Morbid Curiosity: May 2011

Gil Scott-Heron
Gil Scott-Heron
Photo by Adam Turner

Throughout history, there are a few famous inevitabilities. The taxman already came this year, and we're not talking about Bun B's attendance record at rap shows, so it must be time for us to encounter that cloaked figure. Don't fret, though, we're just paying a visit to find out who's passed in the month of May. Everyone already knows about Osama Bin Laden and Randy Savage, but here are some other notable deaths that may have been overlooked.

May 17 saw the passing of Baseball Hall-of-Fame member Harmon Killebrew. Noted for his quick swing and kind demeanor, the baseball legend hit some of the longest home runs in history, including a 520' bash June 3, 1967. Many have also speculated that Killebrew is the inspiration behind the silhouette in the Major League Baseball logo.

Blues and jazz documentarian and collaborator with Clint Eastwood, Bruce Ricker died May 13. Ricker's work includes his first film, The Last of the Blue Devils, a 1979 documentary about Kansas City's jazz scene in the 1930s and 1940s. Ricker would go on to produce Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser, with Eastwood, and the duo worked together on a number of other music films.

Former Houston Aero Derek Boogaard also died on May 13 due to what was determined to be an accidental overdose from combining alcohol and oxycodone. A ferocious enforcer on the ice, Boogaard had been benched since December 2010 due to concussions.

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Medal Of Honor recipient Paul Wiedorfer passed away in Baltimore on May 25 at the age of 90. Wiedorfer earned his Medal of Honor on Christmas Day 1944, when he single-handedly charged across 40 yards of open ground, destroying two German machine guns and taking 6 Germans prisoner. He learned of his award while recovering from a wound in an Army hospital, when a sergeant reading Stars and Stripes asked Wiedorfer how his name was spelled after seeing it reported in the paper.

Famed poet and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron passed recently on May 27. Perhaps most well-known for his work, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Heron is an indirect patriarch of hip-hop, whose pacing and poetic style has been a large influence throughout the genre's history. In February 2010, Scott-Heron released I'm New Here, his final work and first studio album in 16 years.

Playwright and screen writer Arthur Laurents left us on May 5, dying of complications from pneumonia. Laurents is the man behind the script for West Side Story, among other musicals, and penned the script for Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film, Rope. Under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Laurents was briefly blacklisted before his political views were deemed too idiosyncratic to be aligned with any particular subversive groups.

Finally, former two-term Governor of Texas William "Bill" Clements passed on May 29. Clements was our 42nd and 44th governor, serving two non-consecutive terms, and his eight years in the position was the most time served as Texas governor until Mr. Good Hair broke that record. Clements defeated Ray Hutchinson, husband to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, to become the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. Prior to election, Clements was Deputy Secretary of Defense under both Nixon and Ford. During his second term as governor, though, the world came to know him for his involvement in paying the tab for SMU's football program, which resulted in the NCAA issuing the famed "death penalty" against the school.


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