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 …

Jerry Vale: A Voice Like Velvet

Even in his heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Jerry Vale was never hip or trendy. Instead of jazz or rock, he stuck to ballads and love songs – the sort that would prompt a guy’s date to rest her head against his shoulder, whether they were out for a drive in the Rambler or having a slow dance in one of the smoky nightclubs where Vale got his start. But it worked, because Vale, who died on May 18 …

Lynn Williams: He Fought for Retired Steelworkers

When Lynn Williams took the helm of the United Steelworkers union in 1983, the domestic steel industry seemed to be in a death spiral. From 1981 to 1985 – a period Williams later called a “frightful time” for the union, its members and its retirees – the basic steel industry shed some 350,000 jobs in the United States, triggering a wave of early retirements and, in many cases, putting retiree health benefits and pensions in jeopardy. >> Sign up for …

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.: The Actor Who Went From Private Eye to Mr. FBI

Back in late 1950s and early 1960s, one of the coolest series on the tube was 77 Sunset Strip, a stylish variation on hard-boiled detective noir infused with wise-cracking hipster humor – sort of Raymond Chandler meets the Rat Pack, set in what TV historian Horace Newcomb describes as “a sun-drenched world of cocktails, cool jazz and convertibles.” The show’s star was Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who, as suave detective Stuart “Stu” Bailey, deftly tangled with tough guys, charmed beautiful dames and unraveled mysteries …

Best Retirement Home Ever (for Once-Great Racehorses)

Just like the rest of us, the magnificent thoroughbreds that will be running in the Kentucky Derby eventually will grow old. But unlike us, racehorses don’t have Social Security, Medicare and 401(k) plans to rely on in their retirement years, and they don’t have control over their own fate. In the past, tragically, after their breeding days were over, even some great champions such as 1986 Derby winner Ferdinand have ended their lives in foreign slaughterhouses. But fortunately, thanks to the dedication of …