Rod Serling’s voice introduced viewers to another dimension on his classic TV series, “The Twilight Zone.” We remember Serling’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Rod Serling‘s voice introduced viewers to another dimension on his classic TV series, “The Twilight Zone.” The phrase did change a bit from season to season but had a similar tone: “You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.” The writer and producer created the sci-fi setting so that he would have more freedom to express controversial ideas than he would have had in a realistic setting. “The Twilight Zone” is considered to be one of the best written series in the history of television. He later created the anthology series “Night Gallery.” We remember Serling’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2018: Harlan Ellison, outspoken influential author of science-fiction who wrote a popular “Star Trek” episode, dies at 84.
2016: Pat Summitt, legendary U.S. former coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team who led her players to eight NCAA championships, dies of Alzheimer’s disease at 64.
Summitt received many honors for her career. The Sporting News named her No. 11 on its list of the greatest coaches of all time; she was the only woman on the list. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Barack Obama. Read more
1931: Buddy Ryan, U.S. former defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Chicago Bears, dies at 85.
Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Bears during their 1985 Super Bowl-winning season, and it was, in part, his 46 defense formation that got them there. He had been with the Bears since 1978, and despite clashes with head coach Mike Ditka, Ryan was beloved by the team as he built the defensive strategy that would propel them to victory. Read more
2015: Jack Carter, U.S. comedian and actor most popular in the 1950s, dies at 93.
2014: Meshach Taylor, U.S. actor known best for his performance as Anthony Bouvier on TV’s “Designing Women,” dies of colorectal cancer at 67.
Taylor’s movie roles included a flamboyant window dresser in the 1987 comedy-romance “Mannequin” as well as “Damien: Omen II.” He guested on many series including “Hannah Montana,” “The Unit,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Barney Miller,” “Lou Grant,” “The Drew Carey Show,” and, in an episode that aired in January 2014, “Criminal Minds,” which stars Joe Mantegna, with whom Taylor performed early in his career as a fellow member of Chicago’s Organic Theater Company. Taylor also had been a member of that city’s Goodman Theatre. Read more
2013: Charlie L. Russell, U.S. writer known best for his critically acclaimed play “Five on the Black Hand Side,” which he also adapted into a screenplay for the movie version, dies of cancer at 81.
2012: Doris Sams, U.S. star of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League who was a five-time All-Star, threw a no-hitter, led the league in home runs in 1952, and was one of the players who inspired the movie “A League of Their Own,” dies at 85.
Sams, also called Sammye, was a leading player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. According to the league’s website, she was a five-time All-Star during her eight-year pro career. She played for the Muskegon Lassies, later the Kalamazoo Lassies. Sams made the circuit’s honor team in 1947 and from 1949 through 1952. She averaged more than .300 during each of her last four seasons. Read more
2010: Robert Byrd, U.S. politician who was the U.S. senator from West Virginia from 1959 until 2010, dies of natural causes at 92.
Byrd, a Democrat, was the longest-serving senator in history, holding his seat for more than 50 years. He was the Senate’s majority leader for six of those years and was third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a fellow West Virginian in the Senate, said it was his “greatest privilege” to serve with Byrd. Read more
2010: Bill Aucoin, U.S. music manager known best as the manager of the band Kiss, dies after surgical complications at 66.
Travalena was well-known for his large number of celebrity impressions, leading to the nicknames the Man of a Thousand Voices and Mr. Everybody, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. His act included presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, musicians from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen and actors from Marlon Brando to Tom Cruise. Travalena started his career in Las Vegas in 1971, and for years was an opening act, supporting such stars as Wayne Newton, Shirley MacLaine, Johnny Mathis, Don Rickles, and Julie Andrews. Read more
After meeting Orange Glo International founder Max Appel at a home show in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, Mays was recruited to demonstrate the environmentally friendly line of cleaning products on the St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network, now known as HSN, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Commercials and infomercials followed, anchored by the high-energy Mays using them while tossing out kitschy phrases like, “Long live your laundry!” Read more
2006: George Page, U.S. television host who created the Public Broadcasting Service show “Nature” and hosted it from 1982 until 1998, dies of cancer at 71.
1994: Fredi Washington, U.S. actress who was one of the first African-American actresses to gain recognition on film and stage, dies after a series of strokes at 90.
1982: Harry Mills, U.S. singer who was a member of the popular vocal group the Mills Brothers, dies at 68.
1981: Terry Fox, Canadian athlete who was diagnosed with cancer and then raised money for cancer research by attempting to run coast-to-coast across Canada, inspiring the annual Terry Fox run in his honor, which has raised more than 600 million Canadian dollars for cancer research, dies at 22.
1975: Rod Serling, U.S. television writer, producer, and host known for his show “The Twilight Zone,” dies after a series of heart attacks at 50.
Like many of the great sci-fi writers of the era, Serling discovered that he could tackle the taboo issues of the day by de-contextualizing them, having contemporary conflicts safely play out on distant planets, in the far-flung future, in dimensions not only of sound and sight but of mind. Freed from the bounds of realism, “The Twilight Zone” allowed him to write about death, war, racism, mass hysteria, and capital punishment – all topics with which no buttoned-down early 1960s advertiser would otherwise have wanted to be associated. Read more
1974: Frank Sutton, U.S. actor remembered best for his starring role as Sgt. Vince Carter on the sitcom “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” dies of a heart attack at 50.
Sutton played one of the most famous fictional soldiers on television, Gunnery Sgt. Vincent Carter, for five seasons on “Gomer Pyle – USMC.” Sutton, who actually served in the U.S. Army, died 40 years ago today. According to The Associated Press, Sutton took part in 14 assault landings in the Pacific during World War II. Sometime after the war, Sutton was honorably discharged and pursued an acting career. Sutton landed guest-starring roles on several popular series, like “Route 66,” “The Fugitive,” “Gunsmoke,” and “The Twilight Zone,” but his most famous role would take him back to the military one more time. Read more
1962: Mickey Cochrane, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame catcher and manager who was a two-time American League MVP and batted .320 for his career, dies of cancer at 59.
1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie, Austro-Hungarian rulers assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, which led to World War I, are killed at 50 and 46, respectively.
1880: “Texas Jack” Omohundro, U.S. frontier scout, cowboy, and actor who acted in the first Wild West shows with his friend William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, dies of pneumonia at 33.
1836: James Madison, U.S. politician who was the fourth president of the United States and was known as the Father of the Constitution, dies at 85.