PASSINGS: Ann Nixon Cooper, Kim Peek

Ann Nixon Cooper

Mentioned in Obama’s election night speech

Ann Nixon Cooper, 107, the Atlanta centenarian lauded by President Obama in his election night speech last year, died Monday at her Atlanta home. Carl M. Williams Funeral Directors of Atlanta confirmed the death.

In his 2008 speech, Obama called Cooper an example of “the heartbreak and the hope” of the last century. He noted that she was born at a time when women and blacks couldn’t vote and lived to cast her ballot for the country’s first black president.

In a statement Tuesday, Obama said Cooper’s life “captured the spirit of community and change and progress that is at the heart of the American experience; a life that inspired and will continue to inspire me in the years to come.”

Cooper first registered to vote Sept. 1, 1941, but didn’t exercise her right for years, deferring to her husband, Dr. Albert B. Cooper, a prominent Atlanta dentist.

Born Jan. 9, 1902, Ann Nixon Cooper outlived her husband, who died in 1967, and three of her four children. She cast an early ballot for Obama on Oct. 16, 2008.

Kim Peek

Inspiration for ‘Rain Man’

Kim Peek, 58, the man who inspired the title character in the Oscar-winning movie “Rain Man,” died Saturday at a hospital in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray, Utah, after suffering a heart attack, according to his father, Fran.

Peek was a savant with remarkable gifts of memory and recall, and inspired writer Barry Morrow when he wrote “Rain Man,” the 1988 movie that won four Academy Awards.

Fran Peek said his son met Morrow at a convention in the early 1980s and the writer was taken with Peek’s knack for retaining nearly everything he heard. Morrow wrote the script, and the movie went on to win Oscars for best film and best actor, for Dustin Hoffman, whose repetitive rants about being an excellent driver and “People’s Court” being about to start were a hit with audiences.

Although the character was technically fictional, Fran Peek said his son was every bit as amazing as Hoffman’s portrayal. His true character showed when he toured the world, helping dispel misconceptions about mental disabilities.

In his later years, Peek was classified as a “mega-savant” who was a genius in about 15 subjects, including history, literature, geography, numbers, sports, music and dates. But his motor skills were limited; he couldn’t perform some simple tasks including dressing himself.

Born Nov. 11, 1951, Peek was 9 months old when doctors diagnosed him as severely mentally retarded, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. But his family said that by 16 months he had extraordinary capabilities, including reading books.

-- times staff and wire reports