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A few months after she began serving as the ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, communist rule was overthrown as the Iron Curtain collapsed across Eastern Europe.

Former President George H.W. Bush, who appointed Black to the post in Czechoslovakia, saluted her Tuesday for “her selfless service to our country” and her film career.

“In both roles, she truly lifted people up and earned not only a place in our hearts, but also our enduring respect,” Bush said.

Marc Grossman, press secretary and speechwriter for Cesar Chavez, recounted how Black inspired one of the legendary farm-worker rights advocate’s most popular speeches, his introspective address to the Commonwealth Club in 1984.

“Cesar and Mrs. Black had lunch together on the days before the speech and got along like old friends,” said Grossman. “They shared common interests in gardening and vegetarianism. Mrs. Black related how she had been a member of the Screen Actors Guild as a child actor and maintained her membership in the union over the years so as to support other young actors.”

Nancy Reagan, who knew Black from both Hollywood and her political work, remembered her simply as “truly an American icon.”


Associated Press writers Hillel Italie, Ryan Pearson, Hilary Fox, Martha Mendoza and Matt Reed contributed to this report.