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Home Deaths of Famous People

Deaths of Famous People

Sidney Poitier: Heart Failure, Dementia and Prostate Cancer

Sidney Poitier was the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, and his portrayal of real heroes helped to open the door for Black actors in the film industry. He received two Golden Globe Awards, a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film. He appeared in many top movies including The Defiant One, To Sir, With Love, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and A Raisin in the Sun.

Robert Durst, Pathological Killer

Robert Durst was a fabulously wealthy heir to one of the most powerful real estate companies in New York City, and a convicted murderer and suspected-serial killer who avoided appropriate punishment for more than 40 years by changing his name, disguising his face, moving from place to place, and finally dying while waiting for an appeal.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner

From 1934 to 1977, Al Capp wrote the most-read comic strip in North America, Li'l Abner, about hillbillies in the fictional town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. It had 60 million daily readers in more than 1000 newspapers in 28 countries. Li'l Abner Yokum, a stupid but good-natured hayseed, was the son of...

John Madden and Diabetes

John Madden was 32 years old when the Oakland Raiders hired him to become the youngest head coach ever in the National Football League. He went on never to have a losing season, with an outstanding 103-32-7 record in his 10 seasons with the team. They made the playoffs eight times and won Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977. His winning percentage of .759 remains the highest for an NFL coach with at least 100 victories. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at age 70 in 2006. After he retired from coaching in 1979, he arguably became even more famous as a career broadcaster.

Desmond Tutu Dies at 90 of Prostate Cancer

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu came from a very poor black family in South African during apartheid’s darkest hours to become Archbishop of Cape Town in 1985 at age 54. He led the movement to rid South Africa of its system of racial segregation and white minority rule. In that capacity, he had to fight incredible abuse.

Neil Fingleton, Game of Thrones Giant

At 7 feet, 7.5 inches, Neil Fingleton was the tallest man in the United Kingdom. He played basketball at the University of North Carolina and Holy Cross College and as a pro in the United States, Spain, China, Italy, Greece and England. He later became an actor who played Mag the Mighty in the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones and the villain, The Fisher King, in BBC’s Doctor Who.

Michael Nesmith of “The Monkees”

Mike Nesmith was a guitar player and writer of popular songs who was a member of the 1960s pop rock band “The Monkees.” The Monkees television show, which ran from 1966 to 1968, was a situation comedy series about a band that wanted to be the Beatles, but could not match their success. In reality, for a short time The Monkees did become as famous as the Beatles. They won an Emmy Award for outstanding comedy and had several number one Billboard chart songs, such as "Daydream Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville," and "I’m a Believer."

Bob Dole, Better than the Best

Bob Dole was a United States senator from Kansas for 27 years, from 1969 to 1996; the Republican Leader of the Senate for 11 years, the Senate Majority Leader for three years, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 and the vice presidential nominee in 1976. He died at age 99 from lung cancer after a lifetime service to our country, in spite of suffering many serious medical problems.

Stephen Sondheim and Sudden Death in Older People

Stephen Sondheim was one of the most popular and best-known American composers of the 20th century. His many musicals included West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd. He won nine Tony Awards, an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Glen Campbell’s Dementia

Glen Campbell was the son of a sharecropper who went from childhood poverty to wealth and world fame as a country singer, but he spent his last several years suffering from dementia and died from its complications at age 81 on August 8, 2017.

Winston Churchill, the Most Influential Man of the 20th Century

During World War II, Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill saved the free world with his inspirational speeches and by refusing to hand Britain over to Hitler, even though some members of the royal family and Parliament wanted to surrender their country.

The Sad Story of Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard sang together to form "The Carpenters", one of the leading singing groups in the 1970s. When she died of heart failure at age 32, she made the world painfully aware of a disease called anorexia nervosa.

Clark Gable’s Heart Attacks

Clark Gable had just about every known lifestyle risk factor for the heart attack that killed him at the very young age of 59. Perhaps best known for his role as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind (1939), he was the leading man in more than 60 motion pictures and was nominated three times for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Colin Powell: Vaccination to Protect the Immune-Compromised

Colin Powell was the first African-American Secretary of State, the 16th U.S. national security advisor and a 4-star general who was the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He died from COVID-19 because he had multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer that prevented his immune system from functioning normally.

