PASSINGS: Napoleon A. Jones Jr., John Silard, Ruben Castro, Amin Hafez, Thor Arngrim

Napoleon A. Jones Jr.

Judge in San Diego Scouts case

Napoleon A. Jones Jr., 69, the federal judge who ruled in a San Diego case that the Boy Scouts were a religious group and couldn’t lease city land, died Dec. 12 at his home in northern San Diego County after a long battle with prostate cancer, his wife, Rosalyn, said.

In 2003, Jones found that San Diego acted improperly in leasing land to the Boy Scouts, an organization that bars gay leaders and requires members to swear an oath to God. Jones found that the leases violated the separation of church and state.

The ruling is under appeal.

Jones was born Aug. 25, 1940, in Hodge, La., and was raised in San Diego. He graduated from San Diego State and from the University of San Diego’s law school. Jones became a San Diego County Municipal Court judge in 1977 and a Superior Court judge in 1982. Jones was appointed to the Southern California U.S. District Court by President Clinton in 1994, becoming San Diego’s second black federal judge.

“We come from a generation who took our need to succeed as paramount,” retired San Diego Superior Court Judge Joe Littlejohn told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Nap really epitomized that. He always went the extra mile.”

John Silard

Civil rights and labor attorney

John Silard, 80, who with law partner Joseph L. Rauh Jr. formed one of the country’s foremost practices specializing in civil rights, civil liberties and labor law, died Nov. 29 at a Washington hospital. He had been in a coma for the last two months after a procedure to alleviate heart ailments.

Although Rauh, who died in 1992, was more the public face of the firm, he and Silard worked closely on legal strategy and writing court briefs for more than 30 years. One of their most lucrative clients was the United Auto Workers union, whose then-leader, Walter Reuther, was a friend of Rauh’s. Rauh and Silard were also active in the Democratic Party.

The Washington lawyers also represented Broadway playwrights Lillian Hellman, during her hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Arthur Miller, during his trial on contempt-of-court charges for refusing to identify writers alleged to be communists.

John Szilard was born Jan. 8, 1929, in Vienna, Austria, and grew up in Budapest. His Jewish family immigrated to New York to escape the Nazi threat and dropped the “z” from the name.

Silard first teamed with Rauh in the mid-1950s after having been introduced by Silard’s uncle, Leo Szilard, a world-renowned physicist and contributor to the Manhattan Project who spent his later years as a peace activist. In 1962, Silard helped his uncle form the Council for a Livable World, an early arms-control group.

Ruben Castro

20-year head of Moorpark charity

Ruben Castro, 80, who headed Catholic Charities in Moorpark for 20 years, died Dec. 2 after a long illness, his son Steve said.

“He’s one of a kind in Moorpark,” Councilman Clint Harper told the Daily News in 2005. “Nobody comes close to putting the time and effort he does to helping low-income families in our community.” City officials plan to name a new social services center in Castro’s honor.

“I’m helping where I’m needed. We received so much from Moorpark. It’s nice to return something,” he told the Daily News in 2005.

Castro was born Aug. 19, 1929, in La Verne, graduated from high school in Moorpark and then served in the Air Force. He ran his family’s grocery store in Moorpark before going to work for Catholic Charities. Castro also worked for the Commission on Human Concerns and was appointed by Gov. Pat Brown in 1966 to the Ventura County Fair board. He was reappointed by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970.

“He’s going to be a very hard individual to replace in this community,” Steve Castro said.

Amin Hafez, the former Syrian president who was brought to power by a military coup in 1963, only to be overthrown three years later, died Thursday of cancer, one of his former advisors said. He was 89.

Thor Arngrim, a retired personal manager for Debbie Reynolds, Susan Anton and Liberace, among others, died Wednesday in Vancouver, Canada, of complications from Parkinson’s disease. Arngrim, who was born Wilfred James Bannin, was also an actor and founded the Totem Theatre of Vancouver. He was 81.

-- times staff and wire reports