Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler who stood 7 feet 4 inches tall and weighed in at around 500 pounds. He was the World Wrestling Federation’s world heavyweight champion, and he also became an actor. We loved him in his role as Fezzik, the likable giant in the movie The Princess Bride. We remember Andre the Giant’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2021: Cloris Leachman, versatile Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning actress known for roles in films including “The Last Picture Show” and “Young Frankenstein” as well as in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” dies at 94.
2014: Pete Seeger, U.S. folk singer-songwriter whose compositions include “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song),” dies of natural causes at 94.
Ask almost any folk singer from the 1940s through today, and they’re likely to tell you Seeger was a friend, an influence or both. His gentle compositions helped drive the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s, and he helped nurture other talents, including giving a leg up to a young Bob Dylan. Read more
2010: Zelda Rubinstein, U.S. actress known for her role as eccentric medium Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist film series, who was also an outspoken advocate for human rights, dies of respiratory and kidney failure at 76.
2010: J.D. Salinger, U.S. novelist who wrote the highly acclaimed novel The Catcher in the Rye and who became a recluse later in life, dies of natural causes at 91.
After crafting a small canon of best-selling novels, novellas and short story collections, J.D. Salinger stopped publishing in 1965. In the decades following, he became perhaps the country’s most famous recluse, avoiding the public eye for more than half a century while his work, particularly 1951’s The Catcher in the Rye, only grew in stature as successive generations discovered it. Read more
2010: Howard Zinn, U.S. historian, author and political activist who wrote A People’s History of the United States, dies of a heart attack at 87.
Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, A People’s History was – fittingly – a people’s best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word-of-mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including Voices of a People’s History, a volume for young people and a graphic novel. Read more
2009: John Updike, U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote Rabbit, Run, dies of lung cancer at 76.
A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir Self-Consciousness and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. He was prolific, even compulsive, releasing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, and two National Book awards. Read more
2008: Gordon B. Hinckley, U.S. former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dies of age-related causes at 97.
2007: Tige Andrews, U.S. character actor known best for his role as Captain Greer on The Mod Squad, dies of cardiac arrest at 86.
The actor often played detectives during his television career, which spanned five decades and included appearances on more than 60 shows, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. His daughter said he was proud of his stint as Captain Adam Greer on The Mod Squad, which aired during the late 1960s and early ’70s. The popular TV drama starred three young actors – Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton and Clarence Williams III. Read more
2006: Gene McFadden, U.S. rhythm and blues singer and songwriter who wrote hits for groups such as the O’Jays and had a hit song “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” with the duo McFadden and Whitehead, dies of cancer at 57.
2004: Jack Paar, U.S. talk show host who was the host of The Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962, dies of a stroke at 85.
In 1960, television standards were much different from today. Modern TV viewers may see seriously steamy romantic scenes and gore to rival any R-rated horror movie, and hear language that would have shocked prior generations. But early television was much tamer: no steaminess, goriness or profanity allowed – and neither was a joke about a toilet, even if you called it a “W.C.” (That’s “water closet” for you younger readers who may be unfamiliar with the term.) Read more
1994: Claude Akins, U.S. actor who had a long career in movies and television, appeared in Rio Bravo and played Sheriff Lobo in B.J. and the Bear, dies of cancer at 67.
1993: Andre “The Giant” Roussimoff, French World Wrestling Federation wrestler and actor, dies of a heart attack at 46.
Born in France in 1946, young Roussimoff began life simply – and small – enough. But by his 12th birthday, he had grown to 6 feet 3 inches and weighed 240 pounds. Too big for the bus, he was driven to school by his neighbor, playwright Samuel Beckett. As an adult he would reach 7 feet 4 inches, weigh 500-plus pounds and be known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Most of us know him simply as André the Giant. Read more
1991: Dale Long, Major League Baseball first baseman who set a record by hitting home runs in eight consecutive games, dies of cancer at 64.
1990: Helen Jerome Eddy, U.S. actress who had a long career and had a starring role in the silent-film classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, dies of heart failure at 92.
1989: Thomas Sopwith, English aviation pioneer who created the World War I fighter plane called the Sopwith Camel, dies at 101.
1986: Lilli Palmer, German actress who appeared in many Hollywood films including The Boys From Brazil, and who was at one time married to actor Rex Harrison, dies of cancer at 71.
1977: Walter Baldwin, prolific U.S. character actor whose career spanned five decades, dies of pneumonia at 88.
1972: Mahalia Jackson, influential U.S. gospel singer who was called the Queen of Gospel, dies of heart failure and complications of diabetes at 60.
Jackson met the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956 at the National Baptist Convention. It was a time when the civil rights movement was about to ramp up and gain its first serious, nationwide attention. King contacted Jackson just a few months after the convention to ask for her help. He was planning a rally to raise money for the Montgomery bus boycott, and he wanted Jackson to sing there – to help raise funds and lift the spirits of the attendees. Jackson agreed, singing “I’ve Heard of a City Called Heaven,” “Silent Night” and “Move on up a Little Higher.” Read more
1967: Roger B. Chaffee, Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Edward White II, U.S. NASA astronauts, die in a fire on Apollo I during a countdown demonstration test. They were 31, 40 and 36, respectively.
1901: Giuseppe Verdi, Italian composer known as one of the premier opera composers, dies of a stroke at 87.
1851: John James Audubon, French conservationist and ornithologist who was honored posthumously with the creation of the Audubon Society, dies at 65.