UPDATED: 4:50 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 —
While death is inevitably a part of life, that truth doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to those who have died.
They include a wide range of iconic and pioneering individuals who left indelible marks on the world through their respective careers, such as basketball star Kobe Bryant, Congressman John Lewis, mathematician Katherine Johnson actor Chadwick Boseman, rapper Pop Smoke, civil rights legend Rev. C.T. Vivian and entertainment mogul Andre Harrell.
But there were also a number of notable Black folks who died this year and may not have enjoyed the same household-name status as the aforementioned but are still very deserving of being remembered for their contributions to the world, whether good or bad.
Case and point: 2020 began tragically with the drug overdose death of Nick Gordon, who was most famous for his relationship with Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown. He was only 30.
And now the year has ended with the death of Adolfo Quiñones, the hip-hop dancing pioneer better known as Shabba Doo, who died at the age of 65. His fellow choreographer Toni Basil tweeted the unfortunate news on Dec. 30.
But it was only announced on Dec. 31 that legendary veteran rapper MF DOOM died earlier in the year. His wife eulogized him Thursday with a touching tribute on his still-active Instagram account. The masked rapper formerly known as Zev Love X from the 1990s rap group KMD was 49 years old when he died. His cause of death was not reported. Scroll down to learn more about MF DOOM’s death.
The announcement about MF DOOM followed the news that Joe Clark, the no-nonsense principal of a high school in New Jersey who gained notoriety for his bare-knuckles approach to education and was immortalized on the big screen in the Hollywood production, “Lean on Me,” died Dec. 29 at the age of 82 following a long battle with an undisclosed illness.
Charley Pride, who broke racial barriers on his way to becoming a pioneering Black country music singer, died Dec. 12 at the age of 86. The cause of his death was reported as complications from Covid-19.
Actor Tommy “Tiny” Lister died Dec. 10 at the age of 62. Lister was most famously known for his notable role as “Deebo” in “Friday,” where he re-imagined the trope of the neighborhood bully in modern comedies.
Bruce Boynton, an important but often forgotten figure of the civil rights movement died from cancer on Nov. 23 at the age of 83. While enrolled at Howard University during his final year of law school Boynton was arrested in Richmond, Virginia after he refused to exit a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. Boynton, along with his then-attorney, Thurgood Marshall, would go on to spark a series of events that eventually overturned the Jim Crow laws across the country and inspired the Freedom Riders movement.
“There is a sadness. His was a tremendous life well lived. We’re happy he’s no longer in pain but I’m also amazed at his fight and his strength and that he continued to fight and write even after the initial diagnosis of cancer,” his daughter Carver Boynton told AL.com.
David Dinkins made history in 1989 when he was elected the first Black mayor of New York City, beating out running mate Rudy Giuliani. The beloved and respected politician died Nov. 23, at the age of 93, just one month after the death of his wife Joyce. Dinkins’ pivotal election marked the first and last time a Black person held the highest local office in the Big Apple.
Bishop Harry Jackson, an evangelical pastor who advised Donald Trump as a candidate and president, died Nov. 9. His cause of death was not immediately reported and it was unclear what his age was. The Washington Post described the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, in part as “a rare Trump supporter in the majority black, Democratic stronghold of Prince George’s County.”
Jackson joined Trump in April to deliver an Easter blessing that was heavily focused on the coronavirus pandemic. He thanked Trump for his “insightful leadership” before going on to pray for “a mitigation of this plague, this disease. Let medical science come forth.” He closed his prayer by asking God to “give this great man, our President, and give the Vice President wisdom beyond their natural limitations. Give them insights so they can cover us, lead us, and bless us.”
Prior to that, the sports world suffered back-to-back blows when baseball icon Lou Brock died on Sept. 6 just about a week after college basketball coaching legend John Thompson‘s death. Brock was 81 years old. ESPN reminded readers that “Brock retired in 1979 as the single-season and all-time leader in stolen bases” and “was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1985.”
Thompson died Aug. 31 at the age of 78. He first started coaching high school before Georgetown University hired him in 1972, ultimately going on to become the first Black head coach to win an NCAA championship when Georgetown beat the University of Houston in 1985. Read more about his life here.
Days earlier, actor Chadwick Boseman died after a years-long battle with colon cancer. He died on Aug. 28 at the age of 43.
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died following a brief battle with the coronavirus. He died on July 30 at the age of 74. Cain, who was also the former chair of the Kansas City Federal Reserve as well as the one-time chief executive of the Godfather’s Pizza chain, was a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump. He may have contracted the coronavirus after attending a heavily attended rally for Trump without wearing a mask.
Cain’s death occurred on the same day that Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the iconic civil rights pioneer who went on to become one of the most powerful men in Congress, was being buried in Atlanta. Lewis died on July 17 at the age of 80 following a battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that he announced late last year. You can read more about his legendary life by clicking here.
Jas Waters, a television writer also known as “JasFly” who penned scripts for hit shows like “This Is Us,” has died, according to reports. She was just 39 years old. Waters’ death was confirmed by the verified Twitter account for “This Is Us,” which tweeted on June 10 that “The entire #ThisIsUs family was devastated to learn of Jas Waters passing. In our time together, Jas left her mark on us and ALL over the show. She was a brilliant storyteller and a force of nature. We send our deepest sympathies to her loved ones. She was one of us. RIP.”
