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Article updated: 2/9/2013 8:35 PM

Notable deaths of the week: Historic women

Ex-Illinois Congresswoman Cardiss Collins:

Cardiss Collins, the first African-American woman to represent Illinois in Congress, died of complications from pneumonia at a Virginia hospital, according to a family friend.

Collins originally was elected to fill the seat left vacant when her husband, Congressman George W. Collins, who represented what was then the 7th District, was killed in a 1972 airplane crash. In 1994, the last year she ran for office, she was re-elected with 79 percent of the vote.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, who succeeded Collins, said that during her more than 24 years in Congress, Collins led efforts to curtail credit fraud against women, advocated gender equity in college sports and worked to reform federal child care facilities. She chaired the Government Activities and Transportation Sub-Committee.

Strom Thurmond's mixed-race daughter:

Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the mixed-race daughter of one-time segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond who kept her parentage secret for more than 70 years, died at 87.

Washington-Williams was the daughter of Thurmond and his family's black maid. The identity of her famous father was rumored for decades in political circles and the black community. She later said she kept his secret because, "He trusted me, and I respected him."

Not until after Thurmond's death in 2003 at age 100 did Washington-Williams come forward and say her father was the white man who ran for president on a segregationist platform and served in the U.S. Senate for more than 47 years.

"I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams, and at last I am completely free," Washington-Williams said at a news conference revealing her secret.

She was born in 1925 after Thurmond, then 22, had an affair with a 16-year-old black maid who worked in his family's Edgefield, S.C., home. She spent years as a schoolteacher in Los Angeles, keeping in touch with her famous father.

While Thurmond never publicly acknowledged his daughter, his family acknowledged her claim after she came forward. She later said Thurmond's widow, Nancy, was "a very wonderful person," and called Strom Thurmond Jr. "very caring, and interested in what's going on with me."

Washington-Williams was raised by Mary and John Washington in Coatesville, Pa. When she was 13, Mary Washington's sister, Carrie Butler, told Essie Mae that she was her mother.

Washington-Williams met Thurmond for the first time a few years later in a law office in Thurmond's hometown of Edgefield.

"He never called my mother by her name. He didn't verbally acknowledge that I was his child," Washington-Williams wrote in her autobiography, "Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond."

"He didn't ask when I was leaving and didn't invite me to come back. It was like an audience with an important man, a job interview, but not a reunion with a father," she said in the book released January 2005.

It was the first of many visits between Washington-Williams and her father.

He supported her, paying for her to attend then-South Carolina State College at the same time Thurmond was governor. He also helped her later after she was widowed in the 1960s.

"It's not that Strom Thurmond ever swore me to secrecy. He never swore me to anything," she wrote. "He trusted me, and I respected him, and we loved each other in our deeply repressed ways, and that was our social contract."

Washington-Williams watched from afar as Thurmond ran for president as a segregationist for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, saying "all the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the army cannot force the Negro race into our theaters, our swimming pools, our schools, our churches, our homes."

Washington-Williams recalled once asking her father about race.

Thurmond defended his beliefs as part of the "culture and custom of the South," she wrote.

"I certainly never did like the idea that he was a segregationist, but there was nothing I could do about it," Washington-Williams said in 2003. "That was his life."

Lavone Paire Davis, women's baseball league player:

Lavone Paire Davis broke every one of her fingers at least once during her time as a star catcher for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. But never did she cry.

"There's no crying in baseball," said Davis, often called "Pepper," when asked years later how she endured the pain while keeping her composure. Davis, a mainstay of women's baseball in the 1940s and '50s, died Feb. 2 at a hospital in Van Nuys, Calif. She was 88.

Her line was later immortalized in the 1992 hit film about women's baseball, "A League of Their Own."

The movie's star player, portrayed by Geena Davis, was partly based on Lavone Paire Davis (no relation), who also wrote the league's official song that featured in the film. She also was a consultant and technical adviser for the film.

Edith Lauterbach, United stewardess who formed union:

Edith Lauterbach, the last survivor among the quintet of female flight attendants who in the 1940s organized the first union to fight for equal rights in the sky, died at 91 Feb. 4.

A United Airlines flight attendant for more than four decades until her retirement in 1986, Lauterbach saw her profession evolve from one emphasizing youth and beauty to one recognized for its grueling schedule and emergency preparedness.

When Lauterbach joined United in 1944, female flight attendants were called "coeds" and were subject to dismissal if they got married, were deemed overweight or reached their early to mid-30s. With a monthly salary of $125 -- about $1,630 today, or less than $20,000 a year -- Lauterbach roomed with other "stewardesses" to get by, she told Knight-Ridder.

Lauterbach and three colleagues -- Frances Hall, Sally Thometz and Sally Watt -- backed Ada Brown, United's chief stewardess, when she began organizing in 1944. The world's first union for flight attendants, the Air Line Stewardesses Association, was founded on Aug. 22, 1945, with Lauterbach as treasurer.

