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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

A Live Report on the Burial of President Ronald Reagan; A look back at the Life and Legacy of Soul Singer Ray Charles

Aired June 12, 2004 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
It is June 12.

Good morning.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

Coming up during our first hour...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATTI DAVIS, RONALD REAGAN'S DAUGHTER: At his last moment, when he opened his eyes, eyes that had not opened for many, many days, and looked at my mother, he showed us that neither disease nor death can conquer love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: A family bids a fond farewell and mourners throughout the world join in their grief. Former President Reagan's journey ends with a sunset service. We take you live to the Reagan Presidential Library straight ahead.

Also, another reason to mourn -- blues singer Ray Charles dies at 73. We take a look back at the life of this legendary musician.

And they're the huddled masses who yearned for freedom. Want to know who's a part of your family tree? We'll show you how to dig up your roots.

But first, here's what's happening at this hour.

Gunmen in Baghdad have killed a veteran Iraqi diplomat, a deputy foreign minister who had just returned from the United States. Bassam Salih Kubba was leaving his home when the gunmen drove by and fired shots into his car.

We also have a developing story to report from Iraq, the apparent release of seven Turkish contractors. An official with their employer, a construction company, tells our sister network, CNN Turk, that the men were released unharmed in Fallujah. Gunmen displayed the hostages earlier this week in a videotape, demanding that all Turkish companies pull out of Iraq. And in another update now just coming in from Iraq, captors have freed a Lebanese hostage. The release comes after the killing of another Lebanese hostage. The whereabouts of a third Lebanese hostage is still unknown.

Well, the jury in the Terry Nichols state trial deadlocked on the death penalty. That leaves the sentencing up to the judge, who can only impose life in prison with or without parole. Nichols is already serving a federal sentence of life without parole for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing. We'll have a live report on the trial. That's coming up at the bottom of the hour.

For the first time, Serbian officials have admitted to the mass genocide at Srebrenica. The admissions were made during an investigation into the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims in July of 1995. A report from the commission investigating the incident found that Bosnian Serb military and police participated in the killings.

Our top story at this hour, the sun sets on the life and leadership of Ronald Wilson Reagan. A week of national mourning concludes with a private service and sunset burial in his beloved state of California.

CNN's Miguel Marquez join us live from the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley -- Miguel, it has been a very difficult week.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly has and, you know, last night and yesterday was certainly a solemn day. But certainly celebrated, as well, by many people that I spoke to along the procession route that Reagan's body took from Point Mugu to the Reagan Library here.

Seven hundred friends and family members gathered here. Thousands of people lined that route for that perfect sunset ceremony you talked about. We heard from some folks that we hadn't heard from all week long. Patti, Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, spoke about her father's last moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: I don't know why Alzheimer's was allowed to steal so much of my father -- I'm sorry -- before releasing him into the arms of death. But I know that at his last moment, when he opened his eyes, eyes that had not opened for many, many days, and looked at my mother, he showed us that neither disease nor death can conquer love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Now perhaps among the most touching moments of last night's service was when Captain James Symonds -- he's the captain of the USS Ronald Reagan -- bent down on one knee to hand the folded flag, the flag that had draped the 40th president's coffin for most of this week, to Nancy Reagan. She clutched it to her chest. They spoke to each other for a few moments and at that point Mrs. Reagan got up to go to the coffin for one last time. She had been rock solid all week long, expressing little emotion. But when she got to that coffin, she bent down near it, said, "I love you," and then she broke down into tears. Her son and her daughter both came to her side and held her for a short time with the flag in between them.

Mr. Reagan is now interred here at the Reagan National Library in Simi Valley, halfway between the Bel-Air home in Los Angeles, where he and Mrs. Reagan lived for many years, and Rancho del Cielo, the Ranch of the Sky, that's up in Santa Barbara, almost right in between them, where he will stay. And the Library now is closed for this weekend. It will open up again on Monday. And I'm sure they're expecting a very busy day -- Betty.

MARQUEZ: Absolutely, Miguel.

What's next for the Reagan family? I imagine Mrs. Reagan needs a lot of rest now.

MARQUEZ: They left here last night. I suppose that there will be some time where they will stay indoors and out of the public eye for a while, because this has been a very, very public week, and certainly a very trying week, because of the bicoastal nature of this state funeral -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Miguel Marquez in Simi Valley.

