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Died December 5

by Legacy Staff

Nelson Mandela was a hero to many as he fought for racial equality in South Africa. We remember Mandela’s life as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day, December 5, in history.

2015: Chuck Williams, U.S. businessman who founded Williams-Sonoma, dies at 100.

2013: Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid activist and the first Black president of South Africa, dies at 95.


Mandela was a hero to many as he fought for racial equality in South Africa. Born to Xhosa royalty, he became a lawyer and an activist. When nonviolent tactics proved ineffective, he began using sabotage, which led to his arrest and conviction for conspiracy to overthrow the state. He was given a life sentence, and with his imprisonment, his international fame began to grow. During his 27-year imprisonment, peace lovers around the world rallied around the “Free Mandela!” slogan. After his release, Mandela helped negotiate the end of apartheid.

In 1994, South Africa held its first Democratic election open to all races. Mandela, running with the African National Congress, won the presidency with 62% of the vote. He was the first Black president of South Africa in the first election in which Blacks were allowed to vote. Mandela voluntarily served only one term as president, to set a precedent for the regular election of new leaders. Read more

2012: Dave Brubeck, U.S. jazz pianist and composer who was a leader in the cool jazz movement and was known for the song “Take Five,” dies while on his way to a cardiology appointment at 91.

Brubeck was known for writing and performing songs in unusual rhythms—most notably “Take Five,” written by Dave Brubeck Five saxophonist Paul Desmond. The title of the song comes from its rhythm, which is 5/4 time. Where you’d hear three beats in a waltz or four in a rock song, you hear five in Brubeck’s jazz classic. Read more

2010: Don Meredith, U.S. NFL quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys who became a popular announcer on “Monday Night Football,” dies of a brain bleed at 72.

Meredith was quick with a joke—”He thinks they’re No. 1 in the nation,” he said during a 1972 game when a fan of the losing team showed his displeasure on national TV with an obscene gesture featuring his middle finger. He engaged in what The New York Times called “down-home ribbing” of his frequent partner in the booth, the serious and abrasive Howard Cosell. When it was clear one team had the game wrapped up, Meredith would burst into a Willie Nelson song: “Turn out the lights,” he’d sing. “The party’s over.” Read more

2008: Nina Foch, Dutch-born U.S. actress who appeared in “An American in Paris” and “Mahogany,” dies of complications of a blood disorder at 84.

Although she never achieved star status, Foch became a distinguished supporting player, often as “the other woman” or figures of wealth and connivance, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. She was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for “Executive Suite” in 1955. Other film credits included “The Ten Commandments,” “Spartacus,” “Rich and Famous,” and “Silver.” Read more

2005: Frits Philips, Dutch board chairman of the Philips electronics company who was hailed for saving 382 Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, dies at 100 of pneumonia and complications of a fall.

2002: Roone Arledge, U.S. president of ABC sports who created “Monday Night Football,” dies of complications of cancer at 71.

1996: Wilf Carter aka “Montana Slim,” Canadian-born U.S. country music singer-songwriter, dies at 91.

1993: Doug Hopkins, U.S. guitarist and songwriter for the band the Gin Blossoms, dies by suicide at 32.

1991: Robert Karvelas, U.S. actor who played the chief’s dimwitted assistant in the 1960s TV comedy show “Get Smart,” dies at 70.

1990: Steven Shaw, U.S. actor from Missouri who played Eric Fairgate on the TV drama “Knots Landing,” dies in a traffic accident at 25.

1986: Carmol Taylor, U.S. country honky-tonk songwriter, dies of lung cancer at 55.

1983: Robert Aldrich, U.S. director and producer whose films include “The Dirty Dozen,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “The Longest Yard,” dies of kidney failure at 65.

1979: Jesse Pearson, U.S. actor known best for his role as Conrad Birdie in the movie “Bye Bye Birdie,” dies of cancer at 49.

1968: Fred Clark, U.S. character actor whose movies included “How To Marry a Millionaire,” dies of liver disease at 54.

1951: “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, U.S. Major League Baseball outfielder—and one of eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team who were banned from the sport for allegedly conspiring to fix the World Series—dies of a heart attack at 64.

1931: Vachel Lindsay, U.S. poet from Illinois known for singing poetry, dies by suicide at 52 by drinking a bottle of lye.

1926: Claude Monet, French artist and founder of French impressionist painting, dies at 86.

Monet’s series of water lily paintings was created at the height of his career, a time when his work was both prolific and masterful. It was when he lived at Giverny, a village in northern France on the banks of the River Seine. The idyllic countryside, and Monet’s own lovingly maintained gardens, served as models for some of his best works. Read more

1870: Alexandre Dumas, French writer whose novels of high adventure include “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers,” dies at 68.

Discover notable people born this day December 5 in history including animation pioneer Walt Disney.

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