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Died December 31

Ricky Nelson grew up in front of America on the popular sitcom "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." He became a teen idol and, in the late 1950s, also became a rockabilly star with such hits as "Poor Little Fool." Later in his music career, Nelson was a pioneer of country rock and had a top-10 hit in 1972 with "Garden Party." We remember Nelson'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 disco queen Donna Summer.

2015: Wayne Rogers, U.S. actor known for playing Trapper John on the sitcom "M*A*S*H," dies at 82.

He is known best for his iconic turn as Army surgeon Trapper John on "M*A*S*H," one of the most popular series in TV history. His character’s wisecracks and high jinks with his on-air partner-in-crime, Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce, landed him deep in the affections of the show’s fans, despite the fact that Rogers only appeared in the first three of the show’s 11 seasons. Read more




2015: Beth Howland, U.S. actress known best for playing the accident-prone Vera on the sitcom "Alice," dies at 74.

2015: Natalie Cole, U.S. singer and the daughter of Nat King Cole whose hit songs included "This Will Be," dies at 65.

In 1991, Cole had the biggest hit of her career with the album "Unforgettable … With Love." The album consisted of covers of her father's songs and featured "Unforgettable," a duet between daughter and father edited together through new technology from recordings he had made before his death. The album was sentimental and sincere, both popular and well-respected by the music industry. It sold over 7 million copies and won six Grammys in 1992. Read more




2014: Edward Herrmann, U.S. actor known best for his roles as Franklin D. Roosevelt in made-for-TV movies and as Richard Gilmore on The Gilmore Girls, dies at 71.

2013: James Avery, U.S. actor known best for playing Judge Philip Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," dies at 68.

James Avery  (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)Avery liked to say that the way to be an actor was to act, and he had a busy and diverse career before, during and after "Fresh Prince," according to his obituary by The Associated Press. His TV credits included "Grey's Anatomy," "NYPD Blue," and "Dallas," and among his many films were "Fletch," "Nightflyers," and "8 Million Ways To Die." His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably as Shredder on the animated TV series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Read more




2008: Donald E. Westlake, U.S. author and screenwriter whose works include "Point Blank," "Payback," and the Oscar-nominated screenplay for "The Grifters," dies at 75.

In a lengthy career that spanned a half-century, Westlake won three Edgar awards, an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay "The Grifters" and the title of Grand Master from the Mystery Writers of America in 1993, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. His first novel, "The Mercenaries," was published by Random House in 1960. Westlake wrote more than 90 books – mostly on a typewriter. Aside from his own name, he also used several pseudonyms – including Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt, and Edwin West – in part because people didn't believe he could write so much so quickly. Read more



2007: Bill Idelson, U.S. actor and television scriptwriter who wrote for "The Andy Griffith Show," "M*A*S*H," and "Happy Days," dies at 88.

2007: Michael Goldberg, U.S. painter known for his abstract expressionist work, dies at 83.

2002: Kevin MacMichael, Canadian guitarist, songwriter, and record producer who was a member of the pop-rock band Cutting Crew, dies of lung cancer at 51.

2001: Eileen Heckart, U.S. actress who won an Oscar for her work in "Butterflies Are Free," dies at 82.

2000: Alan Cranston, U.S. senator from California who served from 1969 to 1993, dies at 86.

1997: Michael Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, dies in a skiing accident at 39.

1994: Woody Strode, U.S. pro-football player and actor who appeared in such movies as "The Ten Commandments," dies at 80.

1993: Brandon Teena, U.S. transsexual who was portrayed by Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank in the movie "Boys Don't Cry," is murdered at 21.

Not many transgender people made the news 20 years ago. Then Teena, who was born female but identified and lived as a male, was raped and murdered in a small Nebraska town. The incident made national news, in part because it seemed unusual and was easily exploited. An individual who had been born female but was living as a male, complete with a girlfriend? And this person was attractive and seemingly "normal"? Read more




1990: George Allen, U.S. NFL Hall of Fame coach of the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins, dies at 72.

1985: Sam Spiegel, U.S. Academy Award-winning film producer of such movies as "On the Waterfront" and "Lawrence of Arabia," dies at 84.

1985: Rick Nelson, U.S. singer and actor who starred on "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet," dies in an airplane crash at 45.

Nelson was just 9 when he began appearing with father Ozzie, mother Harriet, and brother David on the radio program "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." As he grew up, he graduated to movie and TV star (he was 12 for the family's first feature film, "Here Come the Nelsons," and the debut of the TV version of "Ozzie and Harriet"), then teen idol and recording artist. Read more




1980: Raoul Walsh, U.S. director of movies such as "High Sierra," dies at 93.

1977: Nora Marlowe, U.S. actress who appeared on "The Rockford Files" and "The Bob Newhart Show," dies at 62.

1972: Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican Major League Baseball Hall of Fame player who surpassed 3,000 hits, dies in a plane crash at 38.

1971: Pete Duel, U.S. actor who starred on the TV series "Alias Smith and Jones," dies by suicide at 31.

1971: Marin Sais, U.S. film actress whose career was most prolific during the silent era, dies at 81.

1966: Nipo Strongheart, Yakima chief and actor who served as technical adviser on Hollywood films about Native Americans and authored the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, dies at 75.

1948: Malcolm Campbell, English race car driver who held land and water speed records and whose racing legacy was carried on by his son, Donald Campbell, dies at 63.

1775: Richard Montgomery, Irish-born U.S. general who served in the Continental Army and is known best for leading the failed invasion of Canada in 1775, dies in battle at 37.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including disco queen Donna Summer.