Waters’ cause of death was not announced.
Betty Wright, the award-winning R&B soul singer whose signature song went on to become a sampling standard in hip-hop music, died May 9. She was 66 years old. Wright, whose cause of death was not immediately reported, had a career that spanned decades and evolved from its gospel roots to rhythm and blues to pop, the latter of which won her a pair of Grammy Awards.
As Bossip noted, Wright’s hit song from 1971, “Clean Up Woman,” has been sampled in music by contemporary artists ranging from Mary J Blige to Beyonce and still stands the test of time as a classic song in its own right.
Wright’s death came after several other celebrated members of the Black music community also recently died. Legendary rock n’ roll pioneer Little Richard died May 9 at the age of 87. The reports of his death followed that of iconic hip-hop executive Andre Harrell, who discovered Sean “Diddy” Combs. Harrell was 59 and died May 8.
Katherine Johnson, the pioneering “Hidden Figures” NASA mathematician, died Feb. 24 at 101 years old. “She was an American hero and her pioneering legacy will never be forgotten,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a tweet when announcing her death.
B. Smith, the restaurateur, lifestyle maven and esteemed businesswoman, died in February, according to her husband, Dan Gasby, who announced the news of his wife’s passing in a Facebook post. “It is with great sadness that my daughter Dana and I announce the passing of my wife, Barbara Elaine Smith,” he wrote. “B. died peacefully Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:50 pm, of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in our home in Long Island, New York. She was 70.”
Scroll down and join us as we commemorate some more notable Black folks who died in 2020 and pay homage to their contributions in life that will live on well after their deaths.
1. MF DOOM, rapper, 49
Rapper MF DOOM, born Daniel Dumile, died Oct. 31. His death was announced by his wife on Dec. 31. He was 49 years old.
“MF Doom first came to fame in the early 90’s, then going by Zev Love X, as part of rap group KMD, which also featured his later brother Subroc, who passed away in 1993. Mourning his younger brother’s passing, he would retreat from the scene, but return around 1997 with his face obscured, now going by MF DOOM.
“Dumile would use a number of monikers throughout his career including King Geedorah, Metal Fingers and Viktor Vaughn. But it may be Madvillain, with producer Madlib, and their 2004 project Madvillainy that certified him as a creative for, which real Hip-Hop heads had recognized for years.”
2. Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quiñones, dancer, 65Source:Getty
Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quiñones, a hip-hop dance pioneer who influenced several generations, has reportedly died at the age of 65. One of Quiñones’ friends and fellow choreographer, Toni Basil, tweeted the news on Dec. 30 and described his death as being “unexpected.”
HipHopWired.com was among the first to report Quiñones’ death.
3. Joe Clark, 82Source:Getty
Known for using extreme methods of communication in his prized Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, Joe Clark would routinely roam the hallways brandishing a bullhorn or baseball bat in an effort to both discipline and sow the seeds of learning into his student body — one that went from being ridden with truancy, drugs and crime to a group of straitlaced overachievers in the classroom.
Read more about his life here.
Pictured: Eastside High School Principal Joe Clark poses for a photo in his office in February of 1988 in Paterson, New Jersey.
4. Ty Jordan, 19Source:Getty
Ty Jordan, a star freshman running back for the University of Utah’s football team, died after shooting himself on Christmas Day. He was just 19 years old.
The Associated Press reported that Jordan “accidentally shot himself in the hip.” However, it was not clear how or why he shot himself.
Days before he died, Jordan was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
5. John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, 56Source:Getty
John Fletcher, the rapper better known as “Ecstasy” from the hip-hop group Whodini, has reportedly died. His cause of death is unknown. Whodini helped forge rap into the mainstream in the 80’s and were known as pioneers in the formation of the New Jack Swing sound. Fletcher’s death was announced by The Roots’ Questlove on Instagram.
6. Alfred Thomas Farrar, 99
Alfred Thomas Farrar, a former Tuskegee Airman died Dec. 17. He was 99. Farrar left his home in Lynchburg, Virginia, to join the service after high school and began training in 1941. After leaving the military in 1943, he studied to be an aerospace engineer and worked as an engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration for 40 years. He will be honored at a “troop rally” on Christmas and several planes are scheduled to fly over his memorial service scheduled on his birthday, Dec. 26.
7. Arnie Robinson, 72Source:Getty
Olympic gold medalist Arnie Robinson Jr., died at home on Dec. 2 in San Diego, according to The New York Times. He was 72. His son confirmed with the outlet that his death was the result of the coronavirus. He was described as “one of the greatest long jumpers in history.”
8. Rev. James L. Netters, 93
The news of civil rights activists and noted Memphis pastor James L. Netters was shared on Dec. 13. Netters was one of the activists who helped lead the sanitation workers strike with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as sit-ins, marches and protests. His cause of death was not immediately known. Netters was 93 years old and served for over 60 years as the pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church.
9. Carol Sutton, actress, 76Source:Getty
Actress Carol Sutton, whose performances in the TV series “Queen Sugar” and the movie “Steel Magnolias” earned her high praise, has died. Sutton was 76 years old. Her cause of death on Dec. 10 was reported as Covid-19.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell remembered Sutton as “the Queen of New Orleans theater” in a moving statement issued Dec. 13, when the death was officially announced.
