A lauded writer who brought to light stories overshadowed by prejudice. An actress and singer who helped embody the manufactured innocence of the 1950s. A self-made billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice ran for president.
This year saw the deaths of people who shifted culture through prose, pragmatism and persistence. It also witnessed tragedy, in talent struck down in its prime.
In 2019, the political world lost a giant in U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who died in October. He was born the son of a sharecropper, became a lawyer, then an influential congressman and champion of civil rights.
Another influential political figure, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, died in July. Stevens was appointed to the high court as a Republican but became the leader of its liberal wing and a proponent of abortion rights and consumer protections.
Wealth, fame and a confident prescription for the nation’s economic ills propelled H. Ross Perot ‘s 1992 campaign against President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. He recorded the highest percentage for an independent or third-party candidate since 1912. He died in July.
In April, Hollywood lost director John Singleton, whose 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood” was praised as a realistic and compassionate take on race, class, peer pressure and family. He became the first black director to receive an Oscar nomination and the youngest at 24.
Doris Day, a top box-office draw and recording artist who died in May, stood for the 1950s ideal of innocence and G-rated love, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe. She received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.
Here is a roll call of some influential figures who died in 2019 (cause of death cited for younger people, if available):
Eugene “Mean Gene” Okerlund, 76. His deadpan interviews of pro wrestling superstars like “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan made him a ringside fixture in his own right. Jan. 2.
Bob Einstein, 76. The veteran comedy writer and performer known for “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and his spoof daredevil character Super Dave Osborne. Jan. 2.
Daryl Dragon, 76. The cap-wearing “Captain” of Captain & Tennille who teamed with thenwife Toni Tennille on such easy listening hits as “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Muskrat Love.” Jan. 2.
Harold Brown, 91. As defense secretary in the Carter administration, he championed cutting-edge fighting technology during a tenure that included the failed rescue of hostages in Iran. Jan 4.
Carol Channing, 97. The ebullient musical comedy star who delighted American audiences in almost 5,000 performances as the scheming Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway and beyond. Jan. 15.
Harris Wofford, 92. A former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and longtime civil rights activist who helped persuade John F. Kennedy to make a crucial phone call to the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960 presidential campaign. Jan. 21.
Russell Baker, 93. The genial but sharp-witted writer who won Pulitzer Prizes for his humorous columns in The New York Times and a moving autobiography of his impoverished Baltimore childhood. He later hosted television’s “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS. Jan 21. Complications after a fall.
James Ingram, 66. The Grammy winning singer who launched multiple hits on the R&B and pop charts and earned two Oscar nominations for his songwriting. Jan. 29.
Harold Bradley, 93. A Country Music Hall of Fame guitarist who played on hundreds of hit country records and along with his brother, famed producer Owen Bradley, helped craft “The Nashville Sound.” Jan. 31.
Kristoff St. John, 52. An actor best known for playing Neil Winters on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Feb. 4. Heart disease.
Frank Robinson, 83. The Hall of Famer was the first black manager in Major League Baseball and the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues. Feb. 7.
John Dingell, 92. The former congressman was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history at 59 years and a master of legislative deal-making who was fiercely protective of Detroit’s auto industry. Feb. 7.
Jan-Michael Vincent, 73. The “Airwolf ” television star whose sleek good looks belied a troubled personal life. Feb. 10.
Betty Ballantine, 99. She was half of a groundbreaking husband and wife publishing team that helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as “The Hobbit” and “Fahrenheit 451.” Feb. 12.
Lyndon LaRouche Jr., 96. The political extremist who ran for president in every election from 1976 to 2004, including a campaign waged from federal prison. Feb. 12.
Lee Radziwill, 85. She was the stylish jet setter and socialite who found friends, lovers and other adventures worldwide while bonding and competing with her sister Jacqueline Kennedy. Feb. 15.
Wallace Smith Broecker, 87. A scientist who raised early alarms about climate change and popularized the term “global warming.” Feb. 18.
David Horowitz, 81. His “Fight Back!” syndicated program made him perhaps the best-known consumer reporter in the U.S. Feb. 21.
Peter Tork, 77. A talented singer songwriter and instrumentalist whose musical skills were often overshadowed by his role as the goofy, lovable bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees. Feb. 21.