It grew into today's Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the world's largest union "organized by flight attendants for flight attendants," according to its website. The group, part of the Communications Workers of America, represents almost 60,000 cabin-service personnel at 21 airlines.

Longtime Indiana Bishop John D'Arcy dies at age 80:

Bishop Emeritus John D'Arcy, who oversaw the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for 24 years during a time of church closings, a national sex-abuse scandal and some run-ins with University of Notre Dame leaders, died at 80.

D'Arcy retired in 2010 as bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese that covers 14 counties in northern Indiana with more than 150,000 members.

He received national attention when he was one of the few church officials commended in a scathing 2003 report issued by the Massachusetts attorney general about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. The report blamed then-Cardinal Bernard Law, his predecessors as archbishop and Law's assistants for sheltering abusive priests and other church workers who molested as many as 1,000 children between 1940 and 2000.

But D'Arcy, a former auxiliary bishop in Boston, was noted for his strong support of screening potential priests, as well as his warnings to his superiors about predatory priests.

Later in 2003, he disclosed that 33 children -- most of them teenagers at the time -- had been sexually abused over the previous five decades by 16 priests in northern Indiana diocese. D'Arcy said then there was too much secrecy surrounding the issue.

"I think people don't want to know a lot about it, but they want to know the bishop is handling it right. I think that means a lot to them," he said.

D'Arcy also made headlines for opposing some decisions by leaders at the University of Notre Dame, which is in the diocese. He wrote a nine-page "pastoral response" in 2006 criticizing the decision by the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, to allow "The Vagina Monologues" to be performed on campus.

D'Arcy also boycotted Notre Dame's commencement in 2009 because of the speaker, President Barack Obama, whose policies on stem cell research and abortion D'Arcy said ran counter to church teaching.

Conductor, Juilliard emeritus James DePreist:

James DePreist, one of the first African-American conductors and a National Medal of Arts winner, died Friday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

DePreist was director emeritus of The Juilliard School's conducting program in New York. He was the Oregon Symphony's music director from 1980 until 2003, transforming it from a small, part-time group into a full-time nationally recognized orchestra with 17 recordings.

DePreist also led orchestras in Quebec, Monte Carlo, Tokyo and Malmo, Sweden.

In 2005, President George W. Bush presented DePreist with the National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence. The conductor also received more than a dozen honorary doctorates, was honored in countries from Finland to Japan, and managed to write two books of poetry.

Stuart Freeborn, makeup artist behind Yoda:

Stuart Freeborn was a pioneering movie makeup artist behind creatures such as Yoda and Chewbacca in the "Star Wars" films. LucasFilm confirmed Wednesday that Freeborn had passed away, "leaving a legacy of unforgettable contributions."

"Star Wars" director George Lucas said in a statement that Freeborn was "already a makeup legend" when he started working on "Star Wars."

Freeborn's six-decade career led him to work on many classics, including Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Troggs, "Wild Thing" singer Reg Presley:

Rock star Reg Presley, lead singer of the Troggs on hit songs including "Wild Thing," was 71.

Presley's death after a yearlong bout with lung cancer was announced late Monday night by friend and publicist Keith Altham on his Facebook page.

Altham said his "old pal" died at his home with his family and friends at his side.

Presley had recently retired because of his health problems.

He is remembered for the band's breakthrough garage band hits, also including "Love is All Around" and "With a Girl Like You."

Presley founded the Troggs in the 1960s.

Renowned bridge player Ira Rubin:

A champion bridge player considered one of the game's great theorists and nicknamed The Beast because of the intensity of his play died in New Jersey. Ira Rubin was 82.

The American Contract Bridge League says Rubin earned 19 national titles and one world title as a top tournament player for more than four decades. Rubin was inducted into the league's Hall of Fame in 2000.

Glenn Miller trombonist Paul Tanner:

Paul Tanner, a trombonist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra who later played a space-age instrument on the Beach Boys hit "Good Vibrations," died at 95.

Tanner performed with Miller from 1938 to 1942. During his long career he also worked as a movie studio and ABC musician in California, and performed with stars that included Tex Beneke, Henry Mancini and Arturo Toscanini.

He also helped develop the electro-theramin, a keyboard-style electronic instrument. Tanner provided its eerie sound on several Beach Boys recordings, including "Good Vibrations."

Tanner also was a music professor at UCLA for 23 years and helped write several books.

Longtime broadcaster Shelby Whitfield:

Former Washington Senators broadcaster Shelby Whitfield, who enjoyed a long career with AP Radio and ABC Radio, died at 77 Tuesday at a rehabilitation center in Jackson, N.J.

Whitfield called Senators games in 1969 and 1970. He later hosted a local radio show featuring guests such as Redskins quarterbacks Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer.

In 1974, Whitfield became the first sports director of AP Radio. He moved to ABC Radio in 1981 and retired in 1997. He oversaw coverage at the Olympics and Triple Crown horse racing, among many sports.

Whitfield served in the U.S. Army and worked for what became known as the Armed Forces Network. He also co-authored a book with famed broadcaster Howard Cosell titled "What's Wrong with Sports."

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