Franklin Cover in 1983 (Associated Press/Wally Fong)
Franklin Cover started out in theater after college, breathing life into the works of William Shakespeare before moving on to television and working with Jackie Gleason. He is best remembered today for his role on The Jeffersons, where he and Roxie Roker portrayed one of the very first interracial couples on American television. For ten years he played the comic foil to Sherman Helmsley, using comedy to depict the changes happening in society. We remember Franklin Cover's life today, as well as other notable people who died on this day in history.
2012: Sam Coppola, U.S. actor best known for his role as John Travolta's boss at the hardware store in Saturday Night Fever, dies at 79.
Coppola, no relation to film director Francis Ford Coppola, played a nursing home resident in a Chevy commercial that aired during the 2011 Super Bowl and a hot dog vendor in a Ball Park Franks spot starring Michael Jordan. But to many, he is forever Dan Fusco, owner of the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, hardware and paint store in New York City where Tony Manero (Travolta) worked by day and dreamed of Saturday night, when he ruled the dance floor at the Odyssey disco. Wearing a khaki-colored smock and thick black glasses, Coppola's character spoke a memorable line in Saturday Night Fever, one of the most culturally significant movies of the '70s. Read more
2011: Brian Jacques, English author best known for his Redwall series, dies at 71.
Jacques was a milk delivery driver when he wrote the first Redwall story for children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, one of the stops on his route. The book's hero was a timid mouse named Matthias who found the courage to protect his home, Redwall Abbey. "I wanted to write something visual that I could read to the children," Jacques said in an interview published on the website of publisher Random House. Read more
2008: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Indian founder of Transcendental Meditation who was briefly the spiritual adviser for the Beatles, dies at 90.
Once dismissed as hippie mysticism, the Hindu practice of mind control that Maharishi taught, called Transcendental Meditation, gradually gained medical respectability. He began teaching the technique in 1955 and brought it to the U.S. in 1959. But the movement really took off after the Beatles visited his ashram in India in 1968, although he had a famous falling out with the rock stars when he discovered them using drugs at his Himalayan retreat. Read more
2006: Franklin Cover, U.S. actor well-known for his role as Tom Willis in The Jeffersons, dies at 77.
Cover was known best for his role as Tom Willis, who was in an interracial marriage with a black woman in The Jeffersons. He and his wife lived in the same "deluxe apartment" building that Sherman Hemsley moved his family to after making money in the dry-cleaning business. There, Cover often played a comic foil to Hemsley's blustering, opinionated black businessman. The show ran from 1975 to 1985. Read more
2006: Norma Candal, popular Puerto Rican actress and comedian, dies at 75.
1998: Tim Kelly, U.S. guitarist for the rock band Slaughter, dies in a car crash at 34.
1997: Pamela Harriman, U.S. ambassador to France during President Bill Clinton's administration, dies at 76.
1995: Doug McClure, U.S. actor who played the role of Trampas in the long-running Western series, The Virginian, dies at 59.
1993: Tip Tipping, English stunt performer who worked on Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, dies in a sky-diving accident at 34.
1993: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, U.S. screenwriter and director who won an Academy Award for writing All About Eve, dies at 83.
1991: Dean Jagger, U.S. actor who won an Academy Award for his role in Twelve O'Clock High, dies at 87.
1989: Joe Raposa, U.S. composer and songwriter who wrote tunes for Sesame Street including the theme song, dies at 51.
1982: Dolores Moran, U.S. actress who appeared in To Have and Have Not, dies at 56.
1981: Ella Grasso, first female governor of Connecticut, dies at 61.
1976: Rudy Pompilli, U.S. musician known best for playing the saxophone with Bill Haley and His Comets, dies at 51.
1970: Rudy York, U.S. Major League Baseball first baseman who was a seven-time All-Star, dies at 56.
1969: Thelma Ritter, U.S actress known for her comedic roles and who appeared in All About Eve and Pillow Talk, dies at 66.
1957: Joseph "Bugs" Hardaway, U.S. storyboard artist who accidentally came up with the name of Bugs Bunny when, after he did one of the first sketches of a rabbit character, the drawing was labeled Bugs's Bunny, dies at 66.
1946: George Arliss, English actor and writer who was the first British actor to win an Academy Award, for his role in Disraeli, dies at 77.