Charles Thomas, 64, a jazz pianist who...


Charles Thomas, 64, a jazz pianist who shunned the spotlight of touring with Duke Ellington's band to play in his home state of Arkansas, died Tuesday of prostate cancer. Mr. Thomas headlined numerous jazz festivals and accompanied vocalists such as Tony Bennett. After Ellington's death, members of the bandleader's orchestra asked Mr. Thomas to take his place on the piano.

Mr. Thomas didn't last long with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He "got tired of being Duke Ellington -- he wanted to be Charlie Thomas," said his longtime manager, Jim Porter.

Mr. Thomas returned to Arkansas and played at venues such as the Black Orchid in Hot Springs.

Owen E. Hague, 80, a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, died Tuesday of complications from kidney failure.

A native of Montgomery, Ala., Mr. Hague joined the service as a fighter pilot in 1942. He was one of nearly 1,000 black aviators who trained at Tuskegee Institute. The unit escorted U. S. bombers on missions during the war and never lost a bomber during its 200 missions.

Mr. Hague also served as assistant to the unit's commander. He retired from the Air Force in 1962.

Martha Belle Aikins Smith, 98, who taught dancing to a 7-year-old Prince Philip, died Wednesday.

Born in Kansas City in 1901, Mrs. Smith choreographed the final waltz for the city's debutantes at the first Jewel Ball in 1954, and her name became synonymous with the event.

During a brief stay in Paris in 1924, she taught dancing to Prince Philip, now husband of of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. After a year in Paris, she returned to Kansas City. In 1924, she and two sisters opened the Aikins Dancing School, where she taught dancing to three generations.

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