Deaths elsewhere

  • Updated: July 16, 2014 - 8:02 PM

Historian James MacGregor Burns in the 1960s.

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Arthur J. Walker, 79, was a conspirator in one of the biggest U.S. spy cases since World War II and a surprisingly trusting soul.

When FBI agents wanted to talk to him in 1985 after arresting his brother John on suspicion of espionage, Walker voluntarily chatted for a total of 32 hours — without a lawyer.

When a prosecution witness had a hard time identifying him in a Virginia courtroom, he helpfully raised his hand. He had been wearing a hairpiece when the witness last saw him.

And even after U.S. District Judge J. Calvert Clarke Jr. took all of 16 minutes to convict him of espionage, Walker asked his astonished attorney, “What do you think, maybe a two-year suspended sentence? I won’t have to go to prison, will I?”

He was given a life term, but under federal sentencing guidelines that were stiffened after his conviction, he was eligible for parole. Another hearing was set for August.

Walker, who made $12,000 for selling classified documents to Soviet agents through his brother, died July 5 in a federal prison in Butner, N.C. His death was confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. No cause was disclosed.

When the family espionage ring was uncovered, John was cast by authorities as its amoral mastermind, a manipulator who got his son Michael, his older brother Arthur and his best friend Jerry Whitworth to join him.

Arthur, a retired Navy lieutenant commander, seemed to be a small fish. He was convicted of stealing two sets of documents, both with the government’s lowest classified designation, from a Virginia defense contractor that employed him as an engineer.

Walker admitted to FBI agents that he photographed documents but insisted that they were worthless.

The documents concerned repairs on a class of Navy amphibious assault ships and detailed plans for responding to emergencies on the Blue Ridge, a communications ship.

Born in Washington, D.C., in 1934, Arthur James Walker grew up in Richmond, Va., and West Scranton, Pa. He enlisted in the Navy in 1953. He and his wife had two daughters and a son.

James MacGregor Burns, 95, one of the country’s pre-eminent political historians, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1970 study of Franklin D. Roosevelt and was instrumental in developing the interdisciplinary field of leadership studies, died July 15 at his home in Williamstown, Mass.

Burns published more than 20 books, including a two-volume biography of Roosevelt and a three-volume political history of the United States, “The American Experiment.”

“He is absolutely in the first rank,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss, a former student of Burns.

Early in his career, Burns began to make the study of leadership a hallmark of his scholarship. His 1978 book, “Leadership” is considered a classic historical analysis.

Burns was born Aug. 3, 1918, in Melrose, Mass. He graduated from Williams in 1939, then worked on Capitol Hill in Washington before serving with the Army as a historian during World War II. He received his doctorate in government from Harvard University in 1947 and joined the Williams faculty, where he taught until 1986.

Burns ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in 1958, but during the campaign, he got to know a young Massachusetts senator, John F. Kennedy. Two years later, he wrote “Kennedy: A Political Profile,” which was generally kind toward Kennedy but questioned his experience and leadership ability.

Later, Burns came to believe that Kennedy could have been an excellent president if he had lived.

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  • Convicted spy Arthur Walker was escorted into court in Norfolk, Va., in 1985. He passed secret papers to the Soviets.

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