PASSINGS: William Coblentz, Bent Larsen, Carlton Coleman, Juan Mari Bras, Hadley Caliman

William Coblentz

Former University of California regent

William Coblentz, 88, an attorney and former University of California regent who fought against South Africa's apartheid policies and upheld the right of communist philosopher Angela Davis to teach at UCLA, died Monday at his San Francisco home. The cause was not given.

Coblentz worked for then-California Atty. Gen. Pat Brown in the 1950s. When Brown became governor, Coblentz became his special counsel. The governor appointed him to the UC Board of Regents in 1964 and Coblentz served until 1980, the last two years as chairman.

During his time as a regent, he was part of a bloc that pushed the university system to consider social responsibilities in addition to conventional corporate investment strategies, leading to an effort to divest from South Africa while it was controlled by an apartheid government.

Coblentz, an expert in land use and real estate development, and his partners at the law firm now known as Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass were involved in major civic projects, including Levi Plaza, Mission Bay, Pac Bell Park and Yerba Buena Gardens.

William Kraemer Coblentz was born July 28, 1922, in San Francisco. He earned his bachelor's degree at UC Berkeley in 1943 and his law degree at Yale in 1947.

Bent Larsen

Six-time Danish chess champion

Bent Larsen, 75, a Danish grandmaster who competed at the highest levels of chess against Soviet Boris Spassky and American Bobby Fischer in the 1960s and '70s, died Thursday after a short illness in Buenos Aires, where he lived, the Danish Chess Union announced. He reportedly had diabetes.

Larsen, a six-time Danish chess champion, was known for his fierce and free-flowing playing style that was best exhibited in tournament competition. He took part in the World Chess Championship in 1965, 1968, 1971 and 1977, according to the Danish Chess Union.

Larsen, who was born in Thisted, Denmark, on March 4, 1935, was well regarded for his daring play, unrelentingly optimistic attitude and fluency in multiple languages, Times chess writer Jack Peters wrote in 2001.

"He resurrected discarded openings, won an amazingly high percentage of games as Black and together with U.S. champion Bobby Fischer, demonstrated that a creative individual could outshine the best products of the Soviet school of chess," Peters added.

Carlton Coleman

Singer on 1959 hit 'Mashed Potatoes'

Carlton "King" Coleman, 78, a pioneer in American rhythm and blues who was known for providing the lead vocals on the 1959 hit "(Do the) Mashed Potatoes," died of heart failure Saturday at a Miami hospice, his son said.

"(Do the) Mashed Potatoes" was recorded with James Brown's band. According to a 2003 Miami New Times article, Brown had initially planned to do the vocals himself, but a dispute with his record label made that impossible.

To avoid any lawsuits from Brown's label, a Miami producer had Coleman sing on the mostly instrumental track, while the group officially credited with the song was "Nat Kendrick and the Swans," named for Brown's drummer.

Besides working with Brown, Coleman also released numerous singles of his own during his singing career, including "Mashed Potato Man" and "The Boo Boo Song."

Besides performing on stage, Coleman worked many years as a radio disc jockey. He started at Tampa's WTMP and eventually moved on to Miami's WFEC. He finally ended up at Miami's WMBM, where he was one of the city's most popular DJs in the late 1950s.

In recent years, Coleman returned to the airwaves with a nightly radio show on WMBM, which is now a gospel station.

Juan Mari Bras

Longtime Puerto Rican independence activist

Juan Mari Bras, 82, an elder statesman of Puerto Rico's independence movement who gave up U.S. citizenship in an act that inspired hundreds of other activists, died Friday at his suburban home in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. He had lung cancer and recently had taken a fall, said Elaine Mulet Hocking, a spokeswoman for his Hostosiano independence movement.

A writer and law professor, Mari Bras was deeply involved in the independence cause from his days as a teenage student activist in the 1940s. He founded the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and was a co-founder of the small but influential Independence Party.

He dedicated his later years to seeking unity among the varied pro-independence factions in Puerto Rico, a U.S. Caribbean territory whose 4 million residents are American citizens but cannot vote for president.

In an effort to establish Puerto Ricans' separate national identity, Mari Bras traveled to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1994 and renounced his American citizenship while claiming the right to continue living in Puerto Rico.

The State Department initially approved Mari Bras' petition, but reversed its decision in 1998. U.S. officials told Mari Bras he was again a U.S. citizen because he hadn't registered as a resident alien.

As the result of legal challenges stemming from that case, the island government in 2007 issued its first certificate of Puerto Rican citizenship to Mari Bras.

Hadley Caliman

Tenor saxophonist played, taught jazz

Hadley Caliman, 78, a tenor saxophonist who played with Gerald Wilson's jazz orchestra and others, died of liver cancer Sept. 8, the Seattle Times reported. He lived on Mercer Island, Wash.

Born Jan. 12, 1932, in Idabel, Okla., Caliman was a child when he moved to Los Angeles with his father. He studied under saxophonist Dexter Gordon and became part of the Central Avenue jazz scene in the 1950s.

Caliman taught jazz at Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts for two decades, retiring in 2003.

-- Times staff and wire reports

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