10. Marcus Garvey Jr., 90
Marcus Garvey Jr., the namesake son of the famed pan-Africanist who started the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Back To Africa movement, has died. He was 90 years old.
Garvey Jr. died. Dec. 8, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
“The departure of Marcus Jr., whom I had been married to for over 30 years, will leave a void that cannot be filled, and he will be greatly missed by numerous family, friends, and colleagues from all over the world, in many places where he had left indelible footprints,” his widow, Jean Garvey, said in a statement.
11. Charley Pride, pioneering country music singer, 86Source:Getty
Charley Pride went from growing up picking cotton in Mississippi to playing professional baseball in the Negro League to getting drafted in the Army to going back to baseball to finally signing a recording contract in Nashville on his way to becoming the first major country music star who is Black. It was a remarkable rise to fame that ended Dec. 12 after he succumbed to the deadly coronavirus. Pride was 86 years old.
Pride’s signature hit song, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin,'” released in 1971, officially secured his place among the country music greats and helped him earn the title of the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year.
Despite being exposed to racism — or, perhaps, because of it — throughout the early part of his career when he was trying to get signed, Pride never sang what the Washington Post described as songs that were “controversial.” Instead, Pride gravitated toward music that he intended to unite listeners.
“I was a novelty, but I never allowed myself to feel out of place. Unless someone else brought it up — that I was different — I tried not to think about it much,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Pride,” published in 1994.
Pride is survived by his wife, three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
12. Tommy “Tiny” Lister, actor, 62Source:Getty
“Friday” actor Tommy Lister was pronounced dead after police were called to his California home with reports of an unconscious male. Known for his large size and deep voice, Lister, 62, also used his physicality to his advantage to bring a comedic element to the role of “Deebo.” Lister went on to star in other culture classics like “The Fifth Element,” “The Dark Knight” and voiced the character Finnick in “Zootopia.”
Aside from acting Lister also was a professional wrestler and starred alongside Hulk Hogan in the 1989 film, “No Holds Barred.
13. Natalie Desselle-Reid, actress, 53Source:Getty
Natalie Desselle-Reid, 53, died on Nov. 7 after a private battle with cancer, according to TMZ. The beloved actress starred in a variety of Black films and television shows including “How To Be A Player,” “Eve,” and “Madea’s Big Happy Family.”
But it was her role as “Mickey” in “B.A.P.S.,” that made her a Black cultural icon.
14. Bruce Boynton, 83
Bruce Carver Boynton, a respected civil rights activist and Alabama-based lawyer, died of cancer on Nov. 23 at the age of 83. In 1958 while he was a law student at Howard University, Boynton stopped in bus stop restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, where refused to exit a “whites-only” area after attempting to purchase a sandwich.
Boynton hired Thurgood Marshall as his attorney, who would later go on to be the first Black Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history. In Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled against them, inciting a series of “Freedom Rides” across the Jim Crow south. The movement garnered national attention which was used as a foundation for civil rights leaders to help pass the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Boynton comes from a strong line of civil rights leaders. One being his mother Amelia Boynton, who invited Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma, Alabama, later sustaining injuries from the Bloody Sunday March in 1965 and co-founding the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma.
15. David Dinkins, 93Source:Getty
David Dinkins, a respected and beloved political leader in New York City died of natural causes on Nov. 23 at the age of 93. In 1989 Dinkins made history when he was elected the city’s first Black mayor after securing victory against Republican challenger Rudy Giuliani. His ascension in New York City’s politics began in the New York State Assembly, where he was eventually elected Manhattan borough president in 1985.
Prior to a life in politics, Dinkins studied at Howard University where he graduated with a degree in mathematics, and later obtained his law degree from Brooklyn Law School. He became part of an influential group of Black politicians including Denny Farrell, Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, and Charles Rangel; the later three along with Dinkins dubbing themselves the “Gang of Four.”
Saddled with an ever-changing economic landscape, Dinkins was able to make vast improvements to the city’s bottom line, decreasing crime over his last three years in office. However, Giuliani waged a long-scale battle against Dinkins who eventually lost his seat to his GOP opponent in the 1993 mayoral race.
Dinkins died just one month after his wife Joyce in October. You can read more about Dinkins’ legacy here.
16. Bobby Brown Jr., 28
Tragedy has hit Bobby Brown‘s family once again after the singer’s second-oldest son has died.
Bobby Brown Jr., a budding singer himself, was found dead in his Los Angeles home on Nov. 18. He was just 28 years old. No cause of death has been announced and officials said there was n reason to suspect foul play was involved.
Read more about his life by clicking here.
17. Ben Watkins, “Masterchef Junior” contestant, 14
Ben Watkins, who captured America’s heart as a contestant on “Masterchef Junior,” a reality-based cooking contest TV show, died Nov. 16. He was just 14 years old.
Watkins suffered from a rare form of cancer called Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma that results in soft tissue tumors. He was diagnosed last year.
His family released a statement on their GoFundMe page raising money for Watkins’ funeral and memorial and noted that his parents were killed in a domestic violence dispute a few years ago.
“After losing both his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know,” the statement said in part before continuing later:
“When Ben’s rare illness was shared with the world, he was so heartened by the outpouring of love he received from every corner of the globe — especially here in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. We cannot thank this community enough for holding out family up in prayer and for all that you’ve done.
“Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many.”
