Getty Images / Photo by Harry Langdon

Died December 26

Curtis Mayfield provided the soundtrack to the civil rights movement. As the singer for the Impressions and as a solo artist, he brought a new social consciousness to popular music when he wrote and recorded songs such as "Keep on Pushing" and "People Get Ready." He continued to innovate as he sang anthems of black pride including "We're a Winner," and he shed light on inner-city troubles with the critically acclaimed soundtrack to "Super Fly." We remember Mayfield's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including TV personality Steve Allen.

2010: Teena Marie, U.S. singer and composer whose albums include "Wild and Peaceful," "Lady T," and "Starchild," dies of natural causes at 54.

Teena Marie (AP Photo)Teena Marie, known as the Ivory Queen of Soul, was certainly not the first white act to sing soul music, but she was arguably among the most gifted and respected, and was thoroughly embraced by the black audience, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. She was first signed to the legendary Motown label back in 1979 at age 19, working with Rick James, with whom she would have a long, turbulent, but musically magical relationship. Read more

 

 

 

2007: Stu Nahan, U.S. sports broadcaster who appeared in all "Rocky" films as a boxing commentator, dies at 81 after battling lymphoma.

Nahan began his broadcasting career in radio, doing play-by-play for a minor league baseball team in Modesto, California. He began his first nightly sports reports on a Sacramento television station. Nahan also hosted a children's TV program there, as "Skipper Stu." He later moved to Philadelphia, where he was "Captain Philadelphia" on another children's show, and did play-by-play for the NHL's Flyers and the NFL's Eagles. Read more

 

 

 

2006: Gerald R. Ford Jr., 38th president of the United States, dies at 93.

When Spiro Agnew resigned the vice presidency in 1973 after he was rocked by a tax evasion scandal, Ford was elected by the U.S. Senate to replace him. Just a few months later, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in the heat of the Watergate affair. Ford ascended to the nation's highest office, along the way becoming the answer to a popular trivia question – he was and remains the only U.S. president never elected by the voting public to either the presidency or the vice presidency. Read more

 

 

 

2005: Vincent Schiavelli, U.S. character actor whose films include "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "The People vs. Larry Flynt," and "Amadeus," dies of lung cancer at 57.

Schiavelli, whose gloomy look made him perfect to play creepy or eccentric characters, made appearances in some 150 film and television productions, according to the Internet Movie Database. In "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," he played the science teacher Mr. Vargas, who was married to the character portrayed by Lana Clarkson, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Schiavelli also appeared as Salieri's valet in "Amadeus," as "Cuckoo's Nest" patient Frederickson, the subway ghost in "Ghost," the organ grinder in "Batman Returns," and as Chester in "The People vs. Larry Flynt." Read more

 

 

 

2004: Reggie White, U.S. NFL defensive player and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies of cardiac arrhythmia at 43.

White by the numbers: 1: Reggie White was the first player in NFL history to have his number officially retired by multiple teams (Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles). 2: White was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice, in 1987 and 1998. 3: Three times – in 1994, 1996, and 1997 – White was a Second-Team All-Pro selection. Read more

 

 

 

2002: Herb Ritts, U.S. fashion photographer who also shot black-and-white portraits of such celebrities as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and supermodel Cindy Crawford, dies of complications of pneumonia at 50.

2001: Nigel Hawthorne, English actor whose films include "Richard III," "Twelfth Night," "Murder in Mind," and "Amistad," dies of a heart attack at 72.

2000: Jason Robards, Academy Award-winning U.S. actor whose films include "All the President's Men," "Julia," and "Melvin and Howard," dies of lung cancer at 78.

1999: Curtis Mayfield, U.S. soul singer-songwriter whose albums include "Curtis," "Roots," and the soundtrack to the movie "Super Fly," dies of diabetes at 57.

The year was 1964, the Rev. Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. still had four years to live, and the struggle for civil rights was igniting the nation. King's March on Washington, a year earlier, had been a success, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approaching passage. And then a song was released, one that perfectly summed up the fight so far and imparted the strength to continue the struggle: "Keep on Pushing" by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Read more

 

 

 

1994: Sylvia Koscina, Croatian-born Italian actress whose films include "Hercules," "Three Bites of the Apple," "Deadlier Than the Male," and "Bulldog Drummond," dies of breast cancer at 61.

1993: Jeff Morrow, U.S. actor whose films include "The Robe," "Harbor Lights," and "Blood Legacy," dies at 86.

1989: Doug Harvey, Canadian NHL player, dies of liver cirrhosis at 65.

1986: Elsa Lanchester, London-born U.S. actress whose films include "The Bride of Frankenstein," "Mary Poppins," "That Darn Cat!", and "Willard," dies of pneumonia at 84.

1988: Glenn McCarthy, U.S. oil tycoon and businessman, aka the King of the Wildcatters, dies one day before his 81st birthday.

1981: Amber Reeves, aka Amber Blanco White, New Zealand-born British feminist writer whose books include "A Lady and Her Husband," "Helen in Love," and "Give and Take: A Novel of Intrigue," dies at 94.

1977: Howard Hawks, U.S. film director and producer whose motion pictures include "Rio Bravo," "Hatari!", and "Rio Lobo," dies at 81 of complications from a fall at his home.

1974: Jack Benny, U.S. comedian and violinist who hosted the popular radio and TV show "The Jack Benny Program," dies of pancreatic cancer at 80.

Legendary comedian Jack Benny enjoyed a 50-year career in vaudeville, radio, television, and movies. Read more

Legendary comedian Jack Benny, who died Dec. 26, 1974, at age 80 of pancreatic cancer, enjoyed a stunning 50-year career, transitioning from vaudeville to radio to film and television – and shining in each medium. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/news/legends-and-legacies/jack-bennys-greatest-routines/2949/#sthash.gnVdtOCM.dpuf
Legendary comedian Jack Benny, who died Dec. 26, 1974, at age 80 of pancreatic cancer, enjoyed a stunning 50-year career, transitioning from vaudeville to radio to film and television – and shining in each medium. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/news/legends-and-legacies/jack-bennys-greatest-routines/2949/#sthash.gnVdtOCM.dpuf

 

 

 

 

1972: Harry Truman, 33rd U.S. president who issued the order to use atomic weapons against Japan, dies of multiple organ failure at 88.

1971: Robert Lowery, U.S. actor whose film credits include "The Mark of Zorro," "The Mummy's Ghost," and "Dangerous Passage," dies of heart failure at 58.

1963: George R. "Gorgeous George" Wagner, U.S. professional wrestler, dies at 48, two days after having a heart attack.

Wagner was one of the first villains of professional wrestling – and he set a high standard for followers to live up to. He had it all, everything wrestling fans love to hate: a flamboyant and prickly persona, disdain for referees and fellow wrestlers, elaborate costumes (and that perfectly coiffed hair), and, of course, a complete and total willingness to cheat. As he often said, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!" Read more

 

 

 

1909: Frederic Remington, U.S. artist whose paintings focused largely on cowboys, Native Americans, and the U.S. cavalry, dies of peritonitis at 48.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including TV personality Steve Allen.