Died July 17

by Legacy Staff

Billie Holiday changed the world’s expectations for popular music, bringing intense emotion and a unique style to the art form. We remember Holiday and other celebrities who died this day, July 17, in history.

2020: John Lewis, long-serving U.S. representative from Georgia who was one of the most prominent leaders of the American civil rights movement, dies at 80.

2015: Van Miller, U.S. broadcaster who was the longtime voice of the Buffalo Bills, dies at 87.


2015: Bill Arnsparger, U.S. NFL coach who was the former head coach of the New York Giants, dies at 88.

2014: Elaine Stritch, U.S. actress and singer known for performances in Broadway shows including “Bus Stop” and “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” dies at 89.

The five-time Tony Award nominee and eight-time Emmy nominee had a 70-year career in show business that took her from tiny theaters to the top of “30 Rock.” She was a hit in London in the 1970s, lighting up the West End as well as British television sets on her sitcom before coming back to America where she continued to build a career as one of Broadway’s all-time greats. Read more

2014: Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashes in Ukraine after being shot down, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew.

On July 17, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Aboard the flight were 298 passengers and crew from at least nine different countries, including one American citizen and at least three infants among the victims. Read more

2013: Peter Appleyard, English-born Canadian jazz vibraphonist who was a member of Benny Goodman‘s sextet in the 1970s, dies of natural causes at 84.

2012: Morgan Paull, U.S. actor known best for his role as Holden in the movie “Blade Runner,” dies of stomach cancer at 67.

2012: Ms. Melodie, U.S. rapper who was a member of Boogie Down Productions and was married at one time to rapper KRS-One, dies at 43.

2009: Walter Cronkite, U.S. broadcast journalist known as the anchor of “CBS News” in the 1960s and ’70s, dies of cerebrovascular disease at 92.

Cronkite began his distinguished journalism career during World War II, taking on potentially dangerous overseas assignments for United Press. He covered the Battle of the Bulge and the D-Day landing. Switching to television, he reported on some of the biggest events of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Legacy.com remembers him by recapping some of those stories and commentaries. Read more

2008: Larry Haines, U.S. actor remembered best for playing Stu Bergman on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” for 35 years, dies at 89.

Stu was the neighbor and best friend of Joanne Gardner Barron, later Joanne Tourneur, the character at the center of most of the show’s plot lines over the years. She was played by Mary Stuart for the entire 35 years. The soap opera, which was first on CBS, later on NBC, was the longest-running daytime drama on television when its last episode aired in December 1986. Haines credited the longtime appeal of the show to “basically believable characters that people kind of took to,” according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Read more

2006: Mickey Spillane, U.S. author known for his “Mike Hammer” detective novels, which sold more than 200 million copies, dies of pancreatic cancer at 88. Read more

2006: Sam Myers, U.S. blues musician and songwriter who played with Elmore James and appeared on recordings with Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, dies of complications of throat cancer surgery at 70.

2005: Geraldine Fitzgerald, Irish-born U.S. actress nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “Wuthering Heights,” who starred in the movie “Dark Victory” with Bette Davis, dies after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 91.

2001: Katharine Graham, U.S. publisher who was the head of The Washington Post for more than 20 years, dies after falling on a sidewalk at 84.

1996: Chas Chandler, English musician and manager who was the bassist in the Animals and the manager of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Slade, dies of an aortic aneurysm at 57.

1980: Donald “Red” Barry, U.S. actor who starred in the movie “Adventures of Red Ryder” and also appeared in guest roles on many TV series, dies by suicide at 68.

1978: Thayer David, U.S. actor known best for his role as fight promoter Miles Jergens in “Rocky,” dies of a heart attack at 51.

1974: Dizzy Dean, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher who was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts four times, dies of a heart attack at 64.

1967: John Coltrane, pioneering U.S. jazz saxophonist known for his version of the standard “My Favorite Things,” dies of liver cancer at 40.

1961: Ty Cobb, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder for the Detroit Tigers who had over 4,100 hits in his career, dies at 74.

1959: Billie Holiday, U.S. jazz singer known as Lady Day who was considered one of the greatest vocalists in jazz, dies of liver-disease-related pulmonary edema and heart failure at 44.

In 1939, Holiday took a bold step—bold even for a Black woman who rose from a troubled childhood in a segregated country to become one of the most celebrated singers of her time. In that year, disgusted with the racism she saw all around her, she recorded “Strange Fruit.” The song’s bluntly poignant descriptions of lynchings of Black people in the South were shocking and eye opening, and it became Holiday’s deeply effective closing song for her live performances. Read more

1953: Maude Adams, U.S. actress who was a star of the Broadway stage in the late 1800s and early 1900s, who starred as the title character in the play “Peter Pan,” dies at 80.

1947: Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish diplomat credited with saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, is presumed dead in a Soviet prison at 34.

1918: The Romanov family, who were the ruling dynasty in Russia, are executed by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. Daughter Anastasia was long rumored to have survived the assassination.

Discover notable people born this day July 17 in history including pioneering female comedian Phyllis Diller.

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