James Thomas (Jim) Nesbitt Jr., who shared the road and dusty honky-tonk stages with the likes of Conway Twitty, Stonewall Jackson and Dottie West, died Thursday evening at his home in Florence, S.C.

Today would have been his 76th birthday.

Nesbitt's career reached its height in the 1960s, when he was a rare hybrid performer, a musician who could carry a tune and tell a good joke.

In 1961, his first hit, "Please Mr. Kennedy," reached No. 1 on Billboard's country chart. "Running Bare," "A Tiger in My Tank" and "Truckin' Cat With Nine Wives" are other Nesbitt favorites.

Richard Leigh, 64, an American writer of alternative history who unsuccessfully sued for plagiarism over themes in Dan Brown's blockbuster novel "The Da Vinci Code," died in London Nov. 21 from causes related to a heart condition.

Leigh was co-author of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," a work of speculative nonfiction that claimed Jesus Christ fathered a child with Mary Magdalene and that the bloodline continues to this day.

A bestseller on its release in 1982, the book gained new readership after Brown's thriller, which explores similar themes and has sold more than 40 million copies, was released in 2003.

Gennie DeWeese, 86, an artist known for her landscape paintings and woodblock prints whose works are displayed at museums across the Northwest, died Monday at her studio south of Bozeman, Mont.