18. Drew Days III, pioneering legal scholar, 79
Drew Days III, a legal scholar who broke barriers during his career as a lawyer and college professor over the course of more than four decades, died Nov. 15. He was 79 years old.
The Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law at Yale Law School was the first Black assistant attorney general for civil rights under President Jimmy Carter’s administration and later served as the first Black U.S. solicitor general, serving under President Bill Clinton.
Days began working at Yale in 1981 and remained on staff until his death.
19. Lucille Bridges, mother of activist Ruby Bridges, 86
Lucille Bridges, the mother of Ruby Bridges, who first made headlines as a Black first-grade student following court-ordered integration in 1960 New Orleans before going on to become a civil rights activist, died Nov. 10. She was 86 years old.
Ruby Bridges eulogized her mother in an Instagram post:
“Today our country lost a hero. Brave, progressive, a champion for change. She helped alter the course of so many lives by setting me out on my path as a six year old little girl. Our nation lost a Mother of the Civil Rights Movement today. And I lost my mom. I love you and am grateful for you. May you Rest In Peace.”
20. Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor who advised TrumpSource:Getty
Bishop Harry Jackson, a senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, died Nov. 9. His cause of death was not immediately reported but it cannot be overlooked that he had recently attended an event at the White House that resulted in multiple people contracting the coronavirus.
According to his bio on Hope Christian Church’s website, Jackson was “a leading researcher on the black church” and co-author of “High Impact African American Churches,” a book nominated in 2005 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Gold Medallion award.
Read more about Jackson’s life by clicking here.
21. Johnny Nash, chart-topping singer, 80
Johnny Nash, whose smash hit song, “I Can See Clearly Now,” went on to become a worldwide anthem, died from natural causes Oct. 6 at the age of 80.
The Associated Press reported that the 1972 song was “written by Nash while recovering from cataract surgery.” The song was performed by everybody from Ray Charles to Jimmy Cliff.
His relationship with Bob Marley was well documented.
“Nash brought Marley to London in the early 1970s when Nash was the bigger star internationally and with Marley gave an impromptu concert at a local boys school. Nash’s covers of ‘Stir It Up’ and ‘Guava Jelly’ helped expose Marley’s writing to a general audience. The two also collaborated on the ballad ‘You Poured Sugar On Me,’ which appeared on the ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ album,” the AP wrote in its obituary.
22. Gale Sayers, former Chicago Bears star and football legend, 77Source:Getty
Legendary NFL running back Gale Sayers has died at the age of 77 after battling dementia since being diagnosed in 2013. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1965-71 after setting records at the University of Kansas and earning the nickname, the “Kansas Comet.”
In September 2013, Sayers sued the NFL, claiming the league negligently handled his repeated head injuries during his career. The case was withdrawn after Sayers claimed it was filed without his permission, but he filed a new lawsuit in January 2014 along with six other former players.
23. Pamela Hutchinson, singer, 61Source:Getty
Pamela Hutchinson, a singer in the R&B trio The Emotions, died on Sept.18 at the age of 61. TV One reported that she died following “health challenges she’d been battling for several years.”
Read more about Pamela Hutchinson’s life by clicking here.
Picturd: The Emotions, from left: Pamela Hutchinson, Wanda Hutchinson and Sheila Hutchinson.
24. Steve Carter, playwright, 90
“Steve Carter, an award-winning playwright who explored the African-American and Caribbean-American experiences with incisiveness, humor and a willingness to wrestle with difficult themes, including hatred, revenge and forgiveness, died on Tuesday in Tomball, Texas. He was 90.”
25. Roy Hammond, singer, 81
“Roy Hammond, a soul singer, songwriter and producer with an impressive catalog in the 1960s and ’70s who produced a song that became one of hip-hop’s foundational samples, died on Wednesday at his home in Allendale, S.C. He was 81.”
26. Toots Hibbert, reggae singer, 77Source:Getty
Toots Hibbert, a reggae icon who was the lead singer of the Maytals, died Sept. 11 in Jamaica following hospitalization with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. However, there was no cause of death immediately reported.
Hibbert’s family made the announcement Sept. 11 on the Facebook page for Toots & the Maytals:
“It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.
27. Lou Brock, baseball legend, 81
Lou Brock, who stole the second-most number of bases during his legendary career that spanned nearly two decades and included leading the St. Louis Cardinals to two World Series wins in the 1960s, died Sept. 6. He was 81 years old.
28. Sylvester Francis, cultural historian, 73Source:YouTube/Mike Yearling
“Sylvester Francis, the founder of the small but highly respected Backstreet Cultural museum that features an array of exhibits from various aspects of African American culture in New Orleans neighborhoods,” died Sept. 2 at the age of 73,” the Associated Press reported.
29. James S. Jackson, psychologist
James S. Jackson, the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, and Director and Research Professor of the Institute for Social Research, has died, according to a tweet from the Program for Research on Black Americans.
According to Jackson’s official bio on the National Science Board’s website, the social psychologist has held the following past positions: Chair, Social Psychology Training Program and Director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics, the Program for Research on Black Americans, and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, all at the University of Michigan; Chair of the Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Chair of the Section on Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Task Force on Minority Issues of the Geronontological Society of America, the Committee on International Relations and the Association for the Advancement of Psychology of the American Psychological Association; and National President of the Association of Black Psychologists and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). He was also president of the Consortium of Social Science Associations at the time of his death.
