Danny Thomas, 1957 (Wikimedia Commons/CBS Television)
Danny Thomas made a name for himself on the beloved sitcom Make Room For Daddy, but his most lasting legacy is the hospital he founded, and the lives it continues to touch to this day. As a struggling actor, Thomas vowed to use any success he achieved to open a shrine to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. True to his word, Thomas spent a decade raising funds for what would become St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded on the belief that "no child should die in the dawn of life." The hospital's mission continues to this day, treating seriously ill children and searching for cures for life-threatening diseases, thanks to the work Thomas did in founding and ensuring the hospital's financial solvency. We remember his remarkable life today and the lives of other notable people who died on this day in history.
2012: Peter Breck, U.S. actor who starred as Nick on the TV Western series The Big Valley, dies at 82.
A native of Haverhill, Mass., Breck also was a regular on the TV Westerns Maverick and Black Saddle. He had guest roles on series from the 1950s through the early 2000s including Perry Mason, 'The Virginian and Fantasy Island. His film appearances include Thunder Road, I Want to Live! and Benji. Breck was known best for his role as the hot-tempered rancher Nick Barkley on The Big Valley, which aired from 1965 to 1969. Read more
2012: Janice Voss, U.S. astronaut who flew in space five times, dies of breast cancer at 55.
Voss started with NASA while attending Purdue University in 1973. She later worked as an instructor before being selected as an astronaut in 1990. Voss flew four missions in the 1990s before a flight to the International Space Station in 2000. Her final trip was part of a radar topography mission that mapped more than 47 million square miles (120 million square kilometers) of Earth's surface. Read more
2008: John McWethy, U.S. journalist who was a correspondent for ABC News, dies in a skiing accident at 60.
McWethy and his wife, Laurie, moved to Boulder after he retired to be closer to ski slopes and golf courses, ABC News President David Westin said in a statement. Before then, McWethy had been ABC News' chief national security correspondent. He had to leave the Pentagon after a hijacked plane crashed into the building in the 2001 attacks, but he kept reporting from a nearby lawn, Westin recalled. "He was one of those very rare reporters who knew his beat better than anyone, and had developed more sources than anyone, and yet, kept his objectivity," Westin said. Read more
2007: Frankie Laine, U.S. singer who had many hits during his long career, dies at 93.
In an age when crooners carried the day, Laine injected jazzy rhythm into his singing voice, moving away from a smooth croon and toward something that would, in the decade that followed, come to be known as rock 'n‘ roll. From today's perspective, "That's My Desire" doesn't sound a whole lot like rock music. In fact, it doesn't sound drastically different from the music of the crooners that came before it. But the spark of something new is there, with Laine sounding a little less like Sinatra and a little more like Elvis. Read more
2007: Willye White, U.S. athlete who competed in five Olympic games and was one of the top female long jumpers, dies at 67.
2007: Lew Burdette, U.S. Major League Baseball pitcher who won more than 200 games in his career, dies at 80.
1998: Falco, Austrian musician who had a huge hit song with "Rock Me Amadeus" in 1986, dies in a car accident at 40.
Anyone who listened to ‘80s pop music no doubt recalls the song that made Falco the only native German speaker ever to hit No. 1 on the U.S. charts: “Rock Me Amadeus.” Inspired by the 1984 movie Amadeus, the single was a massive hit in spring 1986, spawning tributes, parodies and claims that Falco was a one-hit wonder (though considering the top-20 performance of his follow-up “Vienna Calling,” he was at least a two-hit wonder). With its synthesized sounds, unusual subject and eclectic blend of German and English, “Rock Me Amadeus” exemplifies the weird 1980s. Read more
1998: Carl Wilson, U.S. rock musician and one of the founders of the Hall of Fame rock group the Beach Boys, dies of lung cancer at 51.
You’ll hear Carl Wilson at the forefront of Beach Boys hits such as “Good Vibrations,” “Darlin,” “Wild Honey” and the song that he always stood to sing, even near the end of his life when lung cancer kept him confined to a stool for the rest of a concert. That hit was “God Only Knows.” Wilson once described the joy he got from singing it: “I was honored to be able to sing that one. It is so beautifully written, it sings itself. Brian said something like, 'Don't do anything with it. Just sing it real straight. No effort. Take in a breath. Let it go real easy.' I was really grateful to be the one to sing that song. I felt extremely lucky.” Read more
1996: Guy Madison, U.S. actor who starred in the TV series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, dies at 74.
1994: Joseph Cotten, U.S. actor who appeared in such movies as Citizen Kane, dies at 88.
1994: Jack Kirby, U.S. comic book artist who co-created Captain America and the Hulk, dies at 76.
1993: Arthur Ashe, U.S. tennis star who won three grand slam titles and was then the captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, dies of AIDS at 49.
For most of us, legacy has more to do with how we live rather than how we die. A great athlete and trailblazer like Arthur Ashe should be remembered for his amazing achievements and accomplishments during his lifetime, not just for his final year battling AIDS and its accompanying stigma. In that spirit, we offer a time line of his athletic triumphs. It all begins 50 years ago… Read more
1992: Wayde Preston, U.S. actor who had a lead role in the TV series Colt.45, dies at 62.
1991: Danny Thomas, U.S. actor and comedian who had a long career and is known for the TV series Make Room for Daddy and for being the founder of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, dies of heart failure at 79.
1990: Jimmy Van Heusen, U.S. composer who co-wrote "Call Me Irresponsible" and who won four Academy Awards for original song, dies at 77.
1976: Vince Guaraldi, U.S. jazz pianist and composer who is known for composing the music for the Charlie Brown TV specials, dies of a heart attack at 47.
If you know the name Vince Guaraldi, you probably associate it with one iconic piece of music. The jazz pianist – with his Vince Guaraldi Trio – composed and performed the theme song for the Charlie Brown animated specials based on the Charles M. Schulz comic strip. The song is a classic, one that brings to mind the whole gang and, especially, Snoopy's exuberant dancing. Read more
1970: Roscoe Karns, U.S. actor who appeared in more than 150 films, dies at 78.
1967: Henry Morgenthau, U.S. secretary of the treasury under the FDR administration, dies at 75.
1960: Jesse Belvin, U.S. rhythm-and-blues singer who had a hit song with "Goodnight My Love," dies in a car accident at 26.
1918: Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter who was a prominent symbolist artist, dies at 55.