Gary Coleman rocketed to stardom in the late 1970s as the precocious star of popular TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.” We remember Coleman and other celebrities who died this day, May 28, in history.
2016: Bryce Dejean-Jones, U.S. NBA shooting guard who played for the New Orleans Pelicans, dies of a gunshot wound at 23.
2015: Reynaldo Rey, U.S. actor who appeared in the movies “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Friday,” dies at 75.
2014: Maya Angelou, U.S. author and poet well-known for her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” dies at 86.
Angelou was a source of inspiration and strength for millions of Americans from all walks of life. She counted presidents and heads of state among her fans as well as the generations of students who discovered her works year after year. For decades, her words shaped America’s heart, including: “You don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking.” Read more
Coleman rocketed to stardom in the late 1970s thanks to his hilarious portrayal of young Arnold Jackson—and thanks, especially, to his popular catchphrase, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
In 1979, TV Guide published an article titled “Small Wonder” that compared “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman to comedy giants Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, and Richard Pryor. “When he walks onto a stage, something has happened and you feel it,” the show’s producer, Norman Lear, told the magazine. “That’s called presence, and it’s rare. Many important actors, even stars, don’t have it. Gary does.” Read more
2003: Martha Scott, U.S. actress in movies and on television whose appearances included “The Ten Commandments” and “The Bob Newhart Show,” dies at 90.
1998: Phil Hartman, U.S. actor, screenwriter, and graphic artist who co-wrote the screenplay for “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and went on to star on “Saturday Night Live” and the sitcom “News Radio,” is killed by his wife at 49.
Famous since his eight-year run on “Saturday Night Live,” Hartman in 1998 was at the height of his career. He was working on projects like “The Simpsons” and “News Radio,” preparing to voice the goofy spaceman Zapp Brannigan on “Futurama,” thinking about creating a live-action movie about his Simpsons character Troy McClure, and more. His sudden, tragic death—killed by his wife in a bizarre murder-suicide—left his friends and fans shocked and baffled. Read more
1994: Julius Boros, U.S. professional golfer who won three major championships and remains the oldest player to win a major when he won the PGA Championship in 1968 at 48, dies at 74.
1986: Lurene Tuttle, U.S. actress who had more than 100 appearances on television shows including “Petticoat Junction” and “Little House on the Prairie,” dies at 78.
1981: Mary Lou Williams, U.S. jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who wrote and arranged songs for such bandleaders as Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and who mentored such young artists as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, dies at 71.
1975: Ezzard Charles, U.S. heavyweight boxing champion who defeated Joe Louis and Archie Moore, dies at 53.
1975: Roy Roberts, U.S. character actor who appeared on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Bewitched,” dies at 69.
1972: Edward VIII, English king of the U.K. in 1936 who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, dies at 77.
1971: Audie Murphy, U.S. soldier and actor who was one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II and who then became an actor and starred in the autobiographical film “To Hell and Back” and on the TV series “Whispering Smith,” dies in a plane crash at 45.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Audie Murphy was just 16 years old—but he was already a skilled hunter who made almost every shot he took. And he was a patriot, enthusiastic about joining up to fight for his country. But the military doesn’t bend age rules, and they couldn’t enlist an underage soldier. That didn’t stop Murphy. Read more
1940: Walter Connolly, U.S. actor known best for playing the father of Claudette Colbert’s character in “It Happened One Night,” dies at 53.
1849: Anne Bronte, English author who was the sister of novelist Charlotte Bronte and was known for her novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” dies at 29.
1843: Noah Webster, U.S. lexicographer who created the Webster Dictionary, dies at 84.