Those That Have Gone, But They Are Not Forgotten

As the year ends, we take a minute to reflect and acknowledge some of those who went on to glory in 2021.

“Hammerin’” Hank Aaron, who 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, died January 22. He was 86. The Hall of Famer finished his career with 755 home runs, a total surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007 — though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king.


Legendary actress Cicely Tyson died on January 28. Tyson, 96, was one of the most revered and lauded Black actresses in history. She starred in films, theatrical plays and TV shows as “Sounder,” “ The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and in later years, “The Trip

The legendary film, television, and stage actress who earned an Academy Honorary Award, three Emmy’s and a Tony, has died at the age of 96. Pictured is Cicely Tyson at the 2012 Time 100 gala. Photo: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons
The legendary film, television, and stage actress who earned an Academy Honorary Award, three Emmy’s and a Tony, has died at the age of 96. Pictured is Cicely Tyson at the 2012 Time 100 gala. Photo: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons

To Bountiful,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Help” and “How To Get Away With Murder.” President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 and she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2020. Her memoir, “Just As I Am,” was released just two days before her death.

TV writer and comedian Marc Wilmore died in Pomona on January 30. Wilmore, 57, worked on such television shows as “In Living Color,” “The PJs” and “The Simpsons.” He was the brother of fellow comic, writer and producer Larry Wilmore, who created “The Bernie Mac Show.”

Dr John DAmborsio
Dr. John DAmborsio

Dr. John D’Ambrosio, the former President & CEO of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce passed away on Friday, November 19 at the age of 71.

Danny Ray, who was known for draping capes on legendary soul performer James Brown, had a cape laid across his casket after he died in Augusta, Georgia on February 2. Ray was 85 years old.

Former heavyweight boxing champ Leon Spinks died on February 5. Spinks, 76, was known for having missing teeth and famously beating an aging Muhammad Ali in 1978.

Leon Spinks
Leon Spinks

Mary Wilson of the best-selling female group, The Supremes died of hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease on February 8. Wilson, 76, and the iconic group had hits with such classics as “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Days before her passing, Wilson announced that she was about to release new solo music.

On Friday October 29 Elizabeth Bello was killed in a tragic car accident leaving both her immediate family and work family heartbroken.

On February 10, Peter Cuacuas, a seven-year-old boy, was brought to the St. Luke’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead due to starvation.

Dutchess County Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson passed away on September 29 at the age of 73.

Jorge Arbayza De La Cruz, the 51-year-old cabbie that was murdered in the City of Newburgh on September 30.

Pioneering electronic engineer Kenneth C. Kelly died on February 27 after battling Parkinson’s disease. Kelly, 92, designed antennas that helped land an American on the moon and ground satellites that tracked the Apollo space missions. His designs also enabled consumers to eventually have DirecTV and Sirius XM connections. Kelly fought for civil rights and inclusion in housing. He notably helped convince “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz to add a Black character, Franklin, in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assasination.

Bunny Wailer, the last surviving founding member of the iconic reggae group The Wailers, died in his native Jamaica on March 2 at the age of 73.

Boxing great Marvelous Marvin Hagler died on March 13 at the age of 66. Hagler, the undisputed middleweight champion of the world from 1980 to 1987, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1983.

Iconic New York rapper and actor DMX died on April 9. Born Earl Simmons, DMX released a number of albums including “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “And Then There Was X,” “Undisputed,” and ironically, “Exodus” which was released this year. DMX also appeared in films like the hood classics “Belly,” “Romeo Must Die,” “Exit Wounds,” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.” Often plagued by drug use, DMX was hospitalized due to a cocaine-induced heart attack. He was in a coma for a week and fans the world over prayed for his recovery.

Duante Wright, 20, was fatally shot by White Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop on April 11. Potter said she meant to use her taser while struggling with Wright, but accidentally pulled out her gun. She was convicted of first and second degree manslaughter in the case just this week.

Joseph W. Hatchett, who in 1975 became the first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, died on April 30. Hatchett was 88.

Early rock ‘n roll singer-songwriter Lloyd Price died of complications from diabetes on May 3. Price, 88, had hits with such songs as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and “Stagger Lee” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Nedra Ruffin, the daughter of legendary singer David Ruffin passed away in Detroit on May 9. Ruffin, 58, died of COVID-19.

Legendary comic and writer Paul Mooney died of a heart attack at his Oakland home on May 19. Mooney, 79, was Richard Pryor’s longtime writing partner. He was known for his commentary on race and racism in America.

Former Olympian turned humanitarian and track coach Lee Evans died in Lagos, Nigeria on May 19. Evans, 74, famously wore a black beret in bringing awareness to the Black struggle at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. His college teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos were sent home that same year for raising their fists on the medals stand.

Veteran actor Clarence Williams III died at his Los Angeles home on June 4 after a battle with colon cancer. Williams, 81, was best known for his portrayal of Linc Hayes in the groundbreaking 70s television show, “The Mod Squad.” Williams’ credits also included “Purple Rain,” “The General’s Daughter,” “American Gangster,” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

Gloria Richardson, an unsung civil rights hero, died in New York on July 15. Richardson, 99, was captured in a 1963 photograph, pushing away a National guardsman’s bayonet while protesting racial inequality in Cambridge, Maryland. She organized sit-ins to desegregate restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters and fought for better jobs, health care access and housing for Blacks.

