A. G. Gaston, 103, a slave's grandson...


A. G. Gaston, 103, a slave's grandson who became Alabama's leading black businessman, died Friday. He suffered a stroke this week.

Born in Demopolis, Mr. Gaston founded the Booker T. Washington Insurance Co. in 1923 with $500 and began selling insurance policies to steel workers. His empire grew to include Citizens Federal Savings and Loan, two radio stations, two cemeteries and other businesses. Mr. Gaston, who never went beyond 10th grade, and worked past his 100th birthday, amassed a fortune once estimated at between $30 million and $40 million.

He began each day by reading the Wall Street Journal. "That's my bible," he said in a 1992 interview.

During the turmoil of the 1960s he served as a go-between among Birmingham's white moderates and civil rights leaders. While he was not comfortable with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s more confrontational protest tactics, Mr. Gaston paid the $5,000 bond to free the Dr. King from jail during the protests of 1963.

Mr. Gaston wrote a book called "Green Power," making the point that money, not race, was the key to improvement.

Frank Dorsa, 88, an inventor whose basement waffle company eventually was sold to Eggo Food Products, died Wednesday in San Jose, Calif. He and his two brothers started the food manufacturing company in the basement of their parents' home in 1932. Mr. Dorsa's inventions included a carousel-like machine that could make thousands of waffles an hour, a fryer that doesn't curl bacon and an automatic potato peeler.

N. T. Rama Rao, 72, a film star who became a powerful figure in Indian politics, died of a heart attack Thursday in Hyderabad, India. Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao -- usually referred to simply as NTR -- made 323 films in the Telugu language of southern India, often starring as a mythological Hindu deity or hero. In the 1980s he turned to politics and founded the Telugu Desam party. He was elected chief minister of his state in 1983, but was forced to quit the following year after a conflict with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Carlos Ramirez Morales, executive editor of the leading independent Nicaraguan daily La Prensa, died of a heart attack Thursday in Managua. His age was not immediately available. He had worked for La Prensa since the 1970s, when then-editor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro criticized the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza from the newspaper's editorial pages. Chamorro was gunned down in the late 1970s. La Prensa continued in its role as an opposition newspaper after the leftist Sandinista rebels overthrew the Somoza regime in 1979. The Sandinista government shut the paper down for a year during the late 1980s, and Mr. Ramirez lived in exile in the United States for some time.

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