Bo Diddley, Grey Ferris, among deaths in '08


Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A rock 'n' roll pioneer, a former state

senator who worked to improve public education and an ex-judge

whose ruling led to the state of Mississippi taking over of death

row inmate appeals were among the notable Mississippi people who

died in 2008.

Revolutionary musician Bo Diddley, former state Sen. Grey

Ferris, and Circuit Judge Elzy J. Smith all left their marks in

different ways.

Born Ellas Bates on Dec. 30, 1928, in McComb, Diddley was raised

by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel. The family moved to

Chicago when Diddley was a young child and he became one of the

founding fathers of rock 'n' roll music.

He died in June in Florida.

"Bo Diddley was a music pioneer and legend with a unique

style," blues entertainer B.B. King, a Mississippi native, said in

a statement after Diddley's death. "He will truly be missed, but

his legacy will live on forever."

Diddley, 79, became a music icon after topping the R&B charts

with "Bo Diddley" in 1955. His other hits included "Say Man,"

"You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover," "Shave and a Haircut,"

"Uncle John," "Who Do You Love?" and "The Mule."

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and

received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1998. Diddley

garnered attention from a new generation in 1989 when he took part

in a Nike ad campaign, built around football and baseball star Bo


Commenting on Jackson's guitar skills, Diddley turned to the

camera and said, "Bo, you don't know Diddley."

Ferris served two terms in the state Senate from 1992-2000, was

a lead author of the Mississippi Adequate Education Act of 1997,

and served as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He ran

for lieutenant governor in 1999, losing in the Democratic primary,

and was a board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial


"I think that everyone in the Senate, even those who had

different political views, respected Grey," Sen. Hob Bryan,

D-Amory said after Ferris' death. "Just through force of

personality, he commanded a great deal of respect."

Ferris, 62, died in June of cancer.

Smith left his mark when he ruled that Quitman County could sue

to try to force the state of Mississippi, not local governments, to

pay for the defense and appeals of criminal defendants.

Quitman County sued the state after it was forced to raise taxes

to pay several hundred thousand dollars in court costs in the early

1990s related to the appeals of two men convicted of killing four

members of a family.

Although Quitman County eventually lost the case, Smith's ruling

led state lawmakers in 2000 to create the Mississippi Office of

Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, which represents death row inmates

on appeal, taking the financial burden off county governments.

Smith, 79, died in September.

Some notable figures from the civil rights era also died in


John Ed Cothran, 93, a former Leflore County deputy sheriff who

was at the center of the investigation into the 1955 slaying of

Emmett Till, died in March. On Aug. 31, 1955, Cothran, then chief

deputy, helped pull Till's bloated and mutilated body out of the

Tallahatchie River.

Till, a black 14-year-old visiting from Chicago, was reported to

have whistled at Carolyn Bryant at the Bryant Meat Market and

Grocery in the rural community of Money. Later that evening, Till

was taken from his uncle's home by Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam.

Cothran picked up Bryant and Milam for questioning.

He later testified for the prosecution at the Tallahatchie

County trial of Bryant and Milam, who were acquitted by an

all-white jury. Two months later, Cothran testified before a

Leflore County grand jury that failed to indict Bryant and Milam on

kidnapping charges.

Bryant and Milam later confessed in a Look magazine article that

they had killed Till.

In October, Roy K. Moore, 94, an FBI agent who oversaw

investigations into some of the most notorious civil rights-era

killings, including those depicted in the movie "Mississippi

Burning," died.

Moore had established a solid reputation in the FBI when bureau

director J. Edgar Hoover sent him to Mississippi in 1964 after the

disappearance of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James

Chaney and Andrew Goodman. Their bodies were dug out of an earthen

dam in Neshoba County.

Nineteen men were indicted in 1967 on federal charges of

violating the civil rights of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. Seven

were tried and convicted.

Here is a roll call of other notables who died in 2008:


Tally D. Riddell Sr., 95, was a former state lawmaker and member

of the state College Board. Riddell, a native of Lauderdale County,

served in the state Senate from 1940-44 and was an alderman in

Quitman from 1949-53. He served on the College Board from 1956-68.


Fred Johnson, 68, was Pike County's first black sheriff. Johnson

served as sheriff from 1996-2004. Johnson worked 18 years at the

McComb Police Department and 17 years simultaneously in the Summit

Police Department before running for sheriff.


Obie Clark, 75, was a former president of the Meridian NAACP in

east Mississippi. Clark led the local NAACP chapter from 1969 to

2003. During the late 1960s, he helped protect black churches in

Meridian against attacks by the Ku Klux Klan.

Lawrence W. Rabb, 87, was a Meridian attorney who fought for

civil rights in courtrooms and communities in Mississippi. In the

1960s, Rabb and his law partner filed a landmark federal lawsuit

that forced Lauderdale County, and eventually all counties, to

redraw county supervisor districts following the "one-man,

one-vote" doctrine.

Howard Leroy Hobbs, 73, was a former Harrison County sheriff

known for his tailored suits and ties to the Dixie Mafia. Hobbs

served as sheriff for 12 years, however, he also spent almost 12

years in federal prison for racketeering and drug conspiracy. His

career crumbled in 1983 when he was arrested in a federal sting.


Former state Sen. Ollie Mohamed, 83, served in public office for

more than 30 years and sponsored legislation that led to creation

of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. Mohamed served more than 20

years in the Senate.


Former Rankin County Sheriff J.B. Torrence, 78, was a

by-the-book law enforcement officer whose career spanned 40 years.

Torrence served 24 years as sheriff, from 1972-96. Before winning

election in 1971, Torrence was a deputy sheriff and constable in

Rankin County.


Jack Lucas, 80, was 14 when he lied his way into military

service during World War II and became the youngest Marine to

receive the Medal of Honor. Lucas was just six days past his 17th

birthday in February 1945 when his heroism at Iwo Jima earned him

the nation's highest military honor.


The Rev. Bill Barton Sr., 83, was credited with helping more

than 40,000 people recover from drug and alcohol addictions. Barton

founded the Home of Grace, a Christian recovery program, in 1965

with his wife, Jean.


Jackson florist Brook Jacobs, 60, started the annual "Good

Neighbor" rose giveaway that has become a nationwide event. Jacobs

operated Greenbrook Flowers in Jackson and Ridgeland and gave away

a dozen roses to each customer as long as they gave all but one to

somebody else.


Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Joe Zuccaro practiced

law in Natchez for over three decades. Zuccaro, 84, was appointed

to the state Supreme Court in 1987, by then-Gov. Bill Allain.


William Henry Holman Jr., 78, ran the family owned Jitney-Jungle

Stores of America for 34 years. In 1967, he was elected president

and served as chief executive until 1998.


Martha Butcher Skelton, 89, was a renowned quilter whose work

was displayed in the Smithsonian and other venues. Skelton was

considered one of America's best-known quilters.

Leo Seal Jr., 84, succeeded his father as president of Hancock

Bank in 1963 and continued to serve president of Hancock Holding

Company and chairman of Hancock Bank when he died after an extended

illness. Seal spent more than 60 years in the banking industry.


The Rev. Frank Pollard, 74, was a former president of the

Mississippi Baptist Convention and the former pastor of First

Baptist Church of Jackson. Pollard served two one-year terms as

president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 2002 and 2003.

George M. Harmon, 74, served as president of Millsaps College

for more than 20 years. He took the helm of the small private

liberal arts college in 1978 as its ninth president. He retired in


(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)