Staples, who was nicknamed "Cleedi," was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with her family in 1999 and received a lifetime achievement award at the 2005 Grammy awards.

She was born in April 11, 1934, in Drew, Miss., and moved with her family to Chicago when she was 2. Her mother, Oceola, worked in a hotel and her father was a manual laborer who sang in gospel groups when he was young.

In the late 1940s, he started teaching his children the songs he learned as a child and formed a group with Cleotha, Mavis and their brother Pervis that performed in Chicago churches. By the early 1950s, they were cutting records and touring the country.

Cleotha Staples retired soon after her father died in 2000.

Lou Myers

Actor on 'A Different World'

Lou Myers, 76, an actor perhaps best known for portraying ornery restaurant owner Mr. Gaines on the early 1990s sitcom "A Different World," died Tuesday at Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia, according to a family spokeswoman. Myers had been in and out of the hospital since December. An autopsy was planned.

After Bill Cosby gave him the first of his TV guest roles on "The Cosby Show," he became a regular on "A Different World," which ran from 1987 to 1993 and originally starred Lisa Bonet from "Cosby."

Myers' films included "Tin Cup" (1996), "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" (1998) and "The Wedding Planner" (2001).

On Broadway, he appeared in a 2008 all-black production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," a staging of "The Color Purple" that opened in 2005, the original 1990 Broadway production of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson" and "The First Breeze of Summer" (1975).

Myers also played Wining Boy in "The Piano Lesson" at the James A. Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood in 1990 and in a 1995 TV movie production of the play; and Stool Pigeon in Wilson's "King Hedley II" at the Mark Taper Forum in 2000.

He began singing jazz and blues with a touring company, "Negro Music in Vogue," and brought his cabaret show to the Cinegrill in Hollywood.

Born Sept. 26, 1945, in Chesapeake, W.Va., Myers received a bachelor's degree in sociology from West Virginia State University and a master's in theater from New York University. In recent years, he chaired Global Business Incubation, which helps urban small businesses, and the Lou Myers Scenario Motion Picture Institute/Theatre, which produces shows.

Donald Rutledge

Photographer known for Jim Crow-era images

Donald "Don" Rutledge, 82, a photographer acclaimed for his images of a white journalist disguised as a black man in the Jim Crow-era South, died Tuesday in Richmond, Va., his wife Lucy Marie Rutledge said. The cause was not disclosed.

Rutledge gained national prominence with his photographs for John Howard Griffin's 1961 book "Black Like Me" about Griffin's experiences of racism in the Deep South during the civil rights era. Griffin chemically darkened his skin to appear black and wrote about the fear and prejudice he experienced as a black man under segregation. Rutledge's photos of Griffin's social experiment helped make the book one of the most famous chronicles of the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s.

Rutledge, who was white, grew up in Smithville, Tenn., and became a Baptist minister after high school. He loved photography, however, and sold photos to United Press International before the prestigious Black Star photojournalism agency hired him.

The collaboration with Griffin arose after Rutledge pitched a story to Black Star for which he would photograph the largest group of black billionaires in the country, who all had offices on a single street in Atlanta. Black Star liked the idea and assigned Griffin as the writer.

When Rutledge learned of Griffin's plan to travel the South as a black man, he joined him for the six-week journey through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. The book became a sensation and won Rutledge a full-time position with Black Star.

Rutledge later spent three decades photographing Baptist mission work in the United States and abroad. He also produced three books during that time.

In 1980, he went to work as a photographer for Foreign Mission Board, where he continued his photo ministry, primarily for The Commission magazine, until his retirement in 1996.

Rutledge continued to do some freelance work in the U.S. and abroad until suffering a stroke in 2001.

"I love photojournalism and enjoy using it as a worldwide Christian ministry," he once wrote. "It helps me translate the national and international ministries into human terms by telling the story through people rather than through statistics."

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports