In Memoriam: Remembering Public Pioneers We Have Lost

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Eric Jerome Dickey – Author

Eric Jerome Dickey, the bestselling novelist who blended crime, romance and eroticism in “Sister, Sister,” “Waking With Enemies” and dozens of other books about contemporary Black life, has died at age 59.
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Tanya Roberts – Actor

Tanya Roberts, best known for her role in a James Bond film and the TV comedy ‘That 70s Show,’ has died at age 65 on Jan. 4, 2021. Her death was prematurely reported, causing two days of confusion, before her publicist confirmed it on Jan. 5.
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Gerry Marsden – Singer

Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the 1960s British group Gerry and the Pacemakers that had such hits as “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and the song that became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” has died. He was 78.
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MF DOOM – Rapper

Rapper MF DOOM died on Oct. 31, 2020, his wife announced on Instagram on Dec. 31, 2020. The 49-year-old, who rose to popularity in the late '90s and early '00s with songs like "Rhymes Like Dimes" and "DOOMsday," released the Christmas album "Doom Xmas" with Cookin' Soul in 2019.
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Dick Thornburgh – US Attorney General, Pennsylvania Governor

Dick Thornburgh, who as Pennsylvania governor won plaudits for his cool handling of the 1979 Three Mile Island crisis and as U.S. attorney general restored credibility to a Justice Department hurt by the Iran-Contra scandal, died Dec. 31, 2020. He was 88.
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Dawn Wells – Actor

Dawn Wells, the actor who portrayed Mary Ann Summers on “Gillian’s Island” (right), have died from COVID-19 complications, according to her publicist. Wells, one of the last surviving cast members of the sitcom, was 82.
Luke Letlow
Luke Letlow – Congressman-elect

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, R-La., died of complications from COVID-19 on Dec. 29, 2020, just days before he was set to take office. He was 41.
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Pierre Cardin – Fashion Designer

Pierre Cardin, a French designer known for revolutionizing fashion starting in the early 1950s, died on Dec. 29, 2020. He was 98. Cardin’s name embossed thousands of products, from wristwatches to bed sheets. In the brand’s heyday, goods bearing his fancy cursive signature were sold at some 100,000 outlets worldwide.
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Armando Manzanero – Singer and Composer

Armando Manzanero, the Mexican ballad singer and composer, died from kidney complications at the age of 85, according to his manager Laura Blum. Manzanero, regarded by the President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador as "the country's best" composer, was best known for songs like "Somos Novios."
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Stella Tennant – Model

Stella Tennant, the muse who inspired powerhouse designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Gianni Versace, died at the age of 50 according to her family. Tennant came into the public eye in the 90s when she was announced the new face of Chanel.
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Kevin Greene – NFL Player

Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene, considered one of the fiercest pass rushers in NFL history, died Dec. 21, 2020. He was 58. Greene finished his 15-year NFL career with 160 sacks, which ranks third in league history behind only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). He played for Los Angeles Rams (1985–1992), Pittsburgh Steelers (1993–1995), Carolina Panthers (1996, 1998-99) and San Francisco 49ers (1997). He was All-Pro in 1994 and 1996.
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T.K. Oslin – Singer-Songwriter

Country singer K.T. Oslin, who hit it big with the 1987 hit “80′s Ladies” and won three Grammy awards, died on Dec. 21, 2020. She was 78. In 1988, Oslin unseated Reba McEntire as the Country Music Association’s female vocalist of the year. McEntire had won it four straight times.
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Charley Pride performs in this February 1975 photo. Pride, one of country music’s first Black superstar, died at the age of 86 from COVID-19 complications.
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Chuck Yeager – Pilot

Chuck Yeager attends the 50th anniversary celebration of his October 14, 1947, Bell X-1 flight, in which he became the first man to break the sound barrier. Yeager again flew at the speed of sound, only this time in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The legendary pilot died on Dec. 7, 2020, at 97.
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Natalie Desselle Reed – Actor

Natalie Desselle Reed, known for her roles in "Eve," "B.A.P.S." and "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family," died on Dec. 7, 2020, at 53.
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David Prowse – Actor

Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader in "Star Wars," attends the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards at Indigo2 at O2 Arena on June 16, 2014 in London, England. The actor died after a short illness, his agent, Thomas Bowington, confirmed on Nov. 29, 2020.
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Diego Maradona – Argentinian Soccer Captain

Diego Maradona kisses the World Soccer Cup after Argentina’s 3-2 victory over West Germany on June 29, 1986, Mexico City. The soccer legend, known for his “Hand of God” goal made during that year’s quarterfinals against England, died at the age of 60 in his home.
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Alex Trebek – Jeopardy! Host

Alex Trebek, the beloved host of "Jeopardy!" for close to four decades, passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 80, Nov. 8, 2020.
Sir Sean Connery – Actor

Sean Connery, as James Bond in 1968. Sir Sean Connery, was best known for his big screen portrayal of James Bond. He died at the age of 90.
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Roberta McCain - Mother of U.S. Sen. John McCain

Roberta Wright McCain, mother to U.S. Sen. John McCain, who became her son's secret weapon during his 2008 presidential campaign, died Monday, Oct. 12, according to a spokesperson for daughter-in-law Cindy McCain. Roberta McCain was 108.

Roberta McCain remained active into her 90s, traveling with her identical twin sister Rowena and campaigning at the age of 96 during her son's presidential bid.
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Eddie Van Halen - Musician

American Rock musician Eddie Van Halen, of the group Van Halen, performs onstage at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois, April 6, 1979. Van Halen died on Oct. 6, 2020, at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer.
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Johnny Nash - Singer-Songwriter, Actor, Producer

Known for his 1972 hit "I Can See Clearly Now," Johnny Nash lived several show business lives as a singer-songwriter, actor and producer. The fame of “I Can See Clearly Now” outlasted Nash’s own. He rarely made the charts in the years following, even with albums “Tears On My Pillow” and “Celebrate Life,” and by the 1990s had essentially left the business. Nash died on Oct. 6, 2020, at 80.
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Thomas Jefferson Byrd - Actor

Thomas Jefferson Byrd was an actor known for his many roles in Spike Lee's movies, including "Chi-Raq," "Clockers," "Red Hook Summer, and "He Got Game." Byrd died after being shot multiple times in Atlanta, Georgia, on Oct. 3, 2020. His death remains under investigation.
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Kenzo Takada - Fashion Designer

Iconic French-Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada died from coronavirus on Oct. 4, 2020, at the age of 81. Famed for his jungle-infused designs and free-spirited aesthetic that channeled global travel, Takada retired in 1999 to pursue art but remained one of the most respected fixtures of high Paris fashion.
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Tommy DeVito - Founding Member of Four Seasons

Tommy DeVito, a founding member of the Four Seasons, died of the coronavirus on Sept. 21, 2020. He was 92. DeVito along with Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi founded the Four Seasons in 1960. They sang huge hits such as “Oh, What a Night,” and other sensations from Valli’s solo collection, like, ″Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Their story came to life in "Jersey Boys," a Broadway musical turned movie in 2005.
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Supreme Court Justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a justice of the United States Supreme Court for 27 years, died on Sept. 18, 2020, of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. Known for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, Ginsburg was the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. At argument sessions in the ornate courtroom, she was known for digging deep into case records and for being a stickler for following the rules. She was 87.
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Ronald ‘Khalis' Bell - Kool & the Gang Co-Founder

Kool and The Gang’s Ronald “Khalis” Bell, pictured here in 2018, died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 9, 2020, at 68. Kool & the Gang, which he co-founded with his brother, won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever.” The group was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later.
Lou Brock - St. Louis Cardinals Outfielder

Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder and Hall of Famer Lou Brock's death was announced Sept. 6, 2020. He was 81. Brock, nicknamed the Running Redbird and the Base Burglar, stole 938 bases in his career, including 118 in 1974 — both of those were big league records until they were broken by Rickey Henderson.
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Tom Seaver - New York Mets Pitcher

Former MLB pitcher Tom Seaver died on Sept. 2, 2020, at 75. A three-time Cy Young Award winner and a 12-time All-Star, Seaver spent the first 12 years of his career with the Mets. Of his 311 career victories, 198 of them came with the Mets. The Baseball Hall of Fame said in a release that Seaver died in his sleep of complications from Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.
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John Thompson - Basketball Coach