Stanley Donen, 94. A giant of the Hollywood musical who, through such classics as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Funny Face,” helped provide some of the most joyous sounds and images in movie history. Feb. 21.
Katherine Helmond, 89. An Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress who played two very different matriarchs on the ABC sitcoms “Who’s the Boss?” and “Soap.” Feb. 23.
Jerry Merryman, 86. He was one of the inventors of the handheld electronic calculator. Feb. 27. Complications of heart and kidney failure.
Andre Previn, 89. The pianist, composer and conductor whose broad reach took in the worlds of Hollywood, jazz and classical music. Feb. 28.
Keith Flint, 49. The fiery front-man of British dance-electronic band The Prodigy. March 4. Found dead by hanging in his home.
Luke Perry, 52. He gained instant heartthrob status as wealthy rebel Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” March 4. Stroke.
Birch Bayh, 91. A former U.S. senator who championed the federal law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and sports. March 14.
Dick Dale, 83. His pounding, blaringly loud power-chord instrumentals on songs like “Miserlou” and “Let’s Go Trippin’” earned him the title King of the Surf Guitar. March 16.
Billy Adams, 79. A Rockabilly Hall of Famer who wrote and recorded the rockabilly staple “Rock, Pretty Mama.” March 30.
Nipsey Hussle, 33. A Grammy-nominated rapper. March 31. Killed in a shooting.
Sydney Brenner, 92. A Nobel Prize-winning biologist who helped decipher the genetic code and whose research on a roundworm sparked a new field of human disease research. April 5.
Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, 97. The silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and went on to serve six terms in the U.S. Senate. April 6.
Marilynn Smith, 89. One of the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour whose 21 victories, two majors and endless support of her tour led to her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. April 9.
Richard “Dick” Cole, 103. The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who carried out the daring U.S. attack on Japan during World War II. April 9.
Charles Van Doren, 93. The dashing young academic whose meteoric rise and fall as a corrupt game show contestant in the 1950s inspired the movie “Quiz Show” and served as a cautionary tale about the staged competitions of early television. April 9.
Georgia Engel, 70. She played the charmingly innocent, small-voiced Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and amassed a string of other TV and stage credits. April 12.
John Havlicek, 79. The Boston Celtics great whose steal of Hal Greer’s inbounds pass in the final seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia 76ers remains one of the most famous plays in NBA history. April 25.
Richard Lugar, 87. A former U.S. senator and foreign policy sage known for leading efforts to help the former Soviet states dismantle and secure much of their nuclear arsenal but whose reputation for working with Democrats cost him his final campaign. April 28.
John Singleton, 51. A director who made one of Hollywood’s most memorable debuts with the Oscar-nominated “Boyz N the Hood” and continued over the following decades to probe the lives of black communities in his native Los Angeles and beyond. April 29. Taken off life support after a stroke.
Peter Mayhew, 74. The towering actor who donned a huge, furry costume to give life to the rugged-and-beloved character of Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and two other films. April 30.
Peggy Lipton, 72. A star of the groundbreaking late 1960s TV show “The Mod Squad” and the 1990s show “Twin Peaks.” May 11. Cancer.
Doris Day, 97. The sunny blond actress and singer whose frothy comedic roles opposite the likes of Rock Hudson and Cary Grant made her one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and ‘60s and a symbol of wholesome American womanhood. May 13.
Tim Conway, 85. The impish second banana to Carol Burnett who won four Emmy Awards on her TV variety show, starred in “McHale’s Navy” and later voiced the role of Barnacle Boy for “Spongebob Squarepants.” May 14.
I.M. Pei, 102. The versatile, globe-trotting architect who revived the Louvre with a giant glass pyramid and captured the spirit of rebellion at the multi-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May 16.
Bill Buckner, 69. A star hitter who made one of the biggest blunders in baseball history when he let Mookie Wilson’s trickler roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series. May 27.
Thad Cochran, 81. A former U.S. senator who served 45 years in Washington and used seniority to steer billions of dollars to his home state of Mississippi. May 30.
Leon Redbone, 69. The blues and jazz artist whose growly voice, Panama hat and cultivated air of mystery made him seem like a character out of the ragtime era or the Depression-era Mississippi Delta. May 30.
