Mineta, B.B. King among freedom medal recipients

From a Times Staff Writer

Ten people will receive the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on Dec. 15, the White House announced Thursday.

This year's recipients include blues musician B.B. King; historian David McCullough, who has written several biographies of presidents; and the late John "Buck" O'Neil, a Negro League star and the first black Major League Baseball coach.

Others to be honored are:

* Natan Sharansky, a Soviet dissident and former gulag prisoner. His book "The Case for Democracy" has been praised by President Bush.

* Norman Y. Mineta, the former San Jose mayor, congressman and secretary of Transportation. Mineta and his family were held in the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming during World War II, and he is one of the most successful Asian American politicians.

* Ruth Johnson Colvin, who has traveled the globe to teach people to read.

* Longtime Xavier University of Louisiana President Norman C. Francis, who played a lead role in helping Gulf Coast recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

* British historian and journalist Paul Johnson, who has written that the creation of America was "the greatest of all human adventures."

* Prominent writer and New York Times commentator William Safire, who has "polished the nation's language and elevated the debates of the day," according to the White House announcement.

* Nobel Prize-winning scientist Joshua Lederberg.

The medal was first awarded by President Truman in 1945 to honor service in World War II.

It recognizes those who have made "an especially meritorious contribution" to United States security or national interests, world peace, or "cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

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