Thank you very much.

For the past week, since last Saturday's announcement that the former president had died, people far from the halls of power have spoken of how Ronald Reagan inspired them. One man who was just a boy when he met the president, says the leader's words of praise helped define his life's work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN (voice-over): In a stone barn in western Philadelphia, Trevor Ferrell stores boxes of memories, articles and awards honoring his life's work -- helping those in need. It began when he was just 11.

TREVOR FERRELL, FOUNDER, TREVOR'S THRIFT SHOP: Coming into the city, we saw a homeless man. And we pulled over and I got out of the car with my dad behind me and I went up to the man and I gave him a blanket and pillow. And I felt good.

NGUYEN: So good he began to collect more items for the homeless. Others joined him. He formed an organization and got an invitation to the Oval Office.

T. FERRELL: You picture a president, you know, to be up on a pedestal, so to speak. And he didn't seem to be that way to me. I felt like I was with my grandfather.

NGUYEN: And then, in 1986, an even greater honor. RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We see the dream born again in the joyful compassion of 13-year-old Trevor Ferrell. Two years ago, Trevor left his suburban Philadelphia home to bring blankets and food to the helpless and homeless. Trevor, yours is the living spirit of brotherly love. Would you four stand up for a moment?

NGUYEN: Trevor never felt comfortable with all the attention, but Reagan's words still move him.

T. FERRELL: Trevor, you have given these gift -- these people the gift of self-respect, security, a sense of belonging. And most of all, you've given them a reason to go on. Remember I said -- I'm getting upset as I read this. As I said that -- I can't finish it. I can't.

NGUYEN: Today, Trevor is still helping others. His thrift store provides furniture, dishes and clothing to people in need. His daughter Katie works with him. For school, she wrote a report about President Reagan, including his favorite food.

K. FERRELL: I wrote down jelly beans. I didn't even have to like, like guess or anything, or look it up on the Internet. It's just, I knew that he really like jelly beans.

NGUYEN: Her dad still keeps the jar Reagan gave him 18 years ago.

T. FERRELL: I would not suggest eating these.

NGUYEN: Ferrell says the best gift Reagan gave him was recognition that he was doing the right thing.

T. FERRELL: I look up to President Reagan and I know a lot of people say well, that's kind of against what you should be for. He cut a lot of social services and stuff like that. And I understand that. At the same time, I think he was giving a message to us that us as citizens have to stand up and make a difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Trevor Ferrell is now in his early 30s and even after achieving national fame, inspiring a book and a movie, and receiving presidential praise, he says he remains close to the long time friends he found on the street.

News across America this Saturday morning.

The Las Vegas strip, which lights up the desert, went dark for three minutes last night as a memorial to former President Ronald Reagan. The casino lights were turned off six times in the past, the last time on a national day of mourning following 9/11.

Tornadoes have caused scattered damage in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, but no injuries are reported so far. Tornadoes touched down in at least two Iowa counties. And across the state line in Minnesota, one house was destroyed and others were damaged. Most of the damage was limited to farm crops.

A 23 acre lake all but disappeared this week from the town of Wildwood, Missouri, with the water draining into a sinkhole in the lake's bottom. A geologist says the water drained to a spring about four miles away. Residents of the affluent St. Louis suburb are not happy that their lakefront homes are now mud front homes. They're not happy about that at all.

Well, actress Katherine Hepburn has been dead now for a year and personal items she owned are being auctioned at Sotheby's in New York. $316,000 has been bid for a bronze bust of Spencer Tracy that Hepburn sculpted herself. A diamond broche, a gift to Hepburn from Howard Hughes, well, that sold for $120,000.

Iraqi Kurds fear being politically sidelined after the transfer of power in Iraq. Will the issue lead to more instability in the war torn country? That story ahead on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Also, tracing your family's history -- tips from a world renowned genealogist ahead.

And another American legend dies. We'll look back at the remarkable career of the music great. Of course, we're talking about Ray Charles.

And we want to ask you your opinion this morning. Tell us who you think was America's greatest president. You can find us at wam@cnn.com. I'll be reading your replies throughout the program.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: An Iraqi deputy foreign minister was shot to death in Baghdad this morning shortly after a return from the United States. Bassam Salih Kubba was leaving his home when gunmen sprayed his car with bullets. It is the second attack this week on an Iraqi government official.

