 92 in New Rochelle, N.Y., had an equally impressive career as a civil rights activist. She and her husband of nearly six decades, actor Ossie Davis, spoke out in the 1950s against McCarthyism; organized a campaign to press the government to restore the …

Chester Nez: Last of the Navajo Code-Talkers

When Chester Nez attended boarding school in the 1930s, he risked having his mouth washed out with soap if he spoke in Navajo instead of English. But fortunately for America’s fortunes during World War II, he never forgot the language of his people. Nez, who

Maya Angelou: Memoirist, Poet and Much More

In 1969, at the age of 41, Maya Angelou, who died on May 28 at age 86 in Winston-Salem, N.C., published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was a memoir of her childhood and adolescent odyssey from Arkansas to California, during which she survived a cascade of traumatic events, including being raped by her mother’s boyfriend at age seven and overcoming prejudice to become, at age 16, San Francisco’s first black streetcar conductor. It was the first autobiography by an …