Milestones Dec. 28, 1998

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DIED. A. LEON HIGGINBOTHAM JR., 70, esteemed federal judge and scholar; of complications from several strokes; in Boston. Higginbotham, a civil rights advocate who called himself a "survivor of segregation," was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom--the nation's highest civilian honor--in 1995 when he retired from the bench (see Eulogy, below).

DIED. NORMAN FELL, 74, character actor; of cancer; in Woodland Hills, Calif. Fell, who made 35 films, was best known for his role as the interminably cranky landlord, Mr. Roper, on the 1970s TV series Three's Company.

DIED. WILLIAM GADDIS, 75, venerated modernist author; of prostate cancer; in East Hampton, N.Y. Gaddis, who published four complex novels in 40 years, never achieved a popular following, but he did win ecstatic acclaim from critics. His innovative use of language and masterly social satire inspired comparisons to Joyce, Pynchon and Melville. When scholars tried to deconstruct his work, he said, "What can I do if people insist I'm cleverer than I think I am?"

DIED. MORRIS UDALL, 76, former Congressman from Arizona; of Parkinson's disease; in Washington. In his 30 years on the Hill, Udall was a tireless and effective advocate of environmental protection and campaign reform. Though his liberal politics often clashed with those of his constituents, the wry, self-deprecating Representative was singularly well respected. Of his popularity, he marveled, "I'm a one-eyed Mormon Democrat from conservative Arizona. You can't have a higher handicap than that."

DIED. LEONARD RIESER, 76, physicist; in Lebanon, N.H. Rieser worked on the Manhattan Project and recently retired as chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, where he was keeper of the Doomsday Clock, moving the minute hand to reflect the threat of nuclear peril.