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Died April 12

Published: 4/12/2015
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Josephine Baker (David Redfern / Staff / Getty Images)

Josephine Baker was one of the most remarkable stars of the 20th century. Born poor, she was abused by authority figures and became a school dropout and homeless by 13. She joined a vaudeville show at 15 after a recruiter noticed her dancing on the street. She rose to great heights of fame and influence, touring the world, becoming the first African-American woman to star in a movie (1934's Zouzou), working with the French resistance in World War II, and fighting for civil rights in the U.S. We remember Baker'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.

2013: Michael France, U.S. screenwriter remembered best for writing the screenplays for the movies The Punisher and Fantastic Four, dies at 51.

2012: Linda Cook, U.S. actress known best for her role as Egypt Jones Masters in the soap opera Loving, dies at 63.

2006: Puggy Pearson, U.S. professional poker player who won the 1973 World Series of Poker, dies at 77.

2003: Sydney Lassick, U.S. actor known best for his role as Charlie Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, dies at 80.

2001: Harvey Ball, U.S. commercial artist who is recognized as the earliest known designer of the smiley face logo, dies at 79.

Harvey BallBall came up with a smiley face on a bright yellow background. The original design consisted only of a grinning mouth but Ball, realizing the button could easily be inverted to send the wrong (i.e., "frowny") message, decided to add eyeballs. The left eye was deliberately created slightly smaller than the right in order to humanize the drawing through its imperfection. Read more

 

 

1999: Boxcar Willie, U.S. country music singer who sold millions of records, dies at 67.

1989: Sugar Ray Robinson, U.S. professional boxer who was considered one of the great boxers in history who was the world welterweight and world middleweight champion, dies at 67.

Sugar Ray Robinson (Wikimedia Commons)After winning the middleweight title, Robinson went on a European tour. Known as the first fighter to have his own entourage, Robinson traveled in a pink Cadillac and brought some 13 people along with him, including his personal masseuse, his hairdresser and a friend Robinson hired to whistle while he trained. Read more

 

 

 

1989: Abbie Hoffman, U.S. political and social activist who co-founded the Youth International Party, whose members were called Yippies, commits suicide at 52.

Twenty-five years ago, counterculture icon Abbie Hoffman took his own life, closing the book on a man on whom the FBI had compiled a file of more than 13,000 pages. Through years of protests, activism, political stunts and organized opposition to the status quo, Hoffman built a reputation as a visionary leader or a criminal mastermind, depending on one's point of view. Read more

 

 

1987: Mike Von Erich, U.S. professional wrestler who was a member of the famous Von Erich wrestling family, dies at 23.

1984: Ruth Taylor, U.S. actress who performed in silent movies and early talkies and starred in the silent version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, dies at 79.

1981: Joe Louis, U.S. professional boxer who was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1937 until 1949 and is considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, dies at 66.

1976: Paul Ford, U.S. character actor known best for his role as Colonel John T. Hall of The Phil Silvers Show, dies at 74.

1975: Josephine Baker, U.S. dancer, singer and actress who was the first African-American to star in a major motion picture, 1934's Zouzou, and who became a French citizen in 1937 and assisted the French resistance during World War II, dies at 68.

1973: Arthur Freed, U.S. songwriter and movie producer who co-wrote "Singin' in the Rain" and produced movies including Showboat, dies at 78.

1971: Wynton Kelly, U.S. jazz pianist who was known for his work with singer Dinah Washington and who played with Miles Davis on his classic album Kind of Blue, dies at 39.

1945: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until 1945, dies while in office at 63.

1912: Clara Barton, U.S. nurse who was the founder of the American Red Cross, dies at 90.

This "Battlefield Angel" worked on the front lines of the Civil War to tend injured soldiers and maintain Army hospitals. She went on to found the American Red Cross, now one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the U.S. Read more

 

 

 

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history.

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