Harris Whitbeck joins us now from Baghdad with the latest on this -- hi, Harris.

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Betty.

Well, you -- basically, that's what we know. There was another top interim government leader who was killed this morning in Baghdad. Bassam Kubba was the senior diplomat at the Iraqi foreign ministry and he was in charge of that ministry's legal affairs. And apparently he was shot as he left his home this morning on his way to work. He -- his driver was able to get him to a hospital, which is where he died.

This is the second attempt on a member of the Iraqi government in four days. The deputy health minister escaped an assassination attempt last Wednesday. Meanwhile, coalition officials here are expressing a bit more optimism about the situation in the holy city of Najaf. As you know, it has been the scene of, at times, intense battles between U.S. military forces and militiamen who are loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Now, during Friday prayers, one of al-Sadr's top aides said in a sermon that -- he gave indications that they are taking a more conciliatory stance in terms of the changes taking place in Iraq. He said that al-Sadr endorses the new interim government, albeit as long as certain conditions are met.

This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEIKH ABBAS AL-RUBEI, MUQTADA AL-SADR'S SPOKESMAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I want to inform you Iraqis that I'm endorsing this interim Iraqi government if it declares a rejection of the occupation and coalition forces in Iraq and demands a timetable for their withdrawal. So if they will accept, then we will go along. But if it fails to do so, it will be seen in front of God and the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITBECK: Another story that we have been following for quite some time, Betty, the fate of several foreigners who have been taken hostage here over the last several weeks. Our sister network, CNN Turk, is reports that seven Turkish civilian contractors who have been taken hostage by an obscure militant group apparently have been released.

Now, earlier this week, a videotape was released showing some of these Turkish hostages kneeling in front of mass armed militiamen. They were holding up their passports to prove that they are, in fact, Turkish. And, again, according to CNN Turk, seven Turkish civilian contractors have been released here in Iraq -- Betty.

NGUYEN: A lot of developments there, Harris.

Let's get back to the Iraqi government officials.

What's being done about security to prevent these attacks?

WHITBECK: Well, that's one of the big concerns, because the government ministries here, each ministry is in charge of its own security. And that -- some of the ministry officials say that they're -- they fear that that is -- makes their life more difficult, because they don't have access to a lot of the infrastructure, a lot of the equipment and a lot of the staffing they need to provide adequately for their security.

Of course, as June 30 approaches, the concern is that there could be more attacks on members of and symbols of the interim government. The U.S. coalition officials have warned of that. And certainly there has been if not a pattern, at least a series of attacks in the last several days.

NGUYEN: CNN's Harris Whitbeck in Baghdad this morning.

Thank you very much.

Eighteen days to the official transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraq's interim government. In northern Iraq, the Kurds are concerned about their autonomy. But the new Iraqi prime minister is trying to calm those fears.

Joining us from Washington to talk about it is Akbar Ahmed, professor at American University and author of "Islam Under Siege."

Good morning to you.

Thanks for being with us.

AKBAR AHMED, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Good morning, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, first of all, let's talk about that assassination today in Baghdad.

What do you think about the security and are the Iraqis ready for this handover?

AHMED: Not a happy sign. This is a senior official, well known, well respected, a deputy foreign minister. At the same time, everyone is aware of the clock ticking. Only a few days, not even weeks or months, left for the transfer of power. The government must do something much more drastic to control the law and order, because within the context of law and order it will fail or it will succeed.

NGUYEN: The government is also having to deal with a bit of an uprising by the Kurds. They're upset because in this U.N. resolution which was approved on Tuesday, it failed to put in there the interim constitution, which gives the Kurds essentially veto power.

So tell me, how big of an issue is this for the Kurds right now?

AHMED: The Kurdish issue has always been an issue. We must remember that the Kurds are a tribal people with a tribal sense of identity, a history of their own spread across the Middle East, not only in Iraq, in Syria, Turkey, Iran. And they would like maximum autonomy. So these are maximum demands they would like to be assured of.

At the same time, the Shia, who are in the majority, 60 percent of the nation, would want to control through a democratic apparatus, the destiny of the nation.

So you have an inherent structural conflict, as it were, taking shape. Sadr, for instance, or Sistani, the major figures/players in the Shia camp, would both want not to give the Kurds the veto power.