30. John Thompson, basketball coaching legend, 78Source:Getty
John Thompson, the legendary college basketball coach at Georgetown University who became the first Black head coach to win an NCAA championship, has died at the age of 78. He reportedly died Aug. 31. His cause of death was not immediately reported.
Thompson is not only responsible for the careers of dozens of NBA players, but he is also responsible for championing their educations and amassing a graduation rate for his mostly Black players of 97 percent. He coached stars like Allen Iverson and Patrick Ewing and helped the future #1 NBA picks to realize their individual greatness both on and off the court.
31. Chadwick Boseman, actor, 43Source:WENN
Chadwick Boseman, an actor who portrayed a number of Black historical figures but came to prominence by starring in the blockbuster hit “Black Panther,” died Aug. 28 at the age of 43 after a yearslong battle with colon cancer.
The Howard University graduate has filmed movies in which he’s starred as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, to name but a few. His young age of death drew attention to the racial disparities associated with colon cancer, which disproportionately affects Black people.
32. Chi Chi DeVayne, reality TV star, 34Source:Getty
Chi Chi DeVayne, a star on the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” TV show, has died at the age of 34. DeVayne’s mother confirmed the death to CNN. However, the cause of death was not immediately announced.
Born Zavion Davenport, DeVayne was featured in two seasons of the reality-contest show that rewards its winner with tens of thousands of dollars in prize money.
33. Bob Ryland, first Black tennis pro, 100
Bob Ryland, the first Black tennis player to go professional, died Aug. 2. He was 100 years old. The Washington Post reported that Ryland’s cause of death stemmed from “complications from aspiration pneumonia.”
34. James “Kamala the Ugandan” Harris, former pro wrestler, 70
Harris shot to fame in the 1980s heyday of pro wrestling, battling superstars such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and The Undertaker for World Wrestling Entertainment, then known as the WWF, or World Wrestling Federation,” the Huff Post reported.
35. Herman Cain, former presidential candidate, 74
Herman Cain died July 30 at the age of 74 after being hospitalized with the coronavirus. The former presidential candidate, who was once considered by President Donald Trump for the Federal Reserve, was hospitalized in Atlanta on July 1, just two days after testing positive for COVID-19. Less than two weeks before receiving his diagnosis, Cain attended a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was surrounded by other attendees, none of whom were wearing a mask or protective gear.
Cain, a survivor of stage 4 colon cancer, was a business executive and board chairman of a branch of Kansas City’s Federal Reserve Bank before becoming involved in Republican politics. He ran for president as a Republican in 2000 and 2012. Prior to that, Cain was a high ranking executive with several food companies, including working at the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza for more than a decade.
36. Stanley Robinson, former college basketball star, 32
Stanley Robinson died at the age of 32, according to reports on July 22. There was no cause or date of death immediately reported for the former college basketball star and professional basketball player.
37. John Lewis, civil rights icon and longtime Congressman, 80Source:Getty
Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the iconic civil rights pioneer who went on to become one of the most powerful men in Congress, has died. He was 80 years old. Lewis died July 17 following a battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that he announced late last year. You can read more about his legendary life by clicking here.
Pictured: John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial to participants in the March on Washington.
38. Rev. C.T. Vivian, civil rights pioneer associated with Martin Luther King, 95Source:Getty
The Rev. C.T. Vivian, a civil rights leader whose close association with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped fuel efforts toward achieving racial equality, died July 17 at the age of 95. Click here to read more about his life.
Pictured: Rev. Vivian recalls his civil rights experiences from the pulpit of the renovated Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Jan. 19, 2002.
39. Jas ‘JasFly’ Waters, TV writer, 39
Jas Waters, a television writer and former journalist who rose to prominence as a cast member on the reality TV show, “Gossip Game,” has died at the age of 39. The cause and date of her death were unclear. According to her IMDB page, Waters used to write for the hit TV show “This Is Us” before moving on to writing for the Showtime series, “KIDDING.”
“Waters spent 9 years working in Film Production and Television Development, on everything from Spiderman 1 & 2, Hardball, Save The Last Dance, MTV’s Real World, Barbershop 1 & 2 and the NBC’s ER,” her IMDB page says. “In 2007, Waters created her own entertainment blog, which ran for three years averaging 700,000 views a day and in 2012, Waters landed her own column in VIBE Magazine.”
May she rest in peace.
40. Wes Unseld, NBA Hall of Famer, 74Source:Getty
Wes Unseld, the legendary NBA center who led the Washington Bullets to the franchise’s only championship, died June 2. He was 74 years old.
41. Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, former White House butler, 91
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, a former longtime butler who worked in the White House, died in May following complications from the coronavirus. He was 91 years old. Jerman served 11 presidents, including Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black commander-in-chief. Fox News reported that “Jerman worked at the White House from 1957 to 2012 as a cleaner, a doorman, and butler.”
42. Shad Gaspard, pro wrestler, 39Source:Getty
Shad Gaspard, a professional wrestler-turned actor and author, was found dead on May 20 after he went missing while swimming at a beach in California. He was just 39 years old.
43. Gregory Tyree Boyce, actor, 30Source:Getty
Actor Gregory Tyree Boyce was found dead in his Las Vegas condo on May 13. Boyce was 30 years old. He and his girlfriend were found dead together. Natalie Adepoju was 27 years old. There was no cause of death reported with the deaths. Boyce was best known for his roles in the movies “Twilight” in 2008 and “Apocalypse” in 2018.