Biz Markie, the New York-based rapper known for such songs as “Just A Friend,” “Vapors” and “Pickin’ Boogers,” died on July 16. Born Marcel Theo Hall, Biz was 57. He earned a new generation of fans after appearing as a beatboxing alien in the 1997 movie “Men In Black,” starring fellow rapper Will Smith and as a DJ on the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba.”

South Carolina Black newspaper founder and publisher James “Jim” French died July 31. French, 94, founded The Charleston Chronicle in 1971 and oversaw its operation until he retired in 2016.

Charles Connor, a drummer who performed with iconic stars such as Little Richard, James Brown and Sam Cooke died at his Glendale home on July 31. Connor, 86, was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010; he was working on an autobiographical documentary at the time of his death.

Professor A.J. Williams-Meyers, a long-time supporter of the Hudson Valley Press, has passed away.
Professor A.J. Williams-Meyers, a long-time supporter of the Hudson Valley Press, has passed away.

Renown Profession Dr. AJ Williams-Myers passed away on July 12 after a brief illness. As a teacer and productive and engaged scholar, A.J. was well known for his ability to awaken students to think about history and the loves of people who lived in other times.

Bad Boy Records producer Chucky Thompson died in Los Angeles of COVID-19 on August 9. Thompson, 53, had stellar credits including Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa,” Faith Evans’ “You Used To Love Me,” and Mary J. Blige’s “My Life” album.

Blues guitarist Roy Gaines died on August 11, the day before his 84th birthday. Gaines played for legends like Ray Charles, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight and was also an accomplished songwriter. He performed his song, “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” in the 1985 film, “The Color Purple.”

Because of him, the revolution was televised. George Holliday, the White amateur videographer who captured the 1991 police beating of Rodney King, died on September 19. Holliday was 61.

Iconic filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles died on September 21. Van Peebles, 89, was most known for his Blaxploitation era work, most notably the 1971 film, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.”

The body of Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day, 25, was found in the Illinois River on September 4 after he’d gone missing August 4. Famed attorney Ben Crump is representing Day’s family and has called on the FBI to investigate his death as a hate crime.

Clara McLaughlin, publisher of the Florida Star and the Georgia Star newspapers passed away on October 3 at the age of 81 years old. McLaughlin was best known for being the first Black woman to own and be the majority shareholder of a network-affiliated TV station in the United States. Upon securing ownership of KLMG-TV in East Texas, she also became the first Black person to own a CBS affiliate station.

Lillian Mitchell, one of the first Black journalists to work for API, died on October 7. Dorothy Steel, who starred as an elder in the movie “Black Panther” and its yet-to-be-released sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” died on October 15 at age 95.

General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff passed away at the age of 84 on Monday, October 18, 2021.
General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff passed away at the age of 84 on Monday, October 18, 2021.

Veteran military leader and the nation’s first African American Secretary of State, Colin Powell died on October 18 from COVID-19 complications. Powell, who helped shape America’s modern foreign policy, also served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Although fully vaccinated, Powell lived with a number of serious ailments including multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s disease.

Beverly Tate Broadus Green, the 70-year-old mother of rapper Snoop Dogg, died on October 24, just days after he turned 50.

Ronnie Wilson, a co-founder of the GAP Band, died on November 2 after suffering a stroke. Wilson, 73, and the group had hits with such songs as “Outstanding,” “You Dropped a Bomb On Me” and “Early In The Morning.”

Ed Bullins, a prominent playwright in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, died of complications of dementia on November 13. Famed writer August Wilson counted Bullins, 86, as an influence. Known on both the East and West coasts, Bullins once served as the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Culture. He also taught at Contra Costa College, City College of San Francisco and Northeastern University in Boston.

Malikah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X’s six daughters, was found dead in her Brooklyn home on November 22. Betty Shabazz was pregnant with Malikah and her twin, Malaak, when her husband was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Malikah Shabazz, 56, died just days after the exoneration of two men who had been convicted of killing her father.

Pioneering golfer Lee Elder died on November 28. Elder was the first African American to play in a PGA Masters tournament. He and others faced racism and discrimination in breaking the sport’s color barrier.

Harry C. Alford, President/CEO and Co-Founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce,, transitioned December 6. Alford often spoke before Congress on behalf of Black businesses, and for many years, he served as a board member of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (the Black Press of America).

Decades after his remains were found in a garbage bag in a wooded area of Ohio, Frank “Frankie” Little, Jr. , a former guitarist and songwriter for The O’Jays, was identified on December 14. While DNA technology finally gave a name to the bones, how and why Little died remain a mystery.

Wanda Young of The Marvelettes, 78, died of heart disease on December 15. Young sang on timeless classics like “Please Mr. Postman” and “Don’t Mess With Bill.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Leonard “Hub” Hubbard, a former bass guitarist for The Roots died on December 16. Hubbard, 62, played on albums such as “Things Fall Apart” and “The Tipping Point.”
Shaun Shiller Fequiere, better known as Kangol Kid of the rap group UTFO died of colon cancer on December 18. The rapper, producer and songwriter who co-wrote the classic, “Roxanne, Roxanne,” was 55.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu worked tirelessly to end apartheid in South Africa. The iconic priest and Nobel Peace Prize winner died on December 26 at the age of 90.

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