Final goodbye: Recalling influential figures we lost in in 2021


By Bernard McGhee - Associated Press



They both carved out sterling reputations as military and political leaders over years of public service. But both also saw their legacies tarnished by their actions in the long, bloody war in Iraq.

Former U.S. Vice President Walter F. Mondale, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former Majority Leader Sen. Bob Dole are among the many noteworthy people who died in 2021.

Here is a roll call of some influential figures who died in 2021 (cause of death cited for younger people, if available):

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JANUARY

Paul Westphal, 70. A Hall of Fame NBA player who won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 1974 and later coached in the league and in college. Jan. 2.

Gerry Marsden, 78. The lead singer of the 1960s British group Gerry and the Pacemakers that had such hits as “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and the song that became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Jan. 3.

Tanya Roberts, 65. She captivated James Bond in “A View to a Kill” and appeared in the sitcom “That ’70s Show.” Jan. 4.

Tommy Lasorda, 93. The fiery baseball Hall of Fame manager who guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles and later became an ambassador for the sport he loved. Jan. 7.

Siegfried Fischbacher, 81. He was the surviving member of the magic duo Siegfried & Roy who entertained millions with illusions using rare animals. Jan. 13. Pancreatic cancer.

Phil Spector, 81. The eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder. Jan. 16.

Hank Aaron, 86. He endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record and gracefully left his mark as one of baseball’s greatest all-around players. Jan. 22.

Larry King, 87. The suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary people helped define American conversation for a half-century. Jan. 23.

Cloris Leachman, 94. An Oscar-winner for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in “The Last Picture Show” and a comedic delight as the fearsome Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein” and self-absorbed neighbor Phyllis on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Jan. 27.

Cicely Tyson, 96. The pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in “Sounder,” won a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88 and touched TV viewers’ hearts in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” Jan. 28.

John Chaney, 89. One of the nation’s leading basketball coaches and a commanding figure during a Hall of Fame career at Temple. Jan. 29.

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FEBRUARY

Dustin Diamond, 44. An actor best known for playing Screech on the hit ’90s sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” Feb. 1. Cancer.

Tony Trabert, 90. A five-time Grand Slam singles champion and former No. 1 player who went on to successful careers as a Davis Cup captain, broadcaster and executive. Feb. 3.

Christopher Plummer, 91. The dashing award-winning actor who played Captain von Trapp in the film “The Sound of Music” and at 82 became the oldest Academy Award acting winner in history. Feb. 5.

Leon Spinks, 67. He won Olympic gold and then shocked the boxing world by beating Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight title in only his eighth pro fight. Feb. 5.

George P. Shultz, 100. The former secretary of state was a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy who spent most of the 1980s trying to improve Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and forging a course for peace in the Middle East. Feb. 6.

Mary Wilson, 76. The longest-reigning original Supreme. Feb. 8.

Marty Schottenheimer, 77. He won 200 regular-season games with four NFL teams thanks to his “Martyball” brand of smash-mouth football but regularly fell short in the playoffs. Feb. 8.

Chick Corea, 79. He was a towering jazz pianist with a staggering 23 Grammy Awards who pushed the boundaries of the genre and worked alongside Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Feb. 9. Cancer.

Larry Flynt, 78. He turned his raunchy Hustler magazine into an empire while fighting numerous First Amendment court battles. Feb. 10.

Rush Limbaugh, 70. The talk radio host who ripped into liberals and laid waste to political correctness with a merry brand of malice that made him one of the most powerful voices on the American right. Feb. 17.

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MARCH

Vernon Jordan, 85. He rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to become a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer. March 1.

Roger Mudd, 93. The longtime political correspondent and anchor for NBC and CBS who once stumped Sen. Edward Kennedy by simply asking why he wanted to be president. March 9.

Elgin Baylor, 86. The Lakers’ 11-time NBA All-Star who soared through the 1960s with a high-scoring style of basketball that became the model for the modern player. March 22.

George Segal, 87. The banjo player turned actor who was nominated for an Oscar for 1966′s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and worked into his late 80s on the ABC sitcom “The Goldbergs.” March 23. Complications from bypass surgery.

Jessica Walter, 80. Her roles as a scheming matriarch in TV’s “Arrested Development” and a stalker in “Play Misty for Me” were in line with a career that drew on her astringent screen presence. March 24.

Larry McMurtry, 84. The prolific and popular author who took readers back to the old American West in his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lonesome Dove” and returned them to modern-day landscapes in works such as his emotional “Terms of Endearment.” March 25.