NGUYEN: Do you expect if the Kurds don't get that veto power that they will pull out? AHMED: They can't pull out now. It's very difficult. They are, in a sense, "stuck in Iraq." Don't forget that they've got Turkey up in the north watching very carefully. Turkey gets very nervous about the Kurdish "problem." So in a sense they have to play within the frame, within the rules. And these are really, what you're seeing are maximum demands. This is all jostling for power as the transfer approaches Iraq.

NGUYEN: Let's talk a little bit about Najaf. We're already seeing U.S. forces kind of step back and let the Iraqi police handle the situation there.

Is this in preparation for this handover and are Iraqis ready to handle their own affairs?

AHMED: That's a big question and it can't really be answered very easily or with confidence. At the same time, what I found very interesting was the change of strategy as far as the coalition troops are concerned. Early on, they would go charging into bazaars and so on. Now we are seeing them much more cautious, much more diplomatic, much more even political. For instance, they don't want to get involved, they don't want to get involved in being seen to be damaging mosques, particularly. And they're really saying look, the Iraqi police, the Iraqi administration must begin to solve their own problems. And that, I believe, is a major shift in strategy in Iraq.

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

Akbar Ahmed of the American University, thanks for your insight this morning.

AHMED: Thank you.

NGUYEN: After hours of deliberation, a crucial development in the sentencing phase for convicted Oklahoma bomber Terry Nichols. A live report right here on CNN SATURDAY.

Plus, are you ready to trace your roots? America's multicultural background is all over the place. Advice on how to climb your family tree, that's ahead here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Well, about 20 million viewers tuned in every week last season to head Donald Trump say, "You're fired!"

Now a radio network tells "The Donald" he's hired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP: The thing that I'm most happy about, in the history of radio, I am told, this is the largest opening of a show. And so that's pretty impressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: The billionaire signed a deal that will put him on the radio every morning in a segment called "Trumped," of course. He talks about the new venture and why he's doing it in an exclusive interview we'll air tomorrow on CNN SUNDAY MORNING at 9:00 Eastern.

Time now for a check of the headlines.

A final salute to former President Ronald Reagan. He was laid to rest at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. It culminated a week of mourning, which included the national funeral service in Washington.

The FBI is warning law enforcement in 10 cities to watch out for possible ecoterrorism attacks today. The security bulletin refers to an international day of action called in support of Jeff Luers. He was convicted four years ago for burning sports utility vehicles in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene and San Francisco are two of the 10 cities that were alerted.

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols escapes a death sentence again. Details in a live report next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

And later this hour, a tribute to a legend who put Georgia on everybody's mind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: For a second time, life is spared for the Oklahoma City bomber, Terry Nichols.

Welcome back.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

Thanks for joining us.

That story in a minute.

But first, here's a look at headlines at this hour.

There will be no Kerry-McCain combination come November. The Associated Press reports that the Republican senator from Arizona has rejected any notion that he might join John Kerry on the Democratic ticket. Kerry had asked John McCain to consider being his running mate, but never formally offered him the position.

Gunmen in Baghdad killed an Iraqi deputy foreign minister this morning shortly after he returned from the United States. Bassam Salih Kubba was a member of the Iraqi delegation to the U.N. He was gunned down as he was leaving his home.

We could learn as early as today whether Ayman al-Zawahiri is likely the voice on an audiotape broadcast in the Arab world. The voice, claiming to be the Osama bin Laden lieutenant, accused Americans of not really wanting democracy and freedom in the Arab world. U.S. intelligence officials are working to determine the authenticity of the claim.

Well, more than nine years after the Oklahoma City bombing killed 161 people, a convicted conspirator and murderer will not pay for the crime with his life.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is in McAlister, Oklahoma, where this latest trial was held -- good morning to you, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty.

According to Oklahoma law, in order to execute Terry Nichols, a jury had to be unanimous. But in the end, six women and six men could not agree on what to do. For prosecutors, the deadlock was a key loss.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: Terry, you escaped death again.

What do you think?

Are you relieved?

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): From Terry Nichols, silence, as he was led away. From a grieving mother, an outcry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to hell, Terry Nichols.

CANDIOTTI: For Nichols, a second escape from execution for his part in the Oklahoma City bombing. The jury deadlocked after three days of deliberations, unable to reach a verdict on whether to let him live or die, leaving that to the trial judge, who under law must sentence him to life in prison.

Roy Sells said he has one question for the jury.

