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Died January 1

by Legacy Staff

Hank Williams died New Year’s Day in 1953 at the young age of 29. He became a country music legend with his songs about heartbreak. We remember Williams’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.

Hank Williams died New Year’s Day in 1953 at the young age of 29. He became a country music legend with his songs about heartbreak. It’s hard to forget such Williams classics as “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.” We remember Williams’ life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.


Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including the reclusive author J.D. Salinger.

2019, Pegi Young, was the co-founder of the Bridge School for children with disabilities, along with her former husband, singer Neil Young.

2016: Vilmos Zsigmond, Hungarian cinematographer who won an Academy Award for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” dies at 85.

2015: Donna Douglas, U.S. actress known best for her role as Elly May Clampett on the sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” dies at 82.

Starring as Elly May on “The Beverly Hillbillies” from 1962 to 1971, she seemed blissfully unaware of her status as a country blond bombshell. Usually clad in a snug flannel shirt and tight jeans cinched with a rope belt, she seemed to prefer her critters to any beau. Read more




2015: Mario Cuomo, U.S. politician who was the governor of New York from 1983 to 1994, dies at 82.

2013: Patti Page, U.S. pop singer who was the best-selling female artist of the 1950s with such hits as “Tennessee Waltz,” dies at 85.

Patti Page (AP Photo / Wade Payne, file)Page achieved several career milestones in American pop culture, but she’ll be remembered for indelible hits that crossed the artificial categorizations of music and remained atop the charts for months to reach a truly national audience. “Tennessee Waltz” scored the rare achievement of reaching No. 1 on the pop, country, and rhythm and blues charts simultaneously. The song also was adopted as one of two official songs by the state of Tennessee, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. Its reach proved so powerful, six other artists reached the charts the following year with covers. Read more




2012: Bob Anderson, English Olympic fencer and renowned film fight choreographer who worked on such movies as “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Mask of Zorro,” dies at 89.

Bob Anderson (AP Photo / Leon Hill)Olympic fencer and movie sword master Anderson appeared in some of film’s most famous dueling scenes – though few viewers knew it, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Anderson donned Darth Vader’s black helmet and fought lightsaber battles in two of the three original “Star Wars” films, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Read more




2012: Fred Milano, U.S. doo-wop singer who was a member of Dion and the Belmonts, dies of lung cancer at 72.

Fred Milano (AP Photo/Department of Correction)Milano and three friends from the Bronx formed the Belmonts in the mid-1950s, borrowing their name from the New York City borough’s Belmont Avenue. They became Dion and the Belmonts after Dion DiMucci joined in 1958, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Milano sang tenor on such hits as “A Teenager in Love” and “Where or When.” Read more




2009: Claiborne Pell, U.S. senator from Rhode Island who served six terms, dies at 90.

Quiet, thoughtful, and polite to a fault, Pell seemed out of place in an era of in-your-face, made-for-television politicians. A multimillionaire, he often wore old, ill-fitting suits and sometimes jogged in a tweed coat, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Though criticized by some for his fascination with UFOs and extrasensory perception, he was best remembered for his devotion to education, maritime, and foreign affairs issues. When asked his greatest achievement, Pell always was quick to answer, “Pell Grants.” Read more




2007: A.I. Bezzerides, U.S. novelist and screenwriter known for such film noir classics as “Kiss Me Deadly,” dies at 98.

2007: Tillie Olsen, U.S. writer associated with the political turmoil of the 1930s and the first generation of American feminists, dies at 94.

2007: Del Reeves, U.S. country singer who had a No. 1 hit with “Girl on the Billboard,” dies at 74.

During his 40 years at the Grand Ole Opry, Reeves was hailed as one of its best entertainers because of his comic timing, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Along with his music, he did impressions of stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Johnny Cash, and Walter Brennan. Read more




2007: Darrent Williams, U.S. pro football cornerback who played with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, dies at 24 in a drive-by shooting.

Williams finished the 2006-07 season with 88 tackles, 78 of them solo, and four interceptions. … In December, Williams spoke of his desire to return to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, the next offseason to talk to children about staying out of gangs, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Read more




2005: Shirley Chisholm, U.S. politician and first African-American congresswoman, who represented New York for seven terms, dies at 80.

