BBC News Magazine

Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 16:34 UK

New town, a name change and all the jazz

By Elizabeth Diffin
BBC Obituary Unit

Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser reported - people of the past month.

Everyone who enjoys listening to smooth jazz in a dimly-lit club owes a debt of gratitude to George Webb. Without him, jazz music could have died out in Britain after World War II. The pianist, who was born in South London, kept the music going in a machine-gun factory canteen, before settling in the Red Barn pub in Barnehurst, Kent. For the next six years, people frequented the Red Barn to hear his classic jazz stylings - including aspiring trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton. The two eventually joined forces, and Lyttelton said Webb's piano-playing hands reminded him of a pair of kittens, scampering up and down the keyboard. He continued to play throughout his life, and was set to appear at a show celebrating the 70th anniversary of his first stint as a band leader in May.

Harlow arcade
The brand new Harlow shopping arcade in 1958

Across the Thames estuary from Webb's stomping ground of Barehurst, Essex's Harlow was being hailed as a "new town" - a cutting-edge design wedding neighbourhoods with the town centre. Joyce Jones was one of the architects who worked with Dame Sylvia Crowe, the landscape architect, and Sir Frederick Gibberd, the master planner, to develop the town's unique layout. Jones had been born in Pendlebury, Lancashire and took a five-year architecture course at Manchester University before completing an MA. She worked as an architect for Buckingham and Cambridge county councils. After retirement, Jones returned to work in Harlow, as the architect for the renovation and preservation plan for the town's oldest building, Harlowbury Chapel. She wrote a leaflet about the experience, and subsequently books on local houses and buildings.

Keith Alexander
Alexander became the first black manager of a league club

Widely commended as a football pioneer, Keith Alexander was better known for his character than his kick. After a long career in non-league football, Alexander entered the football league when he was already in his 30s, when he was signed by Grimsby Town in 1988. But it was in 1993 that he earned his place in the history books - becoming the first permanent black manager in the Football League when he took charge of Lincoln City. He presided over a revival at Lincoln, leading the beleaguered team to four successive promotion play-offs. In November 2008, Mr Alexander suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, but returned to management duties only three months later. Named as an inspiration by black British footballers such as Paul Ince and John Barnes, Alexander died after a Macclesfield Town match at Notts County, the very team where he began his sporting career.

Someone else who made a contribution to breaking down barriers of racial segregation was photographer Charles Moore. Moore's pictures of police dogs attacking civil rights protesters in Birmingham Alabama, in 1963, caused uproar when they were published in Life magazine. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr - an adviser to President John F Kennedy -said later that Moore's images "transformed the national mood and made legislation not just necessary, but possible".

Andree Peel
Peel narrowly escaped death by firing squad

Hailed as a heroine of World War II, Andree Peel saved lives as a member of the French Resistance. She supervised secret landings of RAF planes after the fall of France and helped 102 Allied airmen evade capture by Germans and return to Britain. She was later caught by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbruck - and then Buchenwald - concentration camp and was narrowly saved from execution when a firing squad which was about to shoot fled from approaching US forces. After the war, she married a British man and moved to Bristol, where she stayed until her death. She was awarded a Legion d'Honneur, the American Medal of Freedom and the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct, and received a personal letter from Winston Churchill. Her code name during the war was Agent Rose.

June Allyson, Janet Leigh, Peter Lawford, and Richard Wyler
Richard (Wyler) Stapely far right in Little Women

Although his famous co-stars like Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Boris Karloff and Bette Davis are household names, British actor Richard Stapley achieved perhaps his greatest fame at home under another name. It was under the stage name Richard Wyler that he became recognised, playing agent Anthony Smith in Man from Interpol in 1960-1961. He began his career under his real name, starring alongside Kelly in 1948's The Three Musketeers and the next year with Taylor in the 1949 remake of Little Women. Later in life, he was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1972's The Frenzy and then turned to writing novels. He also became a naturalised American citizen. Fittingly, he passed away on the same day as the Academy Awards.

Among others who died in March were world music DJ Charlie Gillett ; teenage film star Corey Haim ; ex-Conservative MP Winston Churchill ; TV presenter Kristian Digby and Labour MP Ashok Kumar and musician Alex Chilton

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