ROY SELLS, VICTIM'S HUSBAND: How many people do you have to kill before you get the death sentence? Is it 500? A thousand? I don't know. I'd just like to ask them that question.

CANDIOTTI: The lead prosecutor walked away from court crying. Nichols' ailing mother and his sister left without comment. The end result of the trial is meaningless for Nichols. He is already serving life without parole after the previous jury in his federal trial also deadlocked in its life or death debate. The defense team had pleaded for his life, saying Nichols had found religion in prison.

BRIAN HERMANSON, NICHOLS' DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Terry Nichols asks for you all to keep in their prayers everyone who has suffered a loss and hope that all people can recover from the hate and the fear that has resulted from the Oklahoma City bombing.

CANDIOTTI: Not convincing to this still grieving father.

JOHN TAYLOR, VICTIM'S FATHER: He has never repented and he never apologized, and it leads me to believe that maybe his religion is not that deep and not that real.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: As it turns out, the jury split almost down the middle on its verdict. According to one juror, seven wanted death, five life. Sentencing is scheduled for August 9 in a trial that's expected to cost about $5 million -- back to you, Betty.

NGUYEN: CNN's Susan Candiotti in McAlister, Oklahoma.

Thank you.

Now our global terror watch, beginning with new details on the arrest of an accused mastermind of the Madrid train bombings. The coordinated series of explosions killed 190 people and wounded more than 1,800 others.

The "New York Times" reports that wiretap conversations captured Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed boasting of his role in the March attacks and plotting a similar strike in Iraq.

In Belgium, police launched a series of raids this week and arrested 15 people in what's being described as an anti-terror sweep. The suspects, mainly of Arab and North African origin, were reportedly found with suspicious papers and electronics, but no weapons or explosives.

And a show of support for Osama bin Laden. A poll conducted last year shows that half of all Saudis have a favorable view of the al Qaeda leader's views. The findings surprised even the Saudi national security consultant who conducted the poll, especially since it came after last year's suicide attacks in Riyadh, which is the Saudi capital.

This has been a week of extensive coverage of the state funeral of President Ronald Reagan. If you haven't had time to keep up with the other news, here's your update. It is time to rewind.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously gave a stamp of approval to the new interim Iraqi government. The resolution passed 15-0, endorsing the June 30 transfer of power and authorizing a U.S.- led multinational force to stabilize the country. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called it "a genuine expression of the will of the international community."

Iraq continued to be a focus on Wednesday, as the G-8 summit got under way in Sea Island, Georgia. Leaders at the summit met with Middle Eastern officials, including the interim president of Iraq, to discuss democratic reform in that region.

In Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez has asked that a higher ranking general be put in charge of the prison abuse investigation. General Sanchez said he also wants his actions scrutinized in order to clear his name. Sanchez has denied he was aware of the abuse.

Tomorrow, we will fast forward to the week ahead and tell you which stories will grab the spotlight.

Jurors were unanimous earlier this month in their belief that Terry Nichols is guilty of 161 counts of murder in the 1995 Oklahoma federal building bombing. But coming up in our next hour, the panel's torment this week over whether to sentence him to death. Our legal experts analyze the jury's decision.

Then, at 8:30 Eastern, Ronald Reagan lived his last days suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. This morning on House Call, the search for a cure on a debilitating disease.

And at 9:00 Eastern, the Reagan legacy -- how does he rank with this country's greatest presidents?

But next, Ellis Island or a Native American village? A scientific shortcut that could lead you to the right branch of your family tree.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: We want to hear from you this morning. Tell us who, in your opinion, is the greatest president of the United States. You can e-mail us at wam@cnn.com. I'll be reading your replies later this hour and throughout the morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: It was 1977 and the country was mesmerized by the historic TV miniseries "Roots." One hundred thirty million viewers watched all or part of the program that traces the lives and struggles of an African-American family from slavery to the 20th century. The miniseries is credited with triggering a huge interest in genealogy that continues to this day. And, in fact, surveys show that digging out the roots of the family tree is Americans' second most popular hobby. I didn't know that. So if your idea of family fun includes a trip to the cemetery, of all places, you'll want to hear from our next guest.

Elizabeth Shown Mills is a top genealogist and author of "Isle of Canes," which traces one Louisiana family's history over 150 years.

Thanks for being here.

ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS, AUTHOR, "ISLE OF CANES": It's my pleasure, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, you know, everyone wants to know, to some extent, where they came from.

MILLS: Right.

NGUYEN: How difficult is it to track your family tree?

MILLS: It can be very easy, it can be a lifelong experience. It depends upon the particular history of your family and how many records have been preserved, where they lived, what ethnic group they belonged to.

NGUYEN: I guess one of the biggest questions is where do you start?

MILLS: With yourself, with your home sources. You speak with your family members, your parents, your grandparents. And then you move back from there. As you said in your INTRO, you're looking for cemetery records. You're looking for courthouse records. You're looking for birth certificates. You're looking for the federal Census records that you can follow your family back all the way to 1790 through the Census records.

NGUYEN: Now, for a lot of folks, me in particular, I was born abroad, in another country. Now, tracing my roots is going to be a little more difficult, isn't it?

MILLS: Not necessarily. No. Many people are doing it today. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints is going around all over the world microfilming records. And they're making it available to us. They are kept in a vault in Salt Lake City. But they will send them out to family history centers in just about every town.

NGUYEN: Even Third World countries?

MILLS: Many of them are being filmed today.

NGUYEN: OK.

And a lot of folks are wondering about how medicine is being changed by this or how it's helping in the search. You've had a personal experience with that, haven't you?

MILLS: Yes. I would say that genetics is much more important than your medical history. With medicine, we are looking for the immediate family, not 15 generations back. But genetics is really, it's -- genetics and genealogy is a marriage that was meant to be.

I'm like many people, have a tradition of Native American ancestry. And 30 years of research in original documents was not turning up anything that was showing a Native American connection. It was supposed to have been my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother, which in genetic terms is your mitochondrial DNA line.

So when that test became available, I had it taken. And my Choctaw Indian princess died in a Petri dish in a Houston lab. She was reincarnated as Scandinavian.

But that doesn't mean that family tradition is wrong. The family just gets confused about where the line is.

NGUYEN: Exactly, because you hear these stories and you're thinking that they're true, but when you trace back, there are some discrepancies. So if you get this DNA test, a simple blood test, is that all it is?

MILLS: No, it's a cheek swab.

NGUYEN: OK.

MILLS: A long Q-Tip and you just swab the inside of your cheek and send it in. And from that -- you've watched "Crime Scene investigation." CSI shows us all about how they do the cheek swabs.

NGUYEN: So is that a faster way than checking all of these records and going back over all of them?

MILLS: Oh, no. The two work in tandem.

NGUYEN: OK.

MILLS: They cannot tell you who your ancestor was. They can only tell you, like in my case, when I had percentage testing down, I discovered I was 15 percent Native American. But it doesn't tell me where on my family tree, in which one of those branches I have...

NGUYEN: It's just another clue in the search?

MILLS: It's another clue. And then you combine that with your documentary research and you find the place and time where you have a hole on your family chart that is in an area where Native Americans and European-Americans were interacting.

NGUYEN: Quickly, how much does that cost? And are there some free organizations and different types of initiatives that are out there to help folks searching for their roots?

MILLS: There are free DNA programs through universities. But most people choose not to go that route. They feel they have more privacy if they go the private route. And there is a cost involved, a couple of hundred dollars.

NGUYEN: In your book, your latest book, we have to get to this -- we only just have a few seconds left -- you did a lot of research, family history research.

MILLS: Yes, I did. I found thousands of documents on a family that was rooted in slavery, 1735, with the arrival of the African from Togo. I followed them down through 1900, through the documentary trail.

NGUYEN: "The Isle of Canes."

MILLS: "The Isle of Canes."

NGUYEN: And it deals with a multi-racial family.

MILLS: Yes. They were African-American, Native American and European-American, and proud of all their roots.

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

Well, we appreciate your time and the insight on helping us find our roots.

MILLS: It's my pleasure.

NGUYEN: Thank you very much.

MILLS: Thanks.

NGUYEN: Well, we did a little research, as well, ourselves, and Jill, who is about to join us, Jill Brown, meteorologist.

And did you know where your roots stemmed? Do you have any idea?

JILL BROWN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I don't. Mine -- we would ask my dad, you know, what is it, dad, are we Irish? Are we English? And he...

NGUYEN: What are we? Exactly.

BROWN: And he would say I'm a nice American boy.

