PASSINGS: Philip Matthew Hannan, Johnnie Wright, Jessy Dixon

Philip Matthew Hannan

Cleric gave the eulogy for President Kennedy

Retired New Orleans Archbishop Philip Matthew Hannan, 98, who sought to console a grieving nation in his eulogy for President Kennedy, died Thursday in New Orleans after a long period of decline, according to the archdiocese.

Hannan was a young auxiliary bishop in Washington, D.C., when Jacqueline Kennedy asked him to deliver her husband’s eulogy at the state funeral held three days after the president’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.


Instead of giving a formal eulogy, Hannan read selections from Kennedy’s writings and speeches and quoted the president’s favorite Bible passages, including the portion of Ecclesiastes about “a time to be born and a time to die … a time to love and a time to hate.” Hannon concluded by reading from Kennedy’s inaugural address.

Ten days later, Hannan presided over the reburial of two of the Kennedys’ children. A stillborn daughter born in 1956 and a son, Patrick, who lived only three days after his birth in 1963, were reburied next to their father in Arlington National Cemetery.

Hannan also delivered the graveside eulogy at the funeral of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. After Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died of cancer in 1994, he gave graveside prayers at her interment.

Born in Washington on May 20, 1913, Hannan, the son of an Irish immigrant plumber, was ordained in Rome in 1939. He served as an assistant pastor in Baltimore until 1942, when he joined the Army Air Forces. Nicknamed the “Jumping Padre,” he served as a paratroop chaplain with the 505th Parachute Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.


After the war he returned to Washington, where he was ordained as a bishop in 1956 at St. Matthew Cathedral, close to the White House. He was assigned to the New Orleans archdiocese in 1965. During his 24-year tenure, he was known for his conservative politics and outreach to the poor.

He also was known for his fearlessness: In 2005, at 92, he rode out Hurricane Katrina alone for four days on the floor of his office.

Johnnie Wright

Country singer also managed wife Kitty Wells’ career

Johnnie Wright, 97, who had a string of country music hits as half of the duo Johnnie and Jack and guided the career of his wife, Kitty Wells, who is regarded as the first major female country music star, died of natural causes Tuesday at his Nashville home, said Eddie Stubbs, a family friend.

Performing with Jack Anglin, Wright placed 15 songs in the country top 20 between 1951 and 1962. Their successes included “Ashes of Love,” “I Get So Lonely,” “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” and the Latin-influenced “Poison Love.”

The pair joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1952, where they remained until Anglin died in a 1963 car crash on his way to a memorial service for Patsy Cline and others.

Wright continued as a solo artist and had a No. 1 hit with “Hello Vietnam” in 1965.


He was born John Robert Wright on May 13, 1914, in Mount Juliet, Tenn., and began performing with Anglin in 1936.

The next year, he married Wells, who went on to have 23 top 10 hits in the 1950s alone. She is credited with paving the way for such other female country artists as Cline, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.

“He managed her career and put her career ahead of his own,” which included finding “all of her songs,” Stubbs said.

The couple recorded an autobiographical duet, “We’ll Stick Together,” in 1968 and performed together until they were in their early 80s, touring with their three children as the Kitty Wells Family Show.

Jessy Dixon

Singer-songwriter helped spread gospel music

Singer and songwriter Jessy Dixon, 73, who helped popularize gospel music outside the United States and wrote some of the genre’s most recognizable songs, died Monday at his Chicago home. His sister said he had been sick but gave no other details.

During a career that spanned more than 50 years, Dixon wrote more than 200 songs. After he released “I Am Redeemed” in 1993, the song lingered on Billboard’s gospel charts for more than five years.


He wrote “You Will Bring the Sun Out” for Diana Ross, but it became a million-seller for R&B singer Randy Crawford. Dixon later wrote songs performed by Cher, Natalie Cole and Amy Grant.

In the early 1970s, he was appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival with his Jessy Dixon Singers when Paul Simon took notice. For the next eight years, Dixon toured with the pop icon, collaborating on Simon’s “Live Rhymin’ Simon” and “Still Crazy” albums and traveling to England, Israel and Japan.

Born March 12, 1938, in San Antonio, Dixon began studying music at age 5 and moved to Chicago as a teenager at the urging of James Cleveland, a noted gospel musician. He joined Cleveland’s group, the Gospel Chimes Singers, as a pianist and singer.

Several of the early songs Dixon wrote have become classics, including “Sit at His Feet and Be Blessed,” “These Old Heavy Burdens” and “I Love to Praise His Name.”

Popular abroad, Dixon was spending as many as six months a year performing in Europe and Africa as of 2009.

—Los Angeles Times staff reports

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter