Morbid Curiosity: A Final Farewell to Michael Showers, Charles "Bubba" Smith and Others Who Died in August 2011

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Michael Showers
Sadly, people are still dying every day. Despite the pleas of many, the grim reaper just won't take a break. At Art Attack, our inquisitive nature prompts us to probe the fascinating lives of those who have passed in the previous month.

The Press has already covered the deaths of rock icon Jani Lane, songwriter Jerry Lieber and former Oiler-turned-actor Charles "Bubba" Smith. Without further ado, here are some others who left us in August.

Smith wasn't the only one tied to Houston sports, as former Rockets general manager Ray Patterson died on August 3. Patterson joined the Rockets in 1972, and was the man responsible for bringing to the team Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone and Houston's Twin Towers, drafting Ralph Sampson in 1983 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984. After passing the reins on to his son Steve, Ray labored to bring hockey back to Houston, helping to establish the second iteration of the Aeros, who debuted in the IHL in 1994 before eventually joining the AHL.

Mark Hatfield, a former governor and senator of Oregon, died on August 7 after a long illness. Hatfield was Oregon's longest-serving senator, in office for 30 years, after having already met his term limit of eight years as governor for the state. Hatfield almost became Nixon's vice president in 1968, considered his likely running mate before Spiro Agnew was selected for the position. He won each of the 11 political campaigns he entered and returned to teaching in Oregon after retiring from politics.

Former Deputy Director of the CIA, Clair George, died on August 11 at the age of 81. George was a highly decorated agent whose career spanned nearly 30 years, including service in Beirut and Athens, and his willingness to work in the organization's less desirable posts earned him a high level of respect from fellow agents. When the Iran-Contra affair broke, George became the highest-ranking CIA official to stand trial. He was found guilty on two of nine counts in September of 1991, but was never convicted. Later that year, on Christmas Eve, President George H.W. Bush issued a pardon, clearing George and several other former administration officials.

Actor Michael Showers was found dead in the Mississippi River on August 24. A recurring character on HBO's Treme (as Capt. John Guidry), Showers also has credits in a number of other television shows and films, including Breaking Bad, I Love You Phillip Morris and Tree of Life.

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Joey Vento died on August 23 of a heart attack. Vento was the founder of Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia, the neon-bedecked cheesesteak shop founded in 1966 that sits directly across the street from Pat's King Of Steaks. Vento was 71.

Entrepreneur Charles Wyly passed on August 7, after his vehicle was involved in a car wreck in Colorado. Wyly was a major contributor to Republican candidates, including both Georges Bush and Rick Perry. In addition, he founded the arts and crafts store chain Michaels and dropped $20 million for the construction of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. Charles and his brother Samuel also helped fund the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry.

Marshall Grant also died on August 7, at the age of 83. Grant played bass for the Tennessee Two (later the Tennessee Three), backing up Johnny Cash and recording with him into 1980. Afterward, he managed the Statler Brothers until their retirement in 2002.

World War II fighter pilot Billy Drake died on August 28. Flying for the RAF, Drake became the top-scoring RAF P-40 pilot and second-highest scoring P-40 pilot overall by the war's end. His totals included 20 enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed, six probable and nine damaged.

Another noted WWII veteran, Dr. Albert Brown, passed on August 14. Brown was the oldest surviving American soldier of the infamous Bataan Death March carried out by the Japanese in April of 1942. At 105, Brown was also believed to be the nation's oldest surviving World War II veteran, but that has yet to be confirmed.

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Finally, Delta bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards succumbed to congestive heart failure on August 29. Edwards became an itinerant bluesman in 1929 at the young age of 14, and was present on the night that Robert Johnson drank the poisoned whiskey that killed him. A member of the Blues Hall of Fame, Edwards has more than a dozen albums available.


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