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William Becker; Longtime Civil Rights Activist

Obituaries

August 19, 1999

William Becker, 81, longtime civil rights leader and activist in San Francisco and the San Joaquin Valley. Becker began his career in human rights in the early 1950s, organizing San Joaquin Valley farm workers for the American Federation of Labor. He worked as a lobbyist for the California Committee for Fair Practices and as a representative of San Francisco's Jewish Labor Committee. He headed the San Francisco Human Rights Commission for eight years and became deputy director of the California Department of Industrial Welfare. Born in Newark, N.J., Becker earned a teaching degree but was unable to find work. He became a labor secretary for the Socialist Party and in the 1940s was campaign manager for a Socialist Party candidate for president of the United States. On Aug. 6 in San Francisco of injuries from a car accident.

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* Sir Hugh Casson; Former Royal Academy President

Sir Hugh Casson, 89, former president of Britain's Royal Academy and Prince Charles' artistic mentor. Casson headed Britain's oldest and most prestigious art society from 1976 to 1984, and had helped mold the nation's artistic taste since his 1948 appointment as director of architecture for the Festival of Britain. Educated at Cambridge University, Casson also studied at the British School in Athens. He interrupted his architectural practice in London to serve as a camouflage officer in the Air Ministry during World War II. Casson painted watercolors throughout his life and encouraged Prince Charles in his painting. Knighted in 1952, Casson once declared that, despite his efforts to emphasize art in Britain, the British believe "beauty is unmanly and should be left to foreigners and women" and that "art is a very wet exercise done by wet people on wet afternoons." On Sunday in London.

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* Gilbert Fernandez; Child Welfare Leader

Gilbert A. Fernandez, 56, child welfare leader who recently headed the International Foster Family and Adoptions Agency. He also had served as executive director of the Good Shepherd Center for Independent Living Inc. in South-Central Los Angeles and as chairman of the Strategic Planning and Board Development committee of Watts Health Systems. He served on the boards of the Watts Health Foundation, Watts Health Systems and Watts Health Charities, the Los Angeles Regional Family Planning Council, the Westminster Neighborhood Assn., the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of the advisory committee of the International Medical Corps. Born in New York's Spanish Harlem, Gilbert earned his bachelor's degree at Central State University in Ohio and a master's degree in administration at the University of Pittsburgh. On Saturday in Los Angeles after a brief illness.

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* Nathaniel Kleitman, 104; Sleep Research Pioneer

Nathaniel Kleitman, 104, former University of Chicago physiology professor who pioneered modern sleep research. The Russian-born Kleitman immigrated to the United States in 1915 and became a citizen three years later. He earned his bachelor's degree from the College of the City of New York, master's degree from Columbia University and doctorate from the University of Chicago, where he taught and conducted research for 35 years. He moved to Santa Monica after his 1960 retirement. Allan Rechtschaffen, former University of Chicago Sleep Research Laboratory director, said Kleitman was the first scholar to concentrate solely on sleep and to map out the multiple stages of sleep. In the 1950s, Kleitman and students lived in Mammoth Cave for a month, discovering a 24-hour sleep rhythm in human beings that is independent of environmental cues. In 1953, Kleitman and a graduate student, Eugene Aserinsky, discovered the phase of sleep known as REM (for rapid eye movement) sleep. Kleitman's work set the stage for the treatment of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, insomnia and narcolepsy. On Friday in Santa Monica.

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* Edward L. Palmer; Helped Develop 'Sesame Street'

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