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Brian Rix (1924 - 2016)

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Brian Rix (1924 - 2016)

Brian Rix, a British actor and campaigner for people with learning disabilities, died Aug. 20, 2016, after a long illness, according to The Guardian. He was 92.

Rix specialized in farces and was one of the most popular comic actors in British theater. As both star and producer, he had a string of hit plays in the 1950s and '60s including “Reluctant Heroes,” “Simple Spymen,” and “Dry Rot.” These became known as Whitehall farces, named after the Whitehall Theatre in London where they were originally performed. He also adapted several productions into televised farces for the BBC, and a few even became motion pictures.

He married fellow actor Elspet Gray in 1949. When their first child was born with Down syndrome, he became a tireless campaigner for people with learning disabilities. He raised funds for the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults and became the president of Mencap in 1998, a position he held until his death.

“Lord Rix was a beloved colleague and friend to so many people with a learning disability and their families. His passion, zeal, and humour will be sorely missed. His tireless campaigning has perhaps done more to improve the lives of people with a learning disability than any other,” said Jan Tregelles, the chief executive of Mencap in a statement.

He also served as chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Drama Panel from 1986 – 1993, helping to support theaters throughout Britain during a time when there was constant pressure to reduce government funding for the arts.

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Rix became a member of the House of Lords in 1992. He was an active member, introducing legislation to help people with learning disabilities. When he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he sent a letter to the speaker of the House of Lords, supporting legislation to allow for assisted dying, a position he had opposed earlier.

“Unhappily, my body seems to be constructed in such a way that it keeps me alive in great discomfort when all I want is to be allowed to slip into a sleep, peacefully, legally and without any threat to the medical or nursing profession,” wrote Rix.

His earlier opposition to the legislation was based on concerns that it could be abused in cases of people with learning disabilities.

He was born into a wealthy Yorkshire family Jan. 27, 1924. He got his first acting experience performing Shakespeare at the age of 18. He volunteered to serve the Royal Air Force as a coal miner during World War II. After the war, he returned to the stage as an actor-manager.

He was appointed a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1977 and knighted in 1986 for his charitable works. In 1992, he was designated a life peer, becoming Baron Rix, of Whitehall, in the City of Westminster and of Hornsea in Yorkshire.

Rix was preceded in death by his wife, Elspet in 2013, and his daughter, Shelley in 2005. He is survived by his remaining three children, Louisa, Jamie, and Jonathan.

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