In 2009, we lost several icons, who through their talent, their wit and their will, left indelible marks on the community and improved the lives of African-Americans throughout Pittsburgh and beyond.
Harvey Adams Jr., a civil rights pioneer who survived Korea, diabetes, the 1968 riots in the Hill District and who helped integrate the Pittsburgh police force, died Sept. 7 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 80.
ADAMS, CHRISTIAN, FISHER, DOSS and BRUTUS
Adams also implemented a minority police recruitment program, organized and implemented youth athletic and educational programs and organized police and community councils for the city. In 1970, the Guardians, along with the NAACP, the National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, winning a consent decree that required one African-American and one woman be included in each four new recruits hired.
When John Christian took on a job, he went all out. As a pioneering disk jockey in the 1950s, he was called “Sir Walter,” and true to form, could be seen in public sporting a bowler or top hat, or in tails and sometimes wearing a monocle. As a salesman and business owner he overcame White prejudice and excelled. And as a television newsman and producer, he won numerous awards.
Christian, Sir Walter, passed away Nov. 29 following a long illness. He was 92. Local television host Chris Moore said Christian paved the way for him and other African-American broadcasters.
Kenny Fisher didn’t talk much, but his saxophone spoke volumes to those lucky enough to have heard him play. “Fish,” as his friends called him, was one of the last links to Pittsburgh’s heyday as a jazz mecca—he knew everyone and played everywhere; the Loendi Club, the Hurricane and the old Crawford Grill. On Oct. 25, after a lengthy battle with cancer, Fisher played his last solo. He was 69.
Although he is gone, he will never be forgotten. Reverend Maurice Chauncey Doss, a community and church leader, died Nov. 7 at the age of 58.
Reverend Doss was the senior pastor of Union Baptist Church in Swissvale for 25 years, growing the church to more than 600 before stepping down due to an illness that led to his death.
South African poet and former political prisoner Dennis Brutus, who fought apartheid in words and deeds and remained an activist well after the fall of his country’s racist system, died at the age of 85.