John Thompson, the legendary coach who turned Georgetown into a “Hoya Paranoia” powerhouse and became the first Black coach to lead a team to the NCAA men’s basketball championship, has died. He was 78.
His death was announced in a family statement released by Georgetown on Aug. 31. No details were disclosed.
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Chadwick Boseman, best known for his role as the Marvel superhero “Black Panther,” has died after a four-year battle with colon cancer. A statement from his Twitter account confirmed his passing on Aug. 28, 2020.
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Justin Townes Earle - Singer-Songwriter

Singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle died on August 23, 2020, at the age of 38. He is the son of country musician Steve Earle.
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Jack Sherman - Guitarist

Jack Sherman, seen playing guitar in Los Angeles in 1998, died at age 64 on August 18, 2020. Sherman was part of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers for its debut album and first U.S. tour.
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Sumner Redstone - Media Magnate

Sumner Redstone, the billionaire mogul who built a family business into a media empire that included CBS and Viacom, died at the age of 97 on Aug. 12, 2020. Prior to his position as the former CEO of National Amusement and executive chairman to ViacomCBS, Redstone served in World War II helping to break Japanese code and was a graduate of Harvard Law School after the war.
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Pete Hamill — Columnist

Pete Hamill, the legendary New York columnist whose work spanned for decades across papers like the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Newsday, the Village Voice and others, died at the age of 85, according to his brother Denis.
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Malik B. — Musician

Malik Abdul Basit, a Philadelphia hip hop vocalist and founding member of The Roots, has died, the group announced July 29. He was 47. An official cause of death has not been released.
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Olivia de Havilland – Actress

Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland, the last surviving lead from "Gone With the Wind," died at age 104 on July 26, 2020. During her 60-year career, de Havilland won an Academy Award in 1946 for her performance in "To Each His Own," and another three years later for "The Heiress."
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Regis Philbin – Television Personality and Host

Regis Philbin, the genial host who shared his life with television viewers over morning coffee for decades and helped himself and some fans strike it rich with the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," died on July 24, 2020, at 88. Philbin logged more than 15,000 hours on the air, earning him recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most broadcast hours logged by a TV personality
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Charles Evers – Civil Rights Leader and Politician

Charles Evers, the older brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and a longtime figure in Mississippi politics, died on July 22, 2020. He was 97.
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John Lewis – Congressman and Civil Rights Icon

John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died after a battle with cancer on July 17, 2020. He was 80.
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Rev. C.T. Vivian – Civil Rights Veteran

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, a civil rights veteran who worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and served as head of the organization co-founded by the civil rights icon, died of natural causes on July 17, 2020. The Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient was 95 years old.
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Joanna Cole – Author

Joanna Cole, most famous for her “Magic School Bus” books that transported millions of young people on extraordinary and educational adventures, died on July 12 at age 75. Her death was announced July 15 by her publisher, Scholastic. The cause of death was not given.
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Grant Imahara – Host

Grant Imahara, an "engineer, artist and performer," was widely known for hosting "Mythbusters" and Netflix's "White Rabbit Project" after a stint as an electrical engineer. Imahara died at the age of 49 from a brain aneurysm, reps confirmed on July 14, 2020.
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Naya Rivera – Actor

"Glee" star Naya Rivera, 33, went missing on July 8, 2020, while boating with her 4-year-old son on a lake in southern California. Her body was recovered on July 13. Rivera starred in six seasons of the Fox series "Glee" as cheerleader Santana Lopez.
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Kelly Preston – Actor

Preston, who appeared in more than sixty television and film productions, notably "Mischief" (1985), "Twins" (1988), and "Jerry Maguire" (1996), died on July 12, 2020, after battling breast cancer. Preston's husband, John Travolta, confirmed the news on social media. She was 57.
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Nick Cordero — Broadway Star

Nick Cordero attends the Broadway Opening Night Arrivals for “Burn This” at the Hudson Theatre in New York City on April 15, 2019. The Broadway star,  whose onstage credits included "Bullets Over Broadway," "Rock of Ages," "Waitress" and "A Bronx Tale," died on July 5, 2020, after a months-long battle with the coronavirus. He was 41.
Don Shula — Miami Dolphins Coach (1970 - 1995)

Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula seen during a 1972 game. Shula, who was named Associated Press Pro Coach of the Year for leading his club to a 14-0 regular season record and two playoff wins, died at the age of 90 on May 4th.
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Irrfan Khan — Actor

Irrfan Khan attends the “Inferno” World Premiere Red Carpet at the Opera di Firenze in Florence, Italy. Oct. 8, 2016. The Bollywood actor, who also appeared in "Life of Pi" and "Slumdog Millionaire," passed away in an Indian hospital on April 29 after battling a rare form of cancer. He was 53.
Brian Dennehy — Veteran Actor, Tony-Winner

Brian Dennehy, the burly actor who won plaudits for his stage work in plays by William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller, died at 81 of natural causes in New Haven, Connecticut, according to the actor's representatives.
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John Prine — Singer-Songwriter

John Prine performs onstage during Up Close and Personal: John Prine & Sturgill Simpson at The Grammy Museum, June 21, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. Prine, the artist behind "Angel from Montgomery," "Sam Stone" and "Hello in There" died from COVID-19 complications at the age of 73 on April 7, according to his family.
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Honor Blackman — Actor

English actor Honor Blackman pose for a portrait in Cannes, France, Jan. 24, 1965. Blackman, best known for her roles as Pussy Galore and as Cathy Gale in British series "The Avengers," died on April 6 of natural causes, according to her family. She was 94.
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Alan Merrill - Musician and Songwriter

Singer and bassist Alan Merrill of pop group Arrows, seen in this 1975 photoshoot. Merrill, best known for co-writing hit song “I Love Rock and Roll” will fellow rocker Joan Jett, died from complications from COVID-19 at the age of 69, according to his daughter.
Joe Diffie - Country Singer

Joe Diffie performs at "Luke Combs Joins the Grand Ole Opry Family" at Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn. The "Home" and "Pickup Man" singer died after testing positive for the coronavirus. He was 61.
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James Lipton — Writer

James Lipton attends the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Lipton died on Mar. 2, 2020, at the age of 93, according to TMZ.
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Hosni Mubarak — Former President of Egypt

Former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak holds a joint press conference with former President Bill Clinton (not pictured) at the Counter Terrorism Summit in Washington, D.C., March 13, 1996. Mubarak died on Feb. 25, 2020, at the age of 91, following years of illness, according to local media.
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Katherine Johnson — NASA Scientist and Mathematician

Katherine Johnson, NASA physicist, space scientist, and mathematician, poses for a portrait circa 1960 in Hampton, Virginia. Johnson, who was known for her work calculating rocket trajectories by hand, died at the age of 101 on Feb. 24, during Black History Month.
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Lynn Cohen - Actor

Lynn Cohen, an actress best known for playing the plainspoken housekeeper and nanny Magda in “Sex and the City,” died Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 in New York City. She was 86.
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Kirk Douglas – Actor

Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas was one of the final links to cinema's Golden Age, as well as the patriarch who presided over a family of actors, before his death at 103. His son and fellow actor Michael Douglas announced his father's death on Feb. 6, saying on Instagram, "I am so proud to be your son."
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Chris Doleman – Defensive end for Minnesota, Atlanta and San Francisco

Former NFL defensive end Chris Doleman died on Jan. 28, 2020 after battling cancer. Doleman, who was one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers, was 58.
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Kobe Bryant – Former Los Angeles Lakers NBA Star

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and who became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history and held that spot until LeBron James overtook him Saturday night.
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Terry Jones – Co-founder of the Monty Python comedy troupe

Jones, one of the founding members of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy troupe, died at 77 after “a long, extremely brave but always good humored battle” with frontotemporal dementia. Jones formed the iconic British comedy troupe with Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam in 1969.
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Don Larsen – New York Yankees Pitcher

Don Larsen as seen in this 1956 portrait, which was the year he made baseball history. The Yankees pitcher threw the first, and only, perfect world series game at 27-years-old. Larsen died Jan. 1, 2020, at 90.
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David Stern – Former NBA Commissioner

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern seen in Lincoln Center on April 17, 2019, in New York. Stern, widely credited with the emergence of the NBA as a global sports powerhouse, died Jan. 1, 2020, after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
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