44. Bob Watson, former MLB star and manager, 74Source:Getty
Bob Watson, the former Houston Astros star player and general manager, died May 14. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was kidney disease.
45. Fred L. Davis, civil rights activist and Memphis official, 86
Fred L. Davis, the former longtime Memphis city council member and civil rights activist who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died May 12 following an illness. He was 86 years old. The Associated Press reported that “Davis sought a city resolution for the Memphis sanitation workers who went on strike in early 1968 to protest dangerous working conditions and low pay. The strike drew King to Memphis, and Davis joined the civil rights leader on a march down Beale Street that turned violent on March 28, 1968.”
46. Ty, Nigerian rapper in the UK, 47
Ty, a celebrated rapper in the UK who was an elder statesman of the local hip-hop scene, died May 7 following complications from the coronavirus. He was 47 years old.
According to the BBC, “Ty contracted coronavirus earlier this year, and a fundraising page set up in April said he had been ‘put in a medically induced coma to temporarily sedate to help his body receive the appropriate treatment.'”
47. Jimmy Glenn, boxing trainer, 89Source:Getty
Jimmy Glenn, the legendary boxing trainer who worked with some of the sport’s top fighters, died following complications from the coronavirus. He was 89 years old. Glenn had become a celebrated bar owner in New York City’s Times Square called Jimmy’s Corner. The Boxing Scene website reported Glenn’s death first.
48. Heyward Dotson, Columbia University basketball legend, 71
The New York Times reported that “Heyward Dotson, who helped lift Columbia University’s basketball team to its only Ivy League title, in 1968, and who later attended the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, died on May 1 in the Bronx. He was 71.”
49. Betty Wright, singer, 66Source:Getty
Betty Wright, the award-winning R&B soul singer whose signature song went on to become a sampling standard in hip-hop music, died Sunday morning. She was 66 years old. Wright, whose cause of death was not immediately reported, had a career that spanned decades and evolved from its gospel roots to rhythm and blues to pop, the latter of which won her a pair of Grammy Awards.
50. Little Richard, rock n’ roll pioneer, 87Source:Getty
Little Richard, the eccentric singer and musician who was an early pioneer of rock n’ roll, died May 9. The man who recorded inter-generational and timeless hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” was 87 years old.
51. Andre Harrell, hip-hop executive, 59Source:Getty
Andre Harrell, the man responsible for the iconic careers of Diddy, Mary J Blige, Jodeci and dozens of others, died May 8. He was 59 years old. You can read more about him by clicking here.
52. Bob Andy, reggae singer, 75Source:Getty
Bob Andy, a legendary reggae singer and songwriter, died March 27. He was 75 and died following “a short illness,” according to the Guardian. As part of duo Bob & Marcia with Marcia Griffiths, Andy “reached No 5 in the UK in 1970 with Young, Gifted and Black, an uptempo recording of the Nina Simone original. They also reached No 11 in 1971 with Pied Piper, which spent 13 weeks in the charts.”
53. Tony Allen, legendary African drummer, 79Source:Getty
Tony Allen, a pioneering percussionist from West Africa whose signature drumming pattern helped discover and fine-tune the Afrobeat genre of music, died April 30. His manager told the New York Times that Allen died following an aneurysm. He was 79 years old.
54. Al Edwards, former Texas State Rep. and Juneteenth champion, 83
Al Edwards, who as a Texas State Representative successfully wrote a bill to mark Juneteenth as the first Black emancipation celebration to receive official state recognition, died April 29. He was 83 years old. Edwards dies of natural causes, the Houston Defender reported.
55. Stezo, rapper and pioneering hip-hop dancer, 51
Steve Williams, the old school rapper who was more popularly known as Stezo, has reportedly died April 29 at the age of 51. Not only known for a series of cult hits in the late 1980s, but Stezo was also an accomplished hip-hop dancer who famously showed off his fancy footwork in the music video for EPMD’s “You Gots To Chill” in 1988. There was an outpouring of support and condolences posted to social media.
56. Ashley ‘Ms. Minnie’ Ross, reality TV star, 34
Ashley “Ms. Minnie” Ross, star of the Lifetime network reality TV show, “Little Women Atlanta,” died on April 27 after being in what her publicist called “a tragic hit and run car accident.” Ross was 34 years old.
57. Mike Huckaby, techno and house music pioneer and DJ, 54
“DJ Mike Huckaby, whose soulful, studied work made him one of the prominent early figures in Detroit techno and house music, died [April 24] after a lengthy hospitalization following a stroke,” the Detroit Free press reported. Huckaby tested positive for the coronavirus while he was hospitalized. He was 54 years old.
58. Don “Campbellock” Campbell, creator of locking dance style, 69
Don Campbell, the creator of locking, which later became a prominent feature of breakdancing, died on March 30, the New York Times reported. He was 69 years old. Campbell’s nickname was “Campbellock,” which was ultimately shortened to simply “locking,” the pioneering dance moves that came before “popping, b-boying and other styles that are often collected under the label hip-hop,” the Times wrote.
59. Cheryl A. Wall, literary scholar, 71
Cheryl A. Wall, an award-winning scholar of African American literature and a Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English at Rutgers University, died April 18. She was 71 years old and had planned to retire at the end of this school year, according to the university.
