Katherine Johnson was the pioneering NASA mathematician was one of the real-life inspirations for the hit movie “Hidden Figures.” As a Black woman at Langley in the 1950s and ‘60s, Johnson has said she had to be assertive and aggressive to ensure she was included in meetings and given credit for her critical work. Her perseverance paid off, and her impact on the success of the space program is immeasurable. We remember her life and other notable people who died on this day.
2018: Sridevi, the first female superstar in Bollywood who was the top leading actress in the 1980s and 90s, died at 54.
2014: Harold Ramis, U.S. actor and director known for movies including “Ghostbusters” and “Caddyshack,” dies at 69.
Admittedly lacking the dashing leading-man looks of some of his peers, Ramis was memorably nebbish: curly haired, gangly, and bespectacled. He played “Ghostbuster” scientist Egon Spengler (naturally, the one with all the ideas), and Bill Murray’s Army recruit buddy in “Stripes.” But Ramis, a Chicago native and early member of the improv comedy troupe Second City, was a far larger force behind the camera, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He co-wrote and directed “Caddyshack,” “Groundhog Day,” and “Analyze This.” He also helped pen “Meatballs,” “Stripes,” and “Ghostbusters.” Read more
Although Philadelphia session musician Danny Cedrone played on the original recording of “Rock Around the Clock” before his death in 1954, Beecher played the signature song for the first time on national television in 1955 and played with the group in films. “Rock Around the Clock” became a hit again nearly 20 years after its release when it was included on the soundtrack of “American Graffiti.” Read more
2012: Jan Berenstain, U.S. children’s book author who wrote the “Berenstain Bears” series with her husband, Stan, dies at 88.
Creators Jan and Stan Berenstain were mentored by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel and went on to write dozens upon dozens of tales about the family of bears living “in a big treehouse down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country.” When they weren’t writing about bears, the husband-and-wife team wrote a pile of other books as well, from parenting advice to cartoon books for adults, and they created the comic “It’s All in the Family” that ran in McCall’s and Good Housekeeping magazines. But by far, what they’re known best for is bears. Read more
2008: Larry Norman, U.S. musician, singer-songwriter, and producer who was one of the pioneers of Christian rock music, dies at 60.
2007: Damien Nash, U.S. running back for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, dies at 24.
Nash was from East St. Louis, Illinois, and played two years at the University of Missouri after playing at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. A fifth-round draft choice by Tennessee in 2005, he played in three games for the Titans before his release. The Broncos signed him as a free agent; he played in three games, rushing for 98 yards on 24 carries. Read more
2007: Lamar Lundy, U.S. NFL defensive end who was part of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line in the 1960s, dies at 71.
2007: Bruce Bennett, U.S. actor and Olympic athlete who played Tarzan in movie serials and was in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” dies at 100.
2006: Dennis Weaver, U.S. actor well-known for playing the title role on the TV series “McCloud,” dies at 81.
Weaver was a struggling actor in Hollywood in 1955, earning $60 a week delivering flowers when he was offered $300 a week for a role on a new CBS television series, “Gunsmoke.” By the end of his nine years with “Gunsmoke,” he was earning $9,000 a week, noted his obituary by The Associated Press. When Weaver first auditioned for the series, he found the character of Chester “inane.” He wrote in his 2001 autobiography, “All the World’s a Stage,” that he said to himself: “With all my Actors Studio training, I’ll correct this character by using my own experiences and drawing from myself.” The result was a well-rounded character that appealed to audiences, especially with his drawling, “Mis-ter Dil-lon.” Read more
2006: Don Knotts, U.S. actor well-known as Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show” and as Mr. Furley on “Three’s Company,” dies at 81.
His big break came in 1960, after a few TV and movie roles. He was offered the chance to play the role that would make him famous and remain his best-known persona: Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.” The show’s creators originally intended Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith, to be the show’s source of humor, with Knotts as Fife playing the straight man … but it soon became evident that Knotts was better suited for comic relief. Read more
2004: John Randolph, U.S. actor who appeared in many movies and on TV series, including “The Bob Newhart Show,” dies at 88.
2002: Arthur Lyman, U.S. jazz vibraphone and marimba player who was called the Father of Lounge Music, dies at 70.
1998: Henny Youngman, U.S. comedian known for his one-line jokes, including the famous, “Take my wife … please,” dies at 91.
1994: Maude “Lores” Bonney, Australian aviator who was the first woman to fly solo from Australia to England, dies at 96.
1994: Dinah Shore, U.S. singer and actress who hosted the popular “Dinah!” show on NBC, dies at 77.
Shore made a marvelous career for herself, first as a popular recording artist during the big band era, and later as the TV hostess of several variety and talk shows. Her winning charm made it easy for her to interact with her guests and co-stars. That charm also made Shore a natural at singing upbeat and easygoing duets with other popular singers of her day. Read more
1991: Webb Pierce, U.S. singer who was one of the most popular honky-tonk vocalists of the 1950s, charting more No. 1 hits than any other country artist during that decade, dies at 69.
The 1950s were very good to country legend Pierce. The honky-tonk idol joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1952 and spent the 1950s recording a string of hit singles like “Wondering” and “In the Jailhouse Now.” Forty-eight of his singles broke onto the country charts, and together they spent 113 weeks at the No. 1 spot, which works out to about 20 percent of the decade. He was, arguably, the biggest singer in country music for most of the 1950s. Read more
1991: Jean Rogers, U.S. actress who starred as Dale Arden in the “Flash Gordon” serials, dies at 74.
1991: George Gobel, U.S. comedian and actor who had his own television show, “The George Gobel Show,” dies at 71.
1990: Tony Conigliaro, outfielder for the Boston Red Sox whose promising career was cut short after a pitch struck him in the face, dies at 45.
1990: Malcolm Forbes, U.S. CEO who was the publisher of Forbes magazine, dies of a heart attack at 70.
1990: Johnnie Ray, U.S. singer and pianist who was extremely popular in the 1950s and had a hit record with “Cry,” dies of liver failure at 63.
It wasn’t just Ray’s sweet voice that 1950s teeny-boppers loved. His onstage antics set him apart from the crowd of crooners and drove his female fans wild. As he threw himself to the floor, tore at his hair, and cried his way through his songs, he became known as Mr. Emotion and the Prince of Wails. Read more
1982: Virginia Bruce, U.S. actress who co-starred in the movie musical “The Great Ziegfeld,” dies at 71.
1815: Robert Fulton, U.S. inventor who created the first commercially successful steamboat, dies at 49.