Bobby Brown, 96. An infielder who played on five World Series champions with the New York Yankees and later became a cardiologist and president of the American League. March 25.

G. Gordon Liddy, 90. A mastermind of the Watergate burglary and a radio talk show host after emerging from prison. March 30.

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APRIL

Prince Philip, 99. The irascible and tough-minded husband of Queen Elizabeth II who spent more than seven decades supporting his wife in a role that both defined and constricted his life. April 9.

DMX, 50. The iconic hip-hop artist behind the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” whose distinctively gruff voice and thoughtful messages in his rhymes made him one of rap’s biggest stars. April 9.

Bernard Madoff, 82. The infamous architect of an epic securities swindle that burned thousands of investors, outfoxed regulators and earned him a 150-year prison term. April 14.

Walter F. Mondale, 93. The former U.S. vice president was a liberal icon who lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won. April 19.

Jim Steinman, 73. The Grammy-winning composer who wrote Meat Loaf’s best-selling “Bat Out Of Hell” debut album as well as hits for Celine Dion, Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler. April 19. Kidney failure.

Michael Collins, 90. An Apollo 11 astronaut who orbited the moon alone while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their historic first steps on the lunar surface. April 28. Cancer.

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MAY

Olympia Dukakis, 89. The veteran stage and screen actor whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck.” May 1.

Bobby Unser, 87. A beloved three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and part of the only pair of brothers to capture “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” May 2.

Lloyd Price, 88. The singer-songwriter was an early rock ‘n’ roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee.” May 3.

Charles Grodin, 86. The actor and writer who scored as a caddish newlywed in “The Heartbreak Kid” and later had roles ranging from Robert De Niro’s counterpart in the comic thriller “Midnight Run” to the bedeviled father in the “Beethoven” comedies. May 18. Bone marrow cancer.

Lee Evans, 74. The record-setting sprinter who wore a black beret in a sign of protest at the 1968 Olympics then went onto a life of humanitarian work in support of social justice. May 19.

John Warner, 94. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Senate and was a longtime military expert who became famous as the sixth man to walk down the aisle with movie star Elizabeth Taylor. May 25.

B.J. Thomas, 78. The Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts with such hits as “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling.” May 29.

Gavin MacLeod, 90. The veteran supporting actor who achieved fame as sardonic TV news writer Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and stardom playing cheerful Capt. Stubing on “The Love Boat.” May 29.

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JUNE

F. Lee Bailey, 87. The celebrity attorney who defended O.J. Simpson, Patricia Hearst and the alleged Boston Strangler, but whose legal career halted when he was disbarred in two states. June 3.

Ned Beatty, 83. The Oscar-nominated character actor who in half a century of American movies, including “Deliverance,” “Network” and “Superman,” was a booming, indelible presence in even the smallest parts. June 13.

Frank Bonner, 79. He played a brash salesman with an affection for polyester plaid suits on the TV comedy “WKRP in Cincinnati.” June 16. Complications of Lewy body dementia.

Donald Rumsfeld, 88. The two-time defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate whose reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern U.S. military was unraveled by the long and costly Iraq war. June 29.

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JULY

Gloria Richardson, 99. An influential civil rights pioneer whose determination not to back down while protesting racial inequality was captured in a photograph as she pushed away the bayonet of a National Guardsman. July 15.

Biz Markie, 57. A hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend.” July 16.

Dusty Hill, 72. The long-bearded bassist for the Texas blues rock trio ZZ Top. July 28.

Ron Popeil, 86. The quintessential TV pitchman and inventor known to generations of viewers for hawking products including the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone and the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ. July 28.

Carl Levin, 87. A powerful voice on military issues in Washington and a staunch supporter of the auto industry back home in Michigan during his tenure in the U.S. Senate. July 29.

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AUGUST

Markie Post, 70. She played the public defender in the 1980s sitcom “Night Court” and was a regular presence on television for four decades. Aug. 7.

Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, 70. A founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang known for such hits as “Celebration” and “Get Down On It.” Aug. 7.

Bobby Bowden, 91. The folksy Hall of Fame coach who built Florida State into an unprecedented college football dynasty. Aug. 8.

Nanci Griffith, 68. The Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter from Texas whose literary songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” celebrated the South. Aug. 13.

Tom T. Hall, 85. The singer-songwriter who composed “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and sang about life’s simple joys as country music’s consummate blue collar bard. Aug. 20.

