Deaths Elsewhere |

James Hoyt, U.S. soldier who helped liberate Nazi concentration camp

James Hoyt, one of four U.S. soldiers who discovered the Buchenwald concentration camp as World War II neared its end, has died.

Hoyt's wife, Doris, said he died Monday in his sleep at home in rural Oxford, Iowa. He was 83. The cause of death was not immediately determined.

Hoyt served in the Army's 6th Armored Division during World War II, earning a Bronze Star. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle fought by American troops in World War II.

Buchenwald, one of the largest concentration camps established by Nazi Germany, was liberated in April 1945. It is estimated that 56,000 prisoners lost their lives at Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945.

“There were thousands of bodies piled high,” Hoyt said in a 2005 interview. “I saw hearts that had been taken from live people in medical experiments. … Seeing these things, it changes you.”

He said he had “horrific dreams” and received therapy at a Veterans Affairs hospital. He was interviewed as part of The Oxford Project in which citizens of Oxford were photographed and interviewed about their lives.

Hoyt had returned to Oxford after the war and later worked more than 30 years with the U.S. Postal Service there. He retired in 1992.

Doris Hoyt said her husband of 59 years rarely spoke about his service in World War II.

“I didn't find out about a lot of it until after he passed,” she said. “He kept it all to himself.” Associated Press

Walter Hill, scholar opened window onto African American history

Walter Hill Jr., 59, a scholar of African American history who was dedicated to making African American materials preserved in the National Archives more accessible to scholars and the public, died July 29 of leukemia at Washington Hospital Center. In a career spanning three decades, he was a senior archivist and the National Archives' first subject area specialist in Afro-American history.

“He developed the most extensive contacts of any area experts I've ever seen at the National Archives,” said Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist for records services at the National Archives. “He was tremendously adept at reaching out to people and organizations and building partnerships.”

Thanks to Hill's efforts, editors, filmmakers, documentarians, scholars and historians investigating the African American experience “were able to navigate their way through the system,” Kurtz said. Intimately familiar with the vast holdings of the archives, Hill was able to direct them to the pertinent documents, microfilms, photographs, maps and charts and other materials in the country's official repository of federal records.

A scholar, he published a number of articles, guides and essays about African-American history, among them an article in the winter 2000 issue of Prologue magazine titled “Living With the Hydra: The Documentation of Slavery and the Slave Trade in Federal Records.”

In the article, Hill noted that the establishment of the National Archives in 1934 opened “an amazing window of scholarship and research into America's past,” including a “paper trail that detailed the legal and political complexity of the octopus-like institution.” Slavery's documentary trail, he pointed out, is preserved in the National Archives.

For an essay that ran in a 1996 issue of the Negro History Bulletin, he ferreted out mostly forgotten information about efforts beginning in the late 1800s to compensate former slaves by granting them a pension. The efforts died out in the 1920s.

“What remained,” he wrote, “were broken dreams and lost money, and a small amount of federal records that help tell this story.” Washington Post

Jack Weil, popularized cowboy snap-buttoned shirts

Jack Weil, founder of the Rockmount Ranch Wear company whose snap-buttoned Western shirts became popular with movie stars and rock icons, died Wednesday at home. He was 107.

Weil was the first to design Western shirts with snap buttons and also created pockets with jagged, sawtooth-pattern flaps, said Steve Weil, who is president of the business his grandfather started in Denver in 1946.

Weil's shirts have been worn in movies by Elvis Presley, Clark Gable (“The Misfits”) and Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”).

The price of a shirt has gone from about $2 in the 1940s to $60 and up today, mostly because the Weils kept manufacturing operations in the U.S.

Jack Weil remained CEO of Rockmount and went to work daily until a few days before his death. He was thought to be the oldest CEO in the world. Associated Press