Despite becoming the world heavyweight champion, boxer Sonny Liston somehow remained an enigma. Today we remember his life as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Despite becoming the world heavyweight champion, boxer Sonny Liston somehow remained an enigma. No one is entirely sure when he was born, controversy still surrounds his death, and his memory is sounded by allegations of fight fixing, organized crime, and a slew of criminal acts. Despite all the rumors, Liston was only ever convicted of one assault and robbery, and that conviction sent him to prison for five years. It was during his incarceration that he first discovered his talent for punching and taking a hit. It was a revelation that would change his life and the sport of boxing forever. Today we remember Liston’s life as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2015: Howard Davis Jr., U.S. boxer who won an Olympic gold medal in the lightweight division in 1976, dies at 59.
2015: Doug Atkins, U.S. NFL Hall of Fame defensive lineman who played 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears, dies at 85.
2014: Luise Rainer, German actress who was the first actor to win consecutive Academy Award statues, dies at 104.
Rainer’s roles ranged from the 1930s German stage to television’s “The Love Boat.” The big-eyed, apple-cheeked Rainer gained Hollywood immortality by becoming the first person to win an acting Academy Award in consecutive years, taking the best actress prize for “The Great Ziegfeld” in 1936 and “The Good Earth” in 1937. It’s a feat since achieved by only four other actors. Read more
2013: Johnny Orr, U.S. basketball player and coach known best as the head coach of the men’s teams at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Michigan, and Iowa State University, dies at 86.
Orr would enter Hilton Coliseum to the “Tonight Show” theme and a trademark fist pump, helping cultivate a tremendous home-court advantage for the Cyclones, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Iowa State beat 20 ranked opponents at home under Orr, who was honored with a statue inside the arena in 2011. Orr coached 18 players who went on to the NBA, including Fred Hoiberg and Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek. Read more
2012: Rita Levi-Montalcini, Italian neurologist and Nobel Prize winner who was the oldest living Nobel laureate at the time of her death, dies of natural causes at 103.
Italy’s so-called Lady of the Cells, a Jew who lived through anti-Semitic discrimination and the Nazi invasion, became one of her country’s leading scientists and shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1986 with American biochemist Stanley Cohen for their groundbreaking research carried out in the United States, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Her research increased the understanding of many conditions, including tumors, developmental malformations, and senile dementia. Italy honored Levi-Montalcini in 2001 by making her a senator for life. Read more
2009: Rowland S. Howard, Australian guitarist who was a member of the rock group the Birthday Party, dies at 50.
2005: Rona Jaffe, U.S. popular novelist who wrote “The Best of Everything,” dies at 74.
2004: Artie Shaw, U.S. jazz clarinetist, composer, and bandleader widely regarded as one of the greatest clarinet players of all time, dies at 94.
Stardom wasn’t always comfortable for Shaw. Though he worked with jazz greats including Buddy Rich, Billie Holiday, Helen Forrest, Mel Tormé, and Ray Conniff, he repeatedly dissolved his bands at the height of their fame, and he was vocal in complaining about the preferences of the masses. As he reflected later in his life, “I thought that because I was Artie Shaw I could do what I wanted, but all they wanted was ‘Begin the Beguine.'” Read more
2003: John Gregory Dunne, U.S. author and screenwriter who wrote the movie “A Star Is Born” with wife Joan Didion, dies at 71.
2002: Mary Brian, popular U.S. actress who made the transition from silent films to “talkies,” dies at 96.
2000: Julius J. Epstein, U.S. screenwriter who won an Academy Award for co-writing “Casablanca,” dies at 91.
1998: Johnny Moore, U.S. singer who was the lead singer of the Drifters, dies at 64.
1996: Jack Nance, U.S. actor who appeared in “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks” as well as other David Lynch films, dies at 53.
1993: Irving Paul “Swifty” Lazar, high-powered Hollywood agent, dies of kidney failure at 86.
1989: Lenore Lemmon, U.S. socialite who was the fiancée of actor George Reeves, dies at 66.
1986: Era Bell Thompson, U.S. editor of Ebony magazine, dies at 81.
1979: Richard Rodgers, prolific U.S. composer who teamed with Oscar Hammerstein to compose classic songs including “My Favorite Things,” dies at 77.
1971: Dorothy Comingore, U.S. actress who starred in “Citizen Kane,” dies at 58.
1970: Sonny Liston, U.S. boxer who was the world heavyweight champion from 1962 to 1964, dies of lung congestion at 38.
1967: Bert Berns, U.S. songwriter and producer who wrote “Twist and Shout,” dies of heart failure at 38.