Don Everly, 84. He was one-half of the pioneering Everly Brothers whose harmonizing country rock hits affected a generation of rock ‘n’ roll music. Aug. 21.

Charlie Watts, 80. The self-effacing Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s greatest rhythm sections and used his “day job” to support his enduring love of jazz. Aug. 24.

Ed Asner, 91. The burly and prolific character actor who became a star in middle age as the gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant, first in the hit comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later in the drama “Lou Grant.” Aug. 29.

Michael Constantine, 94. An Emmy Award-winning character actor who reached worldwide fame playing the Windex bottle-toting father of the bride in the 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Aug. 31.

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SEPTEMBER

Willard Scott, 87. The beloved weatherman who charmed viewers of NBC’s “Today” show with his self-deprecating humor and cheerful personality. Sept. 4.

Norm Macdonald, 61. A comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer who was “Weekend Update” host when Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson provided comic fodder during the 1990s. Sept. 14.

Jane Powell, 92. The bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood’s golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding.” Sept. 16.

Melvin Van Peebles, 89. The groundbreaking filmmaker, playwright and musician whose work ushered in the “blaxploitation” wave of the 1970s and influenced filmmakers long after. Sept. 21.

Michael Renzi, 80. During a storied musical career, he worked with Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé, Lena Horne and some of the other biggest names in jazz and pop, and for years was also the musical director of “Sesame Street.” Sept. 29.

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OCTOBER

Betty Lynn, 95. The film and television actor who was best known for her role as Barney Fife’s sweetheart Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Oct. 16.

Colin Powell, 84. The trailblazing soldier and diplomat whose sterling reputation of service to Republican and Democratic presidents was stained by his faulty claims to justify the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq. Oct. 18.

Peter Scolari, 66. A versatile character actor whose television roles included a yuppie producer on “Newhart” and a closeted dad on “Girls” and who was on Broadway with longtime friend Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy.” Oct. 22.

Mort Sahl, 94. A satirist who helped revolutionize stand-up comedy during the Cold War with his running commentary on politicians and current events and became a favorite of a new, restive generation of Americans. Oct. 26.

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NOVEMBER

Dean Stockwell, 85. A top Hollywood child actor who gained new success in middle age in the sci-fi series “Quantum Leap” and in a string of indelible performances in film, including David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas” and Jonathan Demme’s “Married to the Mob.” Nov. 7.

Max Cleland, 79. He lost three limbs to a hand grenade in Vietnam and later became a groundbreaking Veterans Administration chief and U.S. senator from Georgia until an attack ad questioning his patriotism derailed his reelection. Nov. 9. Congestive heart failure.

F.W. de Klerk, 85. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela and as South Africa’s last apartheid president oversaw the end of the country’s white minority rule. Nov. 11.

William Sterling Cary, 94. A pioneering minister and civil rights activist who was the first Black person in prominent church leadership roles, including president of the National Council of Churches. Nov. 14.

Stephen Sondheim, 91. The songwriter who reshaped the American musical theater in the second half of the 20th century with his intelligent, intricately rhymed lyrics, his use of evocative melodies and his willingness to tackle unusual subjects. Nov. 26.

Lee Elder, 87. He broke down racial barriers as the first Black golfer to play in the Masters and paved the way for Tiger Woods and others to follow. Nov. 28.

Arlene Dahl, 96. The actor whose charm and striking red hair shone in such Technicolor movies of the 1950s as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Three Little Words.” Nov. 29.

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DECEMBER

Bob Dole, 98. He overcame disabling war wounds to become a sharp-tongued Senate leader, a Republican presidential candidate and then a symbol of his dwindling generation of World War II veterans. Dec. 5.

Al Unser, 82. One of only four drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 a record four times. Dec. 9.

Michael Nesmith, 78. The singer-songwriter, author, actor-director and entrepreneur who will likely be best remembered as the wool-hatted, guitar-strumming member of the made-for-television rock band The Monkees. Dec. 10.

Anne Rice, 80. The novelist whose lush, best-selling gothic tales, including “Interview With the Vampire,” reinvented the blood-drinking immortals as tragic antiheroes. Dec. 11.

Desmond Tutu, 90, South African Anglican prelate and civil rights activist, Nobel Prize laureate. Dec. 26.

Harry Reid, 82, longtime U.S. Senator from Nevada and Senate Majority Leader 2007-2015. Dec. 28.

John Madden, 85, NFL Hall-of Famer as a coach and a sports broadcaster. Dec. 28.

By Bernard McGhee

Associated Press