60. Gil Bailey, radio pioneer
Gil Bailey, the radio broadcaster and personality known as “The G0dfather” died April 13. His death came from complications after contracting the coronavirus, according to Jamaica Observer. The native Jamaican rose to prominence on radio stations with Caribbean music programming in the New York City area.
61. Grace F. Edwards, author, 87
Grace F. Edwards, a novelist whose work focused on her native Harlem, died Feb. 25. She was 87 years old. Her death was reported by the Amsterdam News on April 9.
62. Samuel Hargress Jr., owner of legendary Harlem nightclub, 83
Samuel Hargress Jr., the owner and operator of legendary New York City jazz and blues nightclub, Paris Blues, died following complications after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 83 years old. Hargress opened the club in 1969 and ran it for 51 years. The Harlem Bespoke blog reported his death.
63. Tarvaris Jackson, former NFL quarterback, 36Source:Getty
Former NFL quarterback Tarvaris Jackson died in a car accident in Alabama on April 12. He was just 36. Jackson, who graduated from Alabama State University — an HBCU — played in the NFL from 2006-2015 for the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills.
64. Chynna Marie Rogers, model turned rapper, 25
Chynna Marie Rogers, a model who later became a rapper, died April 8. She was just 25 years old. Her cause of death was reported on social media as a drug overdose.
65. Ahmed Ismail Hussein, Somali singer, 92
Ahmed Ismail Hussein, the legendary Somali singer and musician who was also popularly known as “Hudeydi,” was hospitalized in the UK after contracting the coronavirus. Nicknamed the “King of Oud,” a reference to the Arabic instrument resembling a guitar, died in a London hospital. His date of death was not immediately reported, but it was announced April 8.
66. Earl G. Graves, Sr., founder of Black Enterprise, 85Source:Getty
Earl G. Graves, Sr., who championed the intersection of Black people, the business world and personal finance on his way to founding the seminal Black Enterprise magazine and growing it into a bona fide multimedia conglomerate, died April 7 following complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 85 years old. Pictured: Earl G Graves, Sr. appearing in the Walt Disney Television News special “Black Businessmen.”
67. Bobby Mitchell, NFL player, 84
Bobby Mitchell, who played 11 seasons in the NFL player, died April 5 at the age of 84. Mitchell played for both the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins before he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1983.
68. Bill Withers, singer, 81Source:Getty
Bill Withers, whose smooth and soulful voice brought decades of positive messages of upliftment with his award-winning music that includes the hit songs, “Lean On Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lovely Day,” has died, according to a report on April 3. He was 81. The cause of death was attributed to heart complications. Pictured: Bill Withers performs on UK TV show in London in 1972.
69. Ellis Marsalis Jr., legendary jazz pianist, 85Source:Getty
Ellis Marsalis Jr., a legendary jazz pianist who is also the father of accomplished jazz musicians Branford and Wynton Marsalis, died April 1 from complications after contracting the coronavirus. He was 85 years old. Pictured: Ellis Marsalis performs during the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on May 7, 2017, in New Orleans.
70. Wallace Roney, jazz trumpeter, 59Source:Getty
Wallace Roney, a Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter who was associated with and influenced by the legendary Miles Davis, died March 31. His death was caused by complications after he contracted the coronavirus. He was just 59 years old. Pictured: Wallace Roney plays trumpet as he makes a guest appearance with the Ron Carter Foursight Quartet at the Blue Note Jazz Festival’s ‘The Legends Honor McCoy–McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, Roy Haynes’ concert at Central Park SummerStage, New York, New York, Aug. 4, 2016.
71. Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, civil right pioneer, 99Source:Getty
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Echols Lowery, who was also known as the dean of civil rights, died March 27. Lowery was widely regarded as the top lieutenant for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and contributed to the civil rights movement in the most profound of ways that include working to end segregation on buses in Mobile, Alabama, before Rosa Parks as well as being a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He died March 27 at the age of 98. Pictured: Lowery at his 96th Birthday Celebration at Rialto Center for the Arts on October 4, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
72. Emma Cooper-Harris, first African American Mayor of Anguilla, Mississippi
Emma Cooper-Harris, who was remembered as a “community organizer” and “a civil rights icon in Mississippi,” has died. She was the first African American mayor of the Mississippi town of Anguilla and also served as a minister at a local church.
73. Fred “Curly” Neal, Harlem Globetrotters legend, 77Source:Getty
Fred “Curly” Neal, the Harlem Globetrotters legend who thrilled audiences with his dazzling dribbling display that included his signature move of bouncing the ball while sliding on one knee, died March 26. He was 77 years old. Pictured: Harlem Globetrotter Fred “Curly” Neal visits SiriusXM Studio on February 13, 2012, in New York City.
74. Rev. Darius L. Swann, civil rights activist, 95
The Rev. Darius L. Swann, whose opposition to segregated schools led to the busing movement, died March 8. He was 95 years old.
75. Airickca Gordon-Taylor, civil rights activist and Emmett Till’s relative, 50
Airickca Gordon-Taylor, the daughter of Emmett Till’s cousin who had a career in bringing attention to his lynching death through a charitable foundation, died March 22 after suffering from “kidney problems for decades,” according to the Associated Press. She was 50 years old.
