Jane Wyatt (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jane Wyatt became one of TV's best-loved mothers when she took on the role of Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best. The iconic show aired from 1954 to 1960, creating a model of the perfect family. It wasn't Wyatt's only motherly role, either – notably, she played Spock's mother in the original Star Trek TV series and in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She appeared in movies for more than five decades and took a late-career role on St. Elsewhere. We remember Wyatt's remarkable life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
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2013: Leon Ashley, U.S. country music artist who had a top country hit in 1967 with the song "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)," dies at 77.
2006: Jane Wyatt, U.S. actress who played housewife Margaret Anderson on TV's Father Knows Best, dies at 96.
She got her start in films in the mid-'30s, appearing in One More River, Great Expectations, We're Only Human and The Luckiest Girl in the World, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. When Frank Capra chose her to play the Shangri-La beauty in Lost Horizon, her reputation was made. Moviegoers were entranced by the scene – chaste by today's standards – in which Colman sees her swimming nude in a mountain lake. Read more.
2005: Shirley Horn, U.S. jazz singer and pianist, dies at 71.
2003: Jack Elam, U.S. film and TV actor in Rio Lobo and Support Your Local Sheriff, dies at 82.
1995: Christopher Stone, U.S. actor whose work includes TV's The Interns and the movie Cujo, dies at 53.
1995: Jack Rose, U.S. screenwriter of Road to Rio, dies at 83.
1994: Burt Lancaster, U.S. actor who starred in Elmer Gantry and From Here to Eternity, dies of a heart attack at 80.
Initially uninspired by acting, Lancaster auditioned for – and won – a role in Broadway's short-lived A Sound of Hunting after returning home from his military service. He caught the eye of agent Harold Hecht, who got him his first movie role in 1946's The Killers. Lancaster and Hecht later formed a highly successful production company together. Read more.
1992: Jackson Weaver, U.S. radio personality and the voice of Smokey Bear for 45 years, dies at 72.
1990: Joel McCrea, U.S. actor who appeared in more than 90 movies, including Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story, dies at 84.
1983: Merle Travis, U.S. country singer whose songs included "Sixteen Tons," dies at 65.
1977: Ronnie Van Zant, U.S. lead singer with the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, dies in a plane crash at 29.
Ironically, though "Free Bird" is one of the best-known rock songs of all time, it didn't tear up the charts. None of Lynyrd Skynyrd's songs did – "Free Bird" peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, one of only a handful of Skynyrd songs that cracked the charts at all. It was an era when pop music was more likely to make the cut than rock (Barbra Streisand dominated the Hot 100 in the year "Free Bird" charted), and Lynyrd Skynyrd and their peers played music most often heard on basement record players and muscle-car eight tracks. Read more.
1964: Herbert Hoover, 31st president of the United States who served from 1929 to 1933, dies at 90.
1936: Anne Sullivan, U.S. teacher and lifelong companion of Helen Keller, dies at 70.
It was 1895 and Keller, an almost feral Alabama child, was about 7 years old. For weeks, Sullivan had been spelling words into Keller's small hand, silently urging her to make the connection between the letters her fingers formed and the object her pupil was touching. One day, standing by the outdoor water pump, Keller made the connection between the wet, flowing liquid and the patterns being pressed into her hand. She joyfully splashed the water into the air, knowing her life had forever changed. Read more.
1906: William "Buck" Ewing, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame catcher who batted over .300 for his career, dies at 47.