Former House Speaker W. Robert Blair II, who helped modernize the Illinois Legislature and swiftly established a legacy as a visionary unafraid to ruffle feathers, has died. He was 83.
Blair was elected to the Illinois House in 1964 and served as speaker from 1971 to 1975. His tenure was known in part for efforts to expand staff, make in-depth research more easily accessible to members and for his push to establish the Regional Transportation Authority.
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Former Gov. Jim Edgar, who worked for Blair from 1972-73, said Blair commanded respect for his political courage at a time when the role of speaker was often a revolving door.
"Next to (former Gov.) Jim Thompson, he was the brightest guy I dealt with in Springfield," Edgar said. "He had a good understanding of the big picture."
Claudio Abbado, a star in the great generation of Italian conductors revered for developing a rapport with members of the world's leading orchestras while still allowing them their independence, has died at 80.
Abbado made his debut in 1960 at La Scala in his home city of Milan and went on to be its music director for nearly 20 years. Among his many other positions were as music director of the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin Philarmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra and as principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
ShulamitAloni, an Israeli legislator who championed civil rights and was fiercely critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, died on Friday. She was 85.
Meretz, the party she helped found and led, announced her death in a statement on its website.
Aloni was born in Tel Aviv and fought in the 1948 war that led to Israel's creation. First elected to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, in 1965, she served for 28 years and held a number of Cabinet posts.
Ed Hookstratten, an attorney who represented a galaxy of entertainment and sports stars including Johnny Carson and Vin Scully during a career of more than 50 years, has died at 83.
Billy Ross, a survivor of the 1960 plane crash that killed 16 members of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football team, has died at age 78.
Ross was an offensive tackle on the 1959 and 1960 Mustang football teams. He was 25 when the team's flight crashed at the Toledo, Ohio, airport on Oct. 29, 1960. Sixteen teammates and six other people were killed.
Ross was among 26 survivors but suffered severe burns and spent seven months in a Toledo-area hospital for skin grafts and rehabilitation.
Former New York Democratic Congressman Otis Pike has died at age 92 in Florida.
Pike served 18 years in Congress before deciding to retire in 1978.
Christopher Chataway, a former 5,000-meter world record-holder who helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile, has died. He was 82.
Chataway, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995, was a middle-distance runner and competed at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. He acted as a pacemaker to help Bannister become the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier in 1954.
Bert Williams, the England goalkeeper who gave up the goal that allowed a team of journeymen Americans at the 1950 World Cup to produce one of soccer's great upsets, has died. He was 93.