Frank Lucas, 88. The former Harlem drug kingpin whose life and lore inspired the 2007 film “American Gangster.” May 30.
Dr. John, 77. The New Orleans singer and piano player who blended black and white musical styles with a hoodoo-infused stage persona and gravelly bayou drawl. June 6.
Lew Klein, 91. A broadcast pioneer who helped create “American Bandstand” and launched the careers of Dick Clark and Bob Saget. June 12.
Gloria Vanderbilt, 95. The intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and ‘80s as a designer jeans pioneer. June 17.
Judith Krantz, 91. A writer whose million-selling novels such as “Scruples” and “Princess Daisy” engrossed readers worldwide with their steamy tales of the rich and beautiful. June 22.
Dave Bartholomew, 100. A giant of New Orleans music and a rock n’ roll pioneer who, with Fats Domino, co-wrote and produced such classics as “Ain’t That a Shame,” “I’m Walkin’” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.” June 23.
Tyler Skaggs, 27. The left-handed pitcher who was a regular in the Los Angeles Angels’ starting rotation since late 2016 and struggled with injuries repeatedly in that time. July 1. Choked on his own vomit and had a toxic mix of alcohol and painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system.
Lee Iacocca, 94. The auto executive and master pitchman who put the Mustang in Ford’s lineup in the 1960s and became a corporate folk hero when he resurrected Chrysler 20 years later. July 2.
Cameron Boyce, 20. An actor best known for his role as the teenage son of Cruella de Vil in the Disney Channel franchise “Descendants.” July 6. Seizure.
Martin Charnin, 84. He made his Broadway debut playing a Jet in the original “West Side Story” and went on to become a Broadway director and a lyricist who won a Tony Award for the score of the eternal hit “Annie.” July 6.
H. Ross Perot, 89. The colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from delivering newspapers as a boy to building his own information technology company and twice mounted outsider campaigns for president. July 9. Leukemia.
Rip Torn, 88. The free-spirited Texan who overcame his quirky name to become a distinguished actor in television, theater and movies, such as “Men in Black,” and win an Emmy in his 60s for “The Larry Sanders Show.” July 9.
Jim Bouton, 80. The former New York Yankees pitcher who shocked and angered the conservative baseball world with the tell-all book “Ball Four.” July 10.
John Paul Stevens, 99. The bow-tied, independent-thinking, Republican-nominated justice who unexpectedly emerged as the Supreme Court’s leading liberal. July 16.
Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, 85. The former Boston Red Sox infielder was the first black player on the last major league team to field one. July 17.
Art Neville, 81. A member of one of New Orleans’ storied musical families, the Neville Brothers, and a founding member of the groundbreaking funk band The Meters. July 22.
Chris Kraft, 95. The founder of NASA’s mission control. July 22.
Harold Prince, 91. A Broadway director and producer who pushed the boundaries of musical theater with such groundbreaking shows as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cabaret,” “Company” and “Sweeney Todd” and won a staggering 21 Tony Awards. July 31.
D.A. Pennebaker, 94. The Oscar winning documentary maker whose historic contributions to American culture and politics included immortalizing a young Bob Dylan in “Don’t Look Back” and capturing the spin behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in “The War Room.” Aug. 1.
Henri Belolo, 82. He co-founded the Village People and co-wrote their classic hits “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy.” Aug. 3.
Toni Morrison, 88. A pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature whose imaginative power in “Beloved,” “Song of Solomon” and other works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race. Aug. 5.
Peter Fonda, 79. The actor was the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right after both writing and starring in the counterculture classic “Easy Rider.” Aug. 16.
Cedric Benson, 36. A former NFL running back who was one of the most prolific rushers in NCAA and University of Texas history. Aug. 17. Motorcycle crash.
Jim Leavelle, 99. The longtime Dallas lawman who was captured in one of history’s most iconic photographs escorting President John F. Kennedy’s assassin as he was fatally shot. Aug. 29.
Valerie Harper, 80. She scored guffaws, stole hearts and busted TV taboos as the brash, selfdeprecating Rhoda Morgenstern on back-to-back hit sitcoms in the 1970s. Aug. 30.
Jimmy Johnson, 76. A founder of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and guitarist with the famed studio musicians “The Swampers.” Sept. 5.