My Favorite Poet, Edgar Allan Poe

Halloween is a good time to think about ghosts and spooky deaths. I think that the greatest poem for Halloween is The Raven, written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1845. It’s my favorite poem. Every sentence is a metaphor to teach us about philosophy, sadness, death, fatalism and life. Every word has a musical tone.

What Killed Mario Lanza at Age 38?

On October 7, 1959, singer Mario Lanza died suddenly at age 38 of a heart attack just as he was getting ready to check out of a medical clinic in Rome. He didn't mean to kill himself, but his entire adult life was full of behaviors and actions that are known to cause heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and premature death.

George Jones – Sad Life, Sad Songs

George Jones lived and sang about sorrow and poverty, and became one of the greatest country music singers of all time, He recorded more than 900 songs and charted the most country hits, paying the price of spending a tremendous amount of time on the road,

Alice Coachman, First Olympic Gold to a Black Woman

Alice Coachman should have been one of the most famous female athletes of all time. She was the 1948 Olympic high jump champion and the winner of 25 national track and field championships, including ten consecutive U.S. high jump championships and five national outdoor 50 meter sprint championships, and was the star guard on...

Johnny Cash, the Man in Black

Johnny Cash wrote more than 1500 country songs and became America's most famous country singer. His fans included every president in his lifetime from Richard Nixon on, and almost everyone recognizes his voice.

Jim Fixx, Running Guru

A huge number of studies have shown that running helps to prevent heart attacks, so I couldn't believe the news that running guru Jim Fixx had died of a heart attack at age 52 after his daily run in Hardwick, Vermont. He was the guy who made running popular, healthful, and desirable.

Ed Asner: “Lou Grant,” “Elf” and “Up”

Ed Asner was an American actor and television star whose most famous character was Lou Grant, who first appeared on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in 1970. He was so well-liked that when the series ended in 1977, he was given his own show based on the same character for five more years.

Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones Drummer

Charlie Watts was the drummer for 58 years with The Rolling Stones, arguably the top hard rock band in the world with an estimated 250 million records sold. The Rolling Stones won three Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame.

Mary Tyler Moore and Type I Diabetes

Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most famous female television stars in North America, first as a wife and mother on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966) and then as a single working woman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977) where she became a role model admired by women all over the world.

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

As one of the most versatile American singers of all time, Aretha Franklin was best known for singing soul music and popular and gospel songs, but with less than two hours’ notice, she was able to use her powerful mezzo-soprano voice to sing a great opera aria when she stepped in to replace Luciano Pavaroti at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

John Wayne’s Cancers: Smoking or Radiation?

John Wayne was one of the best-paid actors in Hollywood for more than 40 years, appeared in more than 170 films and starred in 142 films, mostly westerns. His size (6'4" and 225 pounds) and pugnacious behavior helped him to be cast a cowboy, lawman, soldier and athlete, but for most of his life he had a cancer-promoting lifestyle.

Hal Connolly, from Disabled Child to Olympic Gold

Harold Connolly was born with only one functioning arm. Because of that he had to fight to be accepted, so he worked harder than everyone else. He became such a fierce competitor in the hammer throw that he won a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. He was the first American to...

Wilma Rudolph: Olympian and Polio Survivor

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Wilma Rudolph, a polio survivor, became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games. More than 80,000 spectators watched the 5-foot-11, 130 pound beauty win the 100-meter dash by more than three yards in a world-record 11 seconds.

Jim Henson and Toxic Shock Syndrome

Fifty years ago, Jim Henson created the Muppets, the world's most famous puppets, for the children's educational television show, Sesame Street. He won two Emmy Awards for his work, and sold his company to Walt Disney for $150 million. The beloved show has produced more than 4500 episodes.

Cass Elliot: A Tragically Young Death from Morbid Obesity

Cass Elliot was “Mama Cass”, the close-to-300 pound contralto lead singer of The Mamas and Papas, a dominant folk rock vocal group in the late 1960s. They sold more than 40 million records, with six of their albums making it to the Billboard top ten.

Otzi the Iceman and 5,300 Years of the Diseases of Inflammation

In 1991, hikers in the Italian Alps discovered Otzi the Iceman, a man who was preserved in ice after his murder about 5,300 years ago. He was killed by a hard hit on his head and an arrow through his shoulder when he was about 46 years old. He is now entombed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy with a life-size statue of him as he may have looked standing nearby.