Nancy Bird Walton was the first woman in Australia to operate a commercial aircraft. She learned to fly at age 17 from Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, the first man to fly across the mid-Pacific. (Associated Press)
James B. Pearson

Progressive Kansas senator

James B. Pearson, a progressive Republican who represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate for 17 years, died Tuesday at his home in Gloucester, Mass. He was 88.

Pearson had been on kidney dialysis for several years, said Dave Seaton, his former press secretary, but the cause of death was not immediately known.

Seaton said Pearson championed causes including deregulating natural gas, expanding international trade and reducing the number of votes required to end a filibuster. He also broke with the Nixon White House and sought an early end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Pearson was born in Nashville on May 7, 1920, and moved with his parents to Virginia as a teenager. He interrupted his course work at Duke University to serve as a Navy pilot during World War II and was discharged as a lieutenant.

After the war, he completed his degree and later graduated from the University of Virginia law school.

He set up practice in Mission, Kan. He later served as an assistant county attorney and a probate judge before serving one term in the Kansas Senate.

In 1962, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Andrew F. Schoeppel. He was elected in a special ballot Nov. 6, 1962, and served until Dec. 23, 1978, when he chose not to seek reelection.

Nancy Bird Walton

Pioneering female pilot

Nancy Bird Walton, 93, an aviation pioneer who became the first woman in Australia to operate a commercial aircraft, died of natural causes Tuesday at her Sydney home, her family said.

Born Oct. 16, 1915, Walton was named a Living National Treasure by the National Trust of Australia in 1997.

Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, the first man to fly across the mid-Pacific, taught Walton how to fly in 1933, when she was 17 years old. Two years later, she obtained a commercial pilot's license and began taking customers for joy rides.

She later ran an air ambulance service for remote outback areas of New South Wales state, becoming known as the "Angel of the Outback." In 1950, she founded the Australian Women Pilots' Assn., which mentors female pilots.

She wrote her autobiography in 1990, calling it "My God! It's a Woman."

Last year, she attended the inaugural Australian landing of Qantas Airways' first A380 super jumbo aircraft, which was named in her honor.

Wresley Rush

Sportscaster had a varied career

Wresley "Red" Rush, 81, a versatile sportscaster who called games for the Oakland A's and other major league baseball organizations as well as college and professional basketball teams, died Jan. 11 at a care facility in Moraga, Calif. A longtime resident of Orinda, he had Alzheimer's disease.

As the voice of Loyola University of Chicago in the 1960s, Rush delivered the memorable “We won! We won! We won the ballgame!” radio call when the Ramblers basketball team defeated two-time defending champion Cincinnati in overtime in the 1963 NCAA championship game.

Rush was born July 2, 1927, in Long Beach. He served in the Navy during World War II and attended USC, where he intended to study law but got sidetracked by radio broadcasting.

"He went to a [Harlem] Globetrotters game one night, and the P.A. guy showed up drunk," his son Casey Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. "My dad was sitting in the front row. They were wondering who would do the P.A., and my dad said, 'I'll do it' . . . and fell in love with it."

Working at the whim of the late Charlie Finley, Rush called games for the eccentric owner's Kansas City A's in 1965 and again in 1971, 1979 and 1980 after the team had moved to Oakland. Rush also broadcast games on radio for the Chicago White Sox from 1967 to 1970 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984.

In a wide-ranging career, he did radio play-by-play for DePaul basketball, UC Berkeley football, the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers before they moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1960 and the Anaheim Bullfrogs roller hockey team in the early 1990s.

Robert Prince

Army Ranger led World War II raid

Robert Prince, 89, who led an Army Rangers raid during World War II that freed 571 inmates from a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines, died Jan. 1 at his home in Port Townsend, Wash.

Prince was a captain in the Army when he was chosen by Lt. Col. Henry Mucci to lead 120 Rangers, Army Alamo Scouts and Filipino guerrillas to rescue prisoners of war from the Japanese prison camp near Cabanatuan in the Philippines. Prisoners at the camp, many of them survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942, had endured years of abuse.

Prince and Mucci received the Army's highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest decoration for valor after the Medal of Honor, for their actions in the January 1945 raid.

The operation against the Japanese camp became the subject of a 2005 movie, "The Great Raid." Prince served as a consultant during the filmmaking.

A native of Seattle, Prince graduated from Stanford University. After the war, he returned to the Pacific Northwest and settled in Wenatchee, Wash., where he became a marketer of apples, retiring as president of Gwin, White and Prince Inc.

-- times staff and wire reports