Robin Williams was one of the most popular funnymen of the past 40 years. We remember Williams’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Robin Williams was one of the most popular funnymen of the past 40 years. From frenetic stand-up to hilarious star turns on the big screen, cartoon voices, and even several acclaimed dramatic performances, he was an audience favorite and a legend in his own time. Getting his start playing affable alien Mork on TV’s “Mork & Mindy,” he moved on to star in beloved movies including “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Academy Award, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Good Morning, Vietnam.” He provided the voice of Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” and appeared on “Late Night With David Letterman” more than 50 times. He was a co-founder of Comic Relief USA, raising funds to combat homelessness, and he supported St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. We remember Williams’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2020: Trini Lopez, popular singer whose version of “Lemon Tree” was an international hit song, dies at 83.
2020: Sumner Redstone, billionaire businessman who rose from childhood poverty to build a media empire as the owner and former chairman of ViacomCBS, dies at 97.
2014: Robin Williams, U.S. actor and comedian who starred in movies including “The World According to Garp,” “Good Will Hunting,” and “Good Morning, Vietnam,” dies by suicide at 63.
With his absurd style of rapid-fire comedy, he quickly became one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stars. Williams appeared on television throughout his career, most recently as the star of sitcom “The Crazy Ones,” and in 70 feature films, including “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Aladdin,” and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor. Read more
2013: Henry Polic II, U.S. actor who had a regular role as Jerry Silver on the sitcom “Webster,” dies of cancer at 68.
2012: Bill Rafferty, U.S. comedian who hosted the game shows “Every Second Counts” and “Card Sharks,” dies at 68.
2012: Von Freeman, U.S. jazz saxophonist who was considered a Chicago legend and received the highest honor in jazz, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award, dies of heart failure at 88.
Initially self-taught, he played saxophone with Gene “Jug” Ammons at DuSable High School, a public school that also produced Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Johnny Hartman, and Johnny Griffin, according to Freeman’s obituary by The Associated Press. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, Freeman returned to Chicago and played with his brothers George and Eldridge in the house band at the Pershing Hotel Ballroom, which was frequented by jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, according to the newspaper. Read more
2011: Jani Lane, U.S. lead vocalist and songwriter for the rock band Warrant who wrote their hit songs “Heaven” and “Cherry Pie,” dies of alcohol poisoning at 47.
With his long blond hair and tight leather outfits, Lane embodied the excess of 1980s “hair metal” rock bands, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He joined Warrant in 1984 and wrote such hits as “Heaven,” “Down Boys,” and “Cherry Pie.” He had an on-and-off relationship with the band, leaving it in 1992 before returning and quitting again several times. Read more
As celebrity, social worker, and activist, Shriver was credited with transforming America’s view of people with mental disabilities from institutionalized patients to friends, neighbors, and athletes, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Her efforts were inspired in part by the struggles of her mentally disabled sister, Rosemary. “We have always been honored to share our mother with people of goodwill the world over who believe, as she did, that there is no limit to the human spirit,” her family said in the statement. Read more
2006: Mike Douglas, U.S. singer and TV talk show host who was the singer for the Kay Kyser Band and later hosted a popular talk show called “The Mike Douglas Show,” dies at 86.
2005: James Booth, English actor who starred in the movie “Zulu” and had a recurring role in the cult television series “Twin Peaks,” dies at 77.
2003: Herb Brooks, U.S. hockey coach who was the head coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won the gold medal following a game that came to be known as the Miracle on Ice, dies in a car accident at 66.
Brooks began his coaching career in 1972 and guided his alma mater Gophers to three NCAA national titles. Nonetheless, when USA Hockey began interviewing coaches to head the 1980 Olympics squad, he was not a candidate high on their list, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. At 42, he was considered too young. He also made it known that he would be forcing his players to adapt to a new style of play, an untested hybrid of his own devising that combined the Soviets’ constant, fluid, weaving attack with the more physical defensive style of the NHL. After being hired, he further ruffled USA Hockey feathers when he chose his final roster after only one day of summer tryouts. Read more
1996: Mel Taylor, U.S. musician who was the longtime drummer for the popular rock instrumental group the Ventures, dies at 62.
1995: Phil Harris, U.S. singer-songwriter, actor, and comedian who was in the cast of the Jack Benny radio show, starred in a popular radio sitcom with his wife, Alice Faye, and provided the voice of the bear Baloo in “The Jungle Book,” dies at 91.
Before he brought life to animated characters, Harris was a bit of a character himself. In the 1930s, Harris began working as the musical director for Jack Benny’s radio show, eventually joining the cast as a wisecracking version of himself in addition to his musical duties. In the late 1940s and early ’50s, he and his wife, actress Alice Faye, starred in their own radio sitcom, “The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show,” proving successful for NBC and adding to the couple’s star power. Read more
1994: Peter Cushing, English actor who starred in many horror films, including “The Curse of Frankenstein,” and played Grand Moff Tarkin in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” dies of prostate cancer at 81.
After playing so many scary characters, Cushing began to grow weary of the reputation he was developing. As he commented at the time, “I do get terribly tired with the neighborhood kids telling me, ‘My mum says she wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley.'” To combat the stereotype, he took on one of the most beloved roles of British pop culture – he became Doctor Who. As he didn’t appear in the TV series, he wasn’t one of the 11 numbered Doctors, but he did play the Doctor in two films: 1965’s “Dr. Who and the Daleks” and 1966’s “Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2159 A.D.” His kindly Doctor helped give the actor a brand new image. Read more
1989: John Meillon, Australian character actor known best for his role as Walter Reilly in the “Crocodile Dundee” movies, dies of liver disease at 55.
1988: Anne Ramsey, U.S. actress known best for playing Danny DeVito’s mother in the movie “Throw Momma From the Train,” dies of throat cancer at 59.
1987: Clara Peller, U.S. character actress and former manicurist known best for uttering a famous line – “Where’s the beef?” – in TV commercials for the Wendy’s fast-food restaurant chain, dies at 85.
1984: Percy Mayfield, U.S. songwriter known best for writing the hit song “Hit the Road Jack,” dies at 63.
1982: Tom Drake, U.S. actor who co-starred with Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis” and appeared on “Perry Mason,” dies at 64.
1973: Peggy Castle, U.S. actress who specialized in B-movies and also appeared on TV shows such as “The Virginian,” dies of liver disease at 45.
1956: Jackson Pollock, U.S. painter who was an influential figure in the abstract expressionist movement, dies in a one-car auto accident at 44.
1937: Edith Wharton, U.S. author known best for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Age of Innocence,” dies of a stroke at 75.
1919: Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-born U.S. industrialist who founded the Carnegie Steel Co. and then became a high-profile philanthropist, dies of pneumonia at 83.