T. Boone Pickens, 91. A brash and quotable oil tycoon who grew even wealthier through corporate takeover attempts. Sept. 11.
Eddie Money, 70. The rock star known for such hits as “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight.” Sept. 13. Esophageal cancer.
Phyllis Newman, 86. A Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran who became the first woman to host “The Tonight Show” before turning her attention to fight for women’s health. Sept. 15.
Ric Ocasek, 75. The Cars frontman whose deadpan vocal delivery and lanky, sunglassed look defined a rock era with chart-topping hits like “Just What I Needed.” Sept. 15.
Cokie Roberts, 75. The daughter of politicians and a pioneering journalist who chronicled Washington from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump for NPR and ABC News. Sept. 17. Complications from breast cancer.
David A. Jones Sr., 88. He invested $1,000 to start a nursing home company that eventually became the $37 billion health insurance giant Humana Inc. Sept. 18.
John Keenan, 99. He was the police official who led New York City’s manhunt for the “Son of Sam” killer and eventually took a case-solving confession from David Berkowitz. Sept. 19.
Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, 85. The 1955 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State and running back for the Detroit Lions. Sept. 20.
Joseph Wilson, 69. The former ambassador who set off a political firestorm by disputing U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion. Sept. 27.
Diahann Carroll, 84. The Oscar-nominated actress and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a non-servant role in a TV series as “Julia.” Oct. 4. Cancer.
Ginger Baker, 80. The volatile and propulsive drummer for Cream and other bands who wielded blues power and jazz finesse and helped shatter boundaries of time, tempo and style in popular music. Oct. 6.
Elijah E. Cummings, 68. A sharecropper’s son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Oct. 17. Complications from longstanding health problems.
Bill Macy, 97. The character actor whose hangdog expression was a perfect match for his role as the long-suffering foil to Bea Arthur’s unyielding feminist on the daring 1970s sitcom “Maude.” Oct. 17.
John Conyers, 90. The former congressman was one of the longest-serving members of Congress whose resolutely liberal stance on civil rights made him a political institution in Washington and back home in Detroit despite several scandals. Oct. 27.
Werner Gustav Doehner, 90. He was the last remaining survivor of the Hindenburg disaster, who suffered severe burns to his face, arms and legs before his mother managed to toss him and his brother from the burning airship. Nov. 8.
William Doyle Ruckelshaus, 87. He famously quit his job in the Justice Department rather than carry out President Richard Nixon’s order to fire the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. Nov. 27.
Irving Burgie, 95. A composer who helped popularize Caribbean music and co-wrote the enduring Harry Belafonte hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” Nov. 29.
Juice WRLD, 21. A rapper who launched his career on Sound- Cloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut and rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit “Lucid Dreams.” Dec. 8. Died after being treated for opioid use during a police search.
René Auberjonois, 79. A prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows “Benson” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and his part in the 1970 film “M.A.S.H.” playing Father Mulcahy. Dec. 8.
Caroll Spinney, 85. He gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on “Sesame Street.” Dec. 8.
Paul Volcker, 92. The former Federal Reserve chairman who in the early 1980s raised interest rates to historic highs and triggered a recession as the price of quashing double-digit inflation. Dec. 8.
Pete Frates, 34. A former college baseball player whose battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease helped inspire the ALS ice bucket challenge that has raised more than $200 million worldwide. Dec. 9.
Marie Fredriksson, 61. The female half of the Swedish pop duo Roxette that achieve international success in the late 1980s and 1990s. Dec. 9.
Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson, 88. The moonshine runner turned NASCAR driver who won 50 races as a driver and 132 as an owner and was part of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. Dec. 20.
Lee Mendelson, 86. The producer who changed the face of the holidays when he brought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to television in 1965 and wrote the lyrics to its signature song, “Christmas Time Is Here.” Dec. 25.
Jerry Herman, 88. The Tony Award-winning composer who wrote the cheerful, good-natured music and lyrics for such classic shows as “Mame,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “La Cage aux Folles.” Dec. 26.
Don Imus, 79. Radio personality whose career was made and then undone by his acid tongue during a decades long rise to stardom and an abrupt public plunge after a nationally broadcast racial slur in 2007. Dec. 26.