76. Manu Dibango, saxophonist, 86Source:Getty
Manu Dibango, the legendary saxophonist from Cameroon known for his 1972 hit, “Soul Makossa,” died March 24 following complications from the coronavirus. He was 86. Pictured: Manu Dibango performs during Celtic Connections Festival at The Old Fruit Market on January 26, 2014, in Glasgow, United Kingdom.
77. Barbara C. Harris, Episcopal Bishop, 89Source:Getty
Barbara C. Harris, the world’s first ordained Episcopal bishop who is a woman, died March 13. Pictured: Bishop Barbara Harris during service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Boston on Apr. 9, 1998.
78. Roger Mayweather, boxing champion and trainer, 58Source:Getty
Roger Mayweather, a former boxing champion and boxing trainer who is also the uncle of boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, died March 17. He was 58 years old. His death came one week after Josie Harris, Floyd Mayweather’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of three of his children, was found dead in California at the age of 40.
79. Josie Harris, former longtime girlfriend of Floyd Mayweather, 40
Josie Harris, Floyd Mayweather’s former longtime girlfriend, died Monday night, according to TMZ, which reported that she was found in her car at her home in Valencia, California. She was 40 years old.
80. Barbara Neely, author, 78
“Barbara Neely, an award-winning writer best known for her groundbreaking mystery series based on a Black woman sleuth named Blanche White, died earlier on March 2 after an unspecified illness,” Madame Noire reported.
81. Danny Tidwell, dancer, 35
Danny Tidwell, who rose to fame as a contestant and finalist on the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance?” was killed in a car crash on March 6. He was just 35 years old.
82. Sam “The Man” Burns, DC house music DJ, diesSource:facebook
Sam “The Man” Burns, a legendary DJ in Washington, D.C., died March 7. Burns’ career spanned more than 40 years of spinning dance and house music in his native District of Columbia and has had a lasting effect on the city’s nightlife scene.
83. McCoy Tyner, legendary jazz pianist, 81Source:Getty
Legendary jazz musician and pianist, McCoy Tyner, died March 6. The renowned musician was a key figure in John Coltrane‘s jazz quartet. He was 81 years old. Pictured: McCoy Tyner performing at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 18, 2005.
84. Katherine Johnson, 101
“Hidden Figures” NASA mathematician died on Feb. 24 at age 101.
85. B. Smith, 70
B. Smith, restaurateur and lifestyle maven, died at age 70 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.
86. Pop Smoke, 20Source:Getty
Up-and-coming Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, known for his record “Welcome To The Party,” was shot and killed in Hollywood Hills on the morning of Feb. 19. The rapper was at a Hollywood Hills home that he may have been renting when at least four men were suspected of breaking into the property wearing hoodies and masks, according to law enforcement sources. Multiple fires were shot, striking and critically wounding the Brooklyn rapper. The men, who have not yet been identified, were seen fleeing the scene on foot. It is unclear Pop Smoke he knew his killers. However, it has been reported that there was a party or gathering at the home before the alleged home invasion took place.
Pop Smoke was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood, where he was pronounced dead. He was 20 years old.
87. Ja’Net DuBois, 74Source:Getty
Famed actress Ja’Net DuBois, who played the role of Willona Woods on “Good Times,” passed away in her sleep unexpectedly on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
88. Esther Scott, 66Source:Getty
Esther Scott, known for her roles in “Boyz N The Hood,” “90210,” “Birth of a Nation” and more, died on Feb. 14 after suffering a heart attack days prior.
89. Isadora Perkins-Boyd, ‘Super-Centenarian,’ 111
Isadora Perkins-Boyd, one of the oldest people in the U.S., died Jan. 24 in her native South Carolina at the age of 111. Her obituary referred to her in part as an “American Super-Centenarian.”
90. Nathaniel Jones, former federal judge, 93
Nathaniel Jones, a former federal judge in Cincinnati, died on Jan. 26 at the age of 93. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Jones “had a 23-year career on the federal appeals court bench in Cincinnati” and that he “never wavered in his commitment to civil rights.”
91. Kobe Bryant, NBA legend, 41Source:Getty
Legendary NBA champion Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The former Los Angeles Lakers star was just 41 years old. Emergency personnel responded to the accident, but there were no survivors. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was on the helicopter along with seven other people who all died, as well.
92. Jimmy Heath jazz saxophonist, 93Source:Getty
Jimmy Heath, a jazz saxophonist who played with the genres greats including John Coltrane and Miles Davis, died from natural causes at the age of 93. Pictured: Heath plays tenor saxophone while performing with his Big Band at the 4th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park in New York, New York, Aug. 25, 1996. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)
93. Yolanda Carr, mother of Atatiana JeffersonSource:S. Lee Merritt
Yolanda Carr, the mother of Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot and killed by a Texas police officer inside of her home, died Jan. 9. Carr’s death followed the death of Jefferson’s father, meaning the police officer effectively wiped out two generations of one family in just a few short months with his misguided shooting of Jefferson in November 2019.
94. Roscoe Vance, journalist, 71
The legendary sports journalist who covered the NBA and HBCU sports died Jan. 9 at the age of 71.
95. Nick Gordon, ex-boyfriend of Bobbi Kristina, 30Source:Getty
Nick Gordon, who was most famous for his relationship with Bobbi Kristina, died on Jan. 1 of an overdose. He was 30 years old.
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