NGUYEN: Well, there is a Web site where you can turn to. And we did a little research on it. We have some tape of it that shows where you guys, the Browns, where they started out. Check it out. In 1850, if you'll look, the red is where there -- most of you were located throughout the nation. You really weren't in the Midwest at all. You were mainly on the East Coast.

BROWN: Well, my family is from Ohio. All the Browns that I know that are my relatives are from Ohio.

NGUYEN: Well, that changes, though.

BROWN: Yes?

NGUYEN: Because then look at the 1880s. You're kind of spread out all over. And then, of course, you guys started in Ohio.

BROWN: That's right.

NGUYEN: And then here in Atlanta, you're all over the place.

BROWN: Well, we are spreading a little bit at this point. But I'm sure I have relatives, you know, a name like Brown, you've got to have relatives everywhere, right?

NGUYEN: Well, back in the 1850s, it goes all the way back to the East Coast. So that gives you a bit of an idea.

Do you track your family history?

BROWN: I have not done it. And we've thought about it on, you know, both sides a little bit, but I think Brown would be difficult to find.

NGUYEN: Well, I'll give you these notes that we took on this and give you that Web site. BROWN: OK.

NGUYEN: There you go.

BROWN: There's a start.

NGUYEN: You have a head start.

BROWN: That'll give me something to do next hour.

NGUYEN: Exactly.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Well, another legend was lost this week, Ray Charles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY HBO)

RAY CHARLES: ... of grain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: We'll take a look back at the life and musical magic of the master when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: "He is home now, he is free" -- that was the sentiment from Ronald Reagan, Jr., as his father was laid to rest. A week of mourning ended in the same place it began -- at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. That's where family and friends gathered for their final farewell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have come from sea to shining sea, to this soil which he loved so much.

MICHAEL REAGAN, SON: You knew my father as governor, as president. But I knew him as dad.

PATTI DAVIS, DAUGHTER: I know that at his last moment, when he opened his eyes, eyes that had not opened for many, many days, and looked at my mother, he showed us that neither disease nor death can conquer love.

RON REAGAN, JR., SON: In his final letter to the American people, dad wrote: "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life." This evening, he has arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready, aim, fire! Ready, aim, fire!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We commend into your hands the spirit of your servant, Ronald Wilson Reagan. We commend him into your care and keeping.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Well, all morning long we have been asking viewers for their e-mails, because we've been asking who was America's greatest president? And we've got a few answers already.

J.D. from Indianapolis says: "I feel JFK was America's greatest because he did so much in the face of adversity."

Also, Mark from New York writes: "Politics aside, unquestionably FDR, elected four times, saw us through World War 2 and the Great Depression. No one else, save Lincoln, comes close."

And, of course, we want you to keep sending those e-mails in. The question again -- America's greatest president, who do you think it is? E-mail us at wam@cnn.com. We will be reading those e-mails throughout the morning.

America lost another great patriot this week. Legendary singer Ray Charles died Thursday at the age of 73.

CNN's Aaron Brown reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): He lost his sight to glaucoma as a boy of 6, then lost his parents, too, as a teenager. So out he went, as if in some long-ago blues song a blind orphan traveling the country, Florida, Washington State, here and there making music, making records, making eventually a legend.

Ray Charles Robinson -- he dropped the Robinson early on -- breathed in everything there was to breathe in, jazz and Gospel, pop and blues, country and western, R&B, everything, and then breathed it back out as something new and different, transformed, something unmistakably his. Who knew before Ray Charles that the unofficial anthem of the United States was in fact a great Gospel song?

RAY CHARLES, MUSICIAN (singing): America, sweet America.

BROWN: The hits began coming more than a half century ago, in the early '50s, when he was barely 20. And then they simply kept on coming decade after decade after decade after decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray Charles!

BROWN: That amazing voice and phrasing, that wonderful piano, were captured on whatever medium was the latest thing, from vinyl to silver compact discs to digits. The science of recording changed. He did not.

How many halls of fame is Ray Charles honored in? Rock 'n' Roll, Blues, Songwriters, Grammy, Jazz, Georgia Music, Florida Artists, Playboy Hall of Fame. He probably would be in more if there were more.

CHARLES: For me, my music is my existence. It's just like your breathing. Without your breathing, you are no longer here. Without my music, I feel I'm no longer here.

BROWN: Well, he is no longer here, but his music is and always will be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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