Helen Keller is widely considered one of the most remarkable and inspirational people in U.S. history. We remember Keller’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Helen Keller is widely considered one of the most remarkable and inspirational people in U.S. history. Blind and deaf since she was a toddler, the fiercely driven girl learned to communicate despite her disabilities, with help from her teacher and companion, Anne Sullivan. Keller grew up to become a prominent speaker and author who advocated for women’s suffrage, pacifism, and socialism. Today, she is remembered as a fighter who let no limitations stand in her way. We remember Keller’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2015: Jean Ritchie, U.S. musician known for traditional folk music and for playing the dulcimer, dies at 92.
2014: Ann B. Davis, U.S. actress known best for playing Alice, the housekeeper on “The Brady Bunch,” dies at 88.
More than a decade before scoring as the Bradys’ loyal Alice, Davis was the razor-tongued secretary on another stalwart TV sitcom, “The Bob Cummings Show,” which brought her two Emmys. Over the years, she also appeared on Broadway and in occasional movies. Davis considered her ordinary look an asset. “I know at least a couple hundred glamour gals who are starving in this town,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1955, the year “The Bob Cummings Show” began its four-year run. “I’d rather be myself and eating.” She said she told NBC photographers not to retouch their pictures of her, but they ignored her request and “gave me eyebrows.” Read more
2008: Yves Saint Laurent, French fashion designer who was considered one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, dies at 71.
A towering figure of 20th-century fashion, Saint Laurent was widely considered the last of a generation that included Christian Dior and Coco Chanel and made Paris the fashion capital of the world, with the Rive Gauche, or Left Bank, as its elegant headquarters. In the fast-changing world of haute couture, Saint Laurent was hailed as the most influential and enduring designer of his time. Read more
2007: Tony Thompson, U.S. lead singer of the rhythm and blues group Hi-Five who had a No. 1 hit song with “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game),” dies at 31.
2005: George Mikan, U.S. NBA Hall of Fame center who averaged more than 22 points and 13 rebounds a game and was elected one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, dies at 80.
Mikan’s Lakers won five of the first six NBA titles after the league was formed in 1948. He averaged 23.1 points per game in seven seasons with Minneapolis before retiring because of injuries in 1956. Mikan was the league’s MVP in its inaugural 1948-49 season, when he averaged 28.3 points in leading the Lakers to the NBA title. A statue was erected in honor of the NBA Hall of Famer outside the Target Center in Minneapolis. Read more
2001: Hank Ketcham, U.S. cartoonist who created the “Dennis the Menace” comic strip and wrote and drew the cartoon from 1951 until 1994, dies at 81.
Ketcham began the strip in 1951, inspired by the antics of his 4-year-old son. In March 2001, Ketcham’s panels celebrated 50 years of publication – running in 1,000 newspapers, 48 countries, and 19 languages. The strip inspired several books of cartoons, a television show, a musical, a 1993 movie, and a playground in Monterey, California, where Ketcham had his studio. The TV show, starring Jay North as Dennis and Joseph Kearns as Mr. Wilson, ran on CBS from 1959 to 1963. Read more
1998: Darwin Joston, U.S. actor well-known for starring in the cult classic “Assault on Precinct 13,” dies at 60.
1994: Frances Heflin, U.S. actress known best for her role as Mona Kane Tyler on the soap opera “All My Children,” dies at 73.
1991: David Ruffin, U.S. singer known best as a member of the Temptations from 1964 until 1968, who sang lead vocals on many of their hits including “My Girl,” dies at 50.
The next three years would be the most successful in Ruffin’s life and in the band’s history. It started off slowly, though, with the Temptations, unsure how to use Ruffin’s talents, keeping him in the background. Songwriter Smokey Robinson wanted the perfect song to showcase Ruffin’s voice, and he found it with “My Girl.” Read more
1985: Richard Greene, English actor remembered best for starring on the popular 1950s TV series “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” dies at 66.
1980: Arthur Nielsen, U.S. market analyst who founded the ACNielsen Co., known for the Nielsen TV ratings, dies at 82.
1980: Rube Marquard, U.S. Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who won more than 200 games in his career, dies at 93.
1979: Jack Mulhall, U.S. actor who appeared in more than 400 movies, including “The Three Musketeers,” dies at 91.
1973: Mary Kornman, U.S. film actress who starred as a child actor in the “Our Gang” series during the silent era and who starred as an adult opposite John Wayne in “The Desert Trail,” dies of cancer at 57.
1968: Helen Keller, U.S. author and political activist who became the first blind and deaf person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, dies at 87.
Largely forgotten today is the fact that, in addition to her work for people with disabilities, Keller supported causes that stoked much debate in her time. A member of the Industrial Workers of the World, she championed women’s suffrage, child labor laws, and birth control. She was one of the seven founding members of the American Civil Liberties Union and was such a notorious socialist that the Nazis burned her books. Read more
1965: Curly Lambeau, U.S. NFL Hall of Famer who was a co-founder, player, and coach of the Green Bay Packers and who led the team as a coach to six NFL championships, dies at 67.
1948: Sonny Boy Williamson I, U.S. harmonica player who is called the Father of the Modern Blues Harp, dies at 34.
1943: Leslie Howard, English actor known for his role as Ashley Wilkes in “Gone With the Wind” but who also played roles in the movies “Of Human Bondage” and “Pygmalion,” dies at 50 when a civilian plane in which he is riding is shot down by the Germans during World War II.
1868: James Buchanan, 15th president of the U.S. from 1857 until 1861, dies at 77.