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Bernard J. Ebbers, WorldCom Chief Jailed in Fraud, Dies at 78


Bernard John Ebbers was born on Aug. 27, 1941, in Edmonton, Alberta, to John T. and Kathleen Mary (Ellen) Ebbers. His father was a traveling salesman and a mechanic, and his mother was a homemaker.

The family moved to California in the 1940s. Later, Bernie, as he was called, attended boarding school on a Navajo reservation. He ended up receiving a basketball scholarship — he was 6-foot-4 tall — to Mississippi College, a private Baptist institution in Clinton, Miss. He graduated in 1967 with a degree in physical education.

Mr. Ebbers married Linda Pigott in 1968, and they divorced in 1997. He and his second wife, Kristie Ebbers, who were married in 1999, divorced in 2008.

He is survived by four daughters, Ave Easley, Treasure Ebbers Beeson, Joy Ebbers Bourne and Faith Ebbers Gates; three brothers, John, James and Stephen; a sister, Marion Olthuis; 12 grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

Fresh out of college, Mr. Ebbers worked as a high school basketball coach and operated motels.

In 1983, the breakup of AT&T enabled thousands of competitors to start reselling long-distance telephone service to individual and business customers. This prompted Mr. Ebbers and a handful of investors to back Long Distance Discount Services, which eventually established its headquarters in Jackson, Miss.

“The only experience Bernie had before operating a long-distance company was he used the phone,” Carl J. Aycock, an early investor and WorldCom board member, said in 1997.

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