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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 11th April 2008
(Rpt) Sunday 13th April
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Charlton Heston, Gloria Taylor, Sir Geoffrey Cox and Steve Sinnott.
Charlton Heston
Oscar winning actor who has died aged 84

Charlton Heston was an epic movie actor who played God, Moses, a couple of US Presidents, Michaelangelo, Mark Antony and Buffalo Bill. His performances were so naturally commanding that some became confused about where acting ended and real life began. So it was that the FBI hired Charlton Heston to be the voice of God in their negotiations with the religious fanatic David Koresh at the Waco siege.

He used his celebrity status to highlight a range of political issues. He served six terms as the President of the Screen Actors Guild and became a staunch Republican. Most controversially, he was elected President of the National Rifle Association and argued passionately for the freedom to bear arms.

Charlton Heston was born Charles Carter in Evanston Illinois. Charlton was his mother’s maiden name and Heston his stepfather’s surname. He was brought up in the small town of St Helen in Michigan timber country which had a population of 120. Heston recalled attending a one room school with 13 pupils - three of whom were his cousins

Matthew Bannister speaks to film historian, Sir Christopher Frayling, Emilie Raymond, author of a book called “From My Cold Dead Hands: Charlton Heston and American Politics” and actor Julian Glover, a close friend for nearly 40 years.

Charlton Heston was born October 4th 1923 and died April 5th 2008.
Gloria Taylor
Mother of Damilola Taylor who has died aged 57

Gloria Taylor said that when she moved to Britain from Nigeria she didn’t expect the violence and disaffection that greeted her and her son. It took six years and three Old Bailey trials before two youths were convicted of Damilola Taylor’s manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison.

After Damilola’s death Gloria and her husband Richard were applauded for their dignity. They worked to make sure that something positive came from the tragedy, establishing a trust in Damilola’s name which offered scholarships to medical students from poor backgrounds and setting up a community centre in Peckham.

Matthew Bannister speaks to Polly Mills, a Metropolitan Police Liaison Officer who knew Gloria well.

Gloria Taylor was born in 1950 and died April 8th October 2008.
Sir Geoffrey Cox
Television pioneer, diplomat and journalist who has died aged 97

Sir Geoffrey Cox was the New Zealander who transformed the way British television delivers the news. In the 1950s and 60s, he ushered in a new era of live and immediate coverage and created ITV’s News at Ten. Sir Geoffrey also encouraged the end of the age of deference towards politicians, supporting Robin Day in asking increasingly challenging questions of those in power.

He came to Britain as a Rhodes Scholar in 1933. Finding the atmosphere at Oxford University stifling, he set off to experience real life at first hand. He spent one holiday in Germany working at a Nazi youth camp and attending a Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg. Cox’s first job was for the News Chronicle which sent him to cover the Spanish Civil War. He then moved to the Daily Express, reporting the German invasion of Belgium and France.

During the war, Geoffrey Cox served with the New Zealand Army in Greece, Crete, Libya and Italy before being given a diplomatic position in Washington.

Matthew Bannister speaks to Stewart Purvis, a former Chief Executive of ITN.

Sir Geoffrey Cox was born April 7th 1910 and died April 2nd 2008.
Steve Sinnott
General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers who has died aged 56

The General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Steve Sinnott was about to lead the union’s first strike for twenty one years when he died suddenly. Steve Sinnott’s father worked at Ford’s Halewood plant on Merseyside. Steve had been active in the union since his first job in Toxteth where he taught humanities. In 1986 he was elected to the NUT’s national executive and in 1994 became the union’s president. Steve Sinnott became General Secretary of the NUT in 2004.

Matthew Bannister speaks to Christine Blower, Acting General Secretary of the NUT, and the Health Secretary Alan Johnson MP who knew Steve both as a fellow union leader and from his time as Education Secretary.

Steve Sinnott was born June 24th 1951 and died April 5th 2008.
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