Chisholm, who took her seat in the U.S. House in 1969, was a riveting speaker who often criticized Congress as being too clubby and unresponsive, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. An outspoken champion of women and minorities during seven terms in the House, she also was a staunch critic of the Vietnam War. Read more




2005: Bob Matsui, Democratic U.S. representative from California who served 26 years in Congress, dies at 63 of complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare stem cell disorder.

Matsui was born in 1941. The following year, his family was among the Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II. Decades later, he helped pass legislation that apologized for the internment policy and compensated the survivors, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Read more




2003: Joe Foss, U.S. World War II fighter pilot who became governor of South Dakota and the first commissioner of the American Football League, dies at 87.

2002: Julia Phillips, U.S. producer of movies including “Taxi Driver” and “The Sting,” dies of cancer at 57.

2001: Ray Walston, U.S. actor who starred in many film and television productions including “My Favorite Martian” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” dies at 86.

For the generation that watched Walston play Uncle Martin on “My Favorite Martian,” the actor may as well have had antennae growing out of his head – he was that strongly identified with the role. But when “My Favorite Martian” was canceled after its third season, Walston’s fans learned that he was so much more than a Martian. A versatile actor, he went on to a wide variety of roles, both light and serious. Read more




1998: Helen Wills Moody, U.S. tennis player who won 31 grand slam titles during her career, dies at 92.

1997: Townes Van Zandt, U.S. singer-songwriter who had critical acclaim but not mainstream success as a musician, dies of long-term drug and alcohol abuse at 52.

Van Zandt isn’t a name we learn from listening to the radio or reading big-circulation music magazines. We discover it in a roundabout way, after learning we like roots rock and alternative country, then digging our way through Dawes and Wilco and the Bottle Rockets, down to Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett and John Prine. Underneath, we find the man who was a strong influence on all those favorites: Townes Van Zandt. Read more




1995: Ted Hawkins, U.S. blues singer, dies at 58.

1995: Jess Stacy, U.S. jazz pianist who played with Benny Goodman, dies at 90.

1994: Cesar Romero, U.S. actor known best as the Joker on the “Batman” TV series, dies at 86.

Thanks in part to Romero’s portrayal, the Joker has become one of the world’s most recognizable characters, almost as important in our pop culture as Batman himself. Each actor who plays the Joker gives us his own interpretation, and Romero’s was no less iconic than Heath Ledger’s. His shocking pink tailcoat gave the Joker just the right air of weird formality to accompany his proper speech … and the actor’s refusal to shave his trademark mustache, simply allowing the makeup artists to smear white greasepaint over it, made his Joker all his own. Read more




1992: Grace Hopper, pioneering U.S. computer scientist and a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, dies at 85.

Among Hopper’s list of great accomplishments is this fact: She was responsible for the computer term “debugging.” No metaphor, the term sprang from an incident with an actual bug. When a moth became stuck in a relay and impeded the computer’s performance, Hopper quipped that they were “debugging” the system. Read more




1972: Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer known best for his roles in the films “Can Can” and “Gigi” and his signature song, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” dies at 83.

1969: Barton MacLane, U.S. actor in film and television series known best as General Martin Peterson in TV’s “I Dream of Jeannie,” dies at 66.

1958: Edward Weston, innovative and influential U.S. photographer who has been called one of the masters of 20th-century photography, dies at 71.

1953: Hank Williams, U.S. singer considered one of the most significant country music artists, dies of alcohol and prescription drug abuse at 29.

Not eHank Williams (Wikimedia Commons/WSM Radio)very song Williams wrote was a heartbreaking tale of loss … but most of his greatest hits were. Among them was one of the most popular of his songs, “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Written about his first wife – with the assistance of his second wife – it’s perhaps the greatest of all the (many, many) country songs about infidelity. Read more




1782: Johann Christian Bach, German composer and youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach known for his influence on Mozart’s concerto style, dies at 46.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including the